Label: Nuclear Blast
Reviewed: June 2018
Reviewer: Mr. MetalGuy
If you consider yourself a fan of Death Metal and are not down with Kataklysm, please immediately beckon the youtube machine and get some education on this group of seasoned Canadian hyperblasters (or, ya know, buy their albums.) Being in existence, often with odds stacked against them, for almost 30 years if we are counting the nascent period in the early 90s, Kataklysm have been cultivating a lethal form of distinctly Canadian Death Metal since their proper full length introduction in 1995. Since that time, bass player Maurizio Iacono took the mic from Sylvain Houde and the rest is condemned to shadows and dust, the band morphing from an almost hysterical pseudo-grind outfit into the juggernaut of neverending riffs we all know and love today. And now, let us take a deep breath, close our eyes and stretch our necks, and take in some time with “Meditations.”
Never a group to rest on their laurels, easily the most recognizable being 2002’s magnum opus “Shadows And Dust,” to say that Kataklysm has hit their groove in subsequent years would not be out of place. With each release, the band further cement themselves as masters of the riff, with J-F Dagenais somehow pulling more oscillations from his fretboard than an overworked fan on a hot Canadian afternoon. Running the risk of becoming samey, Kataklysm bring something exciting with each release and “Meditations” is no different.
Since the exit of Max Duhamel and occupation of that throne by Oli Beaudoin a few years back, the core sound of Kataklysm has undergone a shift, most notable in the almost complete lack of the Northern Hyperblast drum pattern Duhamel pioneered. This is not necessarily a bad thing when one stops to consider what it means – Beaudoin wants to inject his personality into the playing while also respecting a technique that was unique to the manner in which Duhamel approached his craft. What emerges is a sense of groove and playing in the pocket while also accenting the ferocity and immediacy of Dagenais’ string abuses, grasping the listener fuller and pulling them into the mental mosh pit at once. Don’t get me wrong – Kataklysm has always seen the riff as king, but with a different approach in the main rhythm section everything changes albeit slightly.
“Meditations” is album thirteen for Kataklysm. Everything they do in some way will be in the shadow of “Shadows And Dust” likely by fans and possibly by the band themselves considering the success of that outing and the fact that it turned them into a worldwide phenomenon. But does the album itself hold up? Absolutely it does. The damn thing gnashes its teeth like a lion that hasn’t eaten in a week and just saw an ocelot. “Meditations” is a vicious and uncompromising affair. Witness the smouldering destruction of third track “The Last Breath I’ll Take Is Yours” and try not to nod along once that riff hits you like a ten ton hammer, son. Oh, and blast beats hit the right spot as blast beats tend to do. But see, then something unique happens – a pronounced affinity for melody permeates “Meditations.” No clean singing, but smooth lead work and an almost progressive sensibility is felt throughout the duration of the album, providing a breather within the maelstrom that Kataklysm, and only Kataklysm, wrought. As a side note, single “Narcissist” is sure to be two things: a live staple and the closest the band has yet come to the immediate neck wrecking swamp riff of “In Shadows And Dust.”
As stated, Kataklysm are without compare and have always done things their own way. Sure, other bands mine Melodic Death Metal, Death Metal, and its various strains, but Kataklysm is entirely their own animal. And they are coming for you.
Personal note: Kataklysm will always be a favourite of mine. I was privileged to see them perform with my dearly departed friend Rob Doherty in Regina, Saskatchewan. It only happened once. The song is “The Road to Devastation” and also features a guest solo by the venerable Tim Roth. Get into it. Kataklysm rules.
3. The Last Breath I’ll Take Is Yours
5. Born to Kill and Destined to Die
6. In Limbic Resonance
7. And Then I Saw Blood
8. What Doesn’t Break Doesn’t Heal
9. Bend the Arc, Cut the Cord
10. Achilles Heel
Maurizio Iacono Vocals
Jean-François Dagenais Guitars
Stéphane Barbe Bass
Olivier Beaudoin Drums