Waiting for the End to Come
Nuclear Blast Records/Riot! Entertainment
Reviewed By Luke Saunders
Another trademark platter of Northern Hyperblast from Canadian veterans
Canada’s Kataklysm are a curious entity in the death metal scene. The band has been admirably plugging away with their trademark form of brutality for over 20 years, yet aside from some notable exceptions (particularly 2002’s excellent Shadows & Dust and 2004’s Serenity of Fire albums) they have long occupied a kind of limbo space between death metal’s top tier and the solid yet not quite elite second tier. In short, while I’ve always enjoyed hearing one of their albums, they are rarely able to captivate my interest in the way that some of my favourite death metal bands are able to do so effortlessly. Thus being in the twilight years of their career certainly didn’t fill me with giddy anticipation for this 11th studio album, titled Waiting for the End to Come. To put this album into perspective I’d probably rank it somewhere in the middle of my experiences with the band’s hefty discography, and although standout songs sporadically appear, this is an album scattered with memorable moments, solid songs and a handful of really killer riffs, rather than an abundance of truly great elements or exceptional song-writing.
Still, Kataklysm are never less than reliable and while they generally stick close within the confines of their signature formula, for long-time supporters this may well be enough. And as long as they don’t soil their good name with an abomination like Morbid Angel’s Illud Divinum Insanus, their diehard fans are probably content to lap-up the ‘don’t fix what ain’t broken’ approach. On the other hand, when so many veteran death metal acts - led by quality 2013 releases from Carcass, Gorguts, Autopsy and Suffocation - are riding significant waves of creativity and are not willing to merely rest on past laurels, Kataklysm’s material, whilst enjoyable, doesn’t exactly get the blood pumping like it should.
Nevertheless, after losing track of their most recent efforts it’s nice to hear Kataklysm sounding so full of energy and armed with a feisty collection of killer riffs and polished heaviness. Not much has changed stylistically; they still play their heavy-as-balls but somewhat predictable brand of mildly technical and very listenable thrash-laced death metal, peppered with shreds of melody, groove and a strong dynamic range. The rather concise track-to-track rundown, along with ample head-banging hooks and frequent catchy moments embedded in the song-writing, makes for an enjoyable if unspectacular death metal feast.
The production is spot-on: clean, powerful and pretty well balanced, albeit swaying a little too heavily towards the overly polished or clinical sounding. And as expected the experienced four-piece deliver where it matters; bringing tight, proficient musicianship and the fluid strokes required to bring their super slick form of accessible death metal to life. New drummer Oli Beaudoin (ex-Neuraxis) fills the role of his predecessor with aplomb, while the rest of the band delivers tight performances across the board.
The solid ‘If I Was God – I’d Burn It All’ dishes up ample speed and intensity, swarming with speedy riffs, impeccable drumming and tempered by a couple of catchy mid-tempo grooves. Loaded with attitude and lead-weight heaviness, ‘Like Animals’ is a powerhouse smackdown. The song’s tough exterior comes littered with chunky grooves and tight, forceful drumming. ‘Under Lawless Skies’ might raise a few eyebrows with djent-ish riffs & rhythms opening the tune and popping-up throughout the structure. But damn it’s a strong track, as these segments are offset by darkly atmospheric and melodic moments and a dual vocal attack that adds a blackened scorch mark on the song. When Maurizio Iacono decides to utilise his higher-pitched, slightly blackened tone it gives the album welcome variety in the vocal department.
Kataklysm have the groove-laden assault down-pat but it wouldn’t hurt to hear them deploy more of those fiercely rapid rhythms and the thrashy pulse that defines one of the clear cut highlights, ‘Empire of Dirt’. Thankfully there’s nothing truly skip-worthy on offer, just solid riff-heavy death metal in the classic Kataklysm vein. Probably the most underwhelming aspect of this album is that Kataklysm don’t bring anything particularly inventive or exciting to the table. They do what they do well and with a minimal amount of fuss, yet the song-writing never really elevates the material above standard Kataklysm fare, rarely touching the heights of their stronger works or the incredibly high benchmark set for death metal in 2013.
Waiting for the End to Come is by no means a bad album; in fact it’s a very solid death metal release that consolidates kataklysm’s dependable reputation. But the lack of surprises and truly compelling material lands the album closer to the ‘solid’ rather than ‘essential’ end of the death metal spectrum.