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Kataklysm Serenity In Fire

By Brian Davis, Contributor
Tuesday, April 20, 2004 @ 11:58 AM

(Nuclear Blast)

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“This is the life we’ve chosen, the life we lead; And there is only one guarantee: None of us will see heaven.”

Brutality on the most base of levels-stripped down, no frills, no gimmicks, no polish, no bullshit… just full blown aggression, pure and simple. Kataklysm have added their name to the growing list of forerunners in the resurgence of quality death metal. A different breed in it’s own right, Kataklysm’s Serenity In Fire is the ultimate nod to the old school, forsaking mach 10 speed riffs for the toned down crunch and groove stylings that blend ‘90s thrash elements with a hint of early death metal structuring akin to Grave and Hypocrisy to create a sound that Kataklysm has termed “Canadian Hyperblast.” Wherein many death albums can be overwhelming at first and take time to digest, the apparent surface simplicity of this album grabs the listener immediately, and with every listen the subtleties and smart composition of the songs make you realize there’s much more to the album than meets the ears.

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Delivering blast after blast of toned down, rhythm driven riffs, the guitars set a very heavy and chunky mid-paced tempo that carries the songs and serves as a very solid back drop for vocalist Maurio Lacono to lay his wickedly seething vocals over. The vocals are done quite well, combining a gruff, gutteral snarl that at times could give Glen Benton a run for his money, while overlapping with creepy, higher toned rasps that give the album more depth as well as enhance the underworldy vibe the music creates. Songs like “The Resurrected,” “For All Our Sins,” “Serenity In Fire,” “Blood On The Swans” and “Seconds From The End” are defined by the uncompromising guitar riffs, which completely dominate the pace of the music and drag the listener into its murky depths.

Surprisingly enough, the main element that makes this album so complete is the utterly inhuman drumming of Kataklysm’s new skinsman Martin Maurais. Most likely to be the first thing to catch the listeners’ attention, it’s impossible not to notice the sheer speed and dexterity of this madman. You’d swear the guy was part cyborg when he’s laying down the most wicked and searing blast beats and double bass you have ever heard. Just when you think drumming speed and ferocity had reached its peak in the death metal scene, along comes Kataklysm to prove you wrong. In some cases the drums bulldoze you over immediately, as with the intro to “Blood On The Swans,” and long after the disc has stopped spinning, your head will be echoing the relentless flailing of the possessed man behind the drum kit. This could quite possibly be the finest drumming display of the year.

The songs on this album are just so damn catchy they’d whip Christopher Reeves into a moshing frenzy. As always, there are certain songs that stand out to define the whole of the album. “The Resurrection,” with both blisteringly furious drumming and vicious, meaty hooks, is undoubtedly one of the heaviest and hardest hitting tunes on the album. “For All Our Sins” is another scathing track made even more imposing by a guest vocal appearance by none other than Hypocrisy’s Peter Tatgren. And clocking in easily as the best song on the album is the title track, which gets its rusted hooks into you the moment the opening riff launches, and it keeps you restrained and attentive through every bone crunching second.

Now, there are moments -- especially during the first few spins -- where the music might seem to run on redundantly. You might find yourself craving more variety in the riffs and tempo of the album. However, that passes with every listen and the individual dynamics of the album continue to surface as you go. Soon each song has some distinct identifier that makes it stand out from the rest, and you’ll find yourself hitting the skip button less and reaching for the volume knob more.

Serenity In Fire is an album for all metal fans, new and old. If you’ve been around the scene, you’ll appreciate the throwback sound the band has captured, and you should realize that Serenity In Fire is more than a worthy reincarnation of the old style. And if you’re new to death metal, this is an ideal album to whet your palate and give a brutal yet accessible taste of what the underground holds in store. After a few listens Kataklysm will have you all convinced that there is indeed comfort in chaos, and there is Serenity In Fire.

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