LOUDER REVIEWS:'Unconquered' - Kataklysm
Having cut their teeth in the early days of 90’s death metal, Canadian veterans Kataklysm have fashioned themselves a reputation over the years as one of the most consistent stalwarts of the genre, blending the ferocity of early death metal with a variety of technical and melodic influences. Now in 2020 the band are releasing their incredible fourteenth studio album 'Unconquered'. As its name suggests, the album marks the band’s intention to come out of the current crisis all guns blazing and deliver another solid album to add to their impressive collection.
The record starts with the slow-build which incorporates a military-style snare drum intro of 'The Killshot', which had already been pre-released as a single. It does not take long after the intro for the trademark brutality of Kataklysm to kick in with low riffs and pummelling drums which pound the listener’s eardrums for the full four-and-a-half minute duration. The next track 'Cut Me Down' is a bit more straightforward in its initial approach with a catchy riff and steady rhythm before changing up the tempo entirely for the soaring chorus, which makes the song very reminiscent of their European counterparts in the melodic death metal scene. Lead vocalist Maurizio Iacono’s booming growls brilliantly come to the fore during the chorus and delivers that memorable hook that justifies the decision to make this song the album’s other single.
'Underneath the Scars' goes back to the deep chugging effect present at the start of the record and marks the latest example in Kataklysm’s history of incorporating outside influences into their core death metal sound. Even at this early stage of the record, it gives 'Unconquered' a fresher feel to it than might normally be expecting for a band on their fourteenth studio release and it is used to tremendous effect on this track in particular. 'Focused to Destroy You' continues this bass-heavy wall of noise to great effect with a wonderfully dark groove that carries on the album’s themes and brutal intensity. The album so far has managed to be both blisteringly heavy and uplifting in equal measure.
'The Way Back Home' is the first time the record stops to breathe in any real capacity since the beginning, though we’re still talking in comparison here and make no mistake that this track is still a very heavy number with the rumble of Stéphane Barbe’s bass in particular producing a great song to headbang to with an excellent melody to boot. The pace picks up again with 'Stitches', which is another furious heavy hitter thanks to the drumming of Oli Beaudoin which gives the record so much of its core brutality. 'Defiant' follows next and marks a bit of a return to the “Northern Hyperblast” death metal sound they helped pioneer in the 90’s with more blast beats than you can shake a (drum)stick at.
'Icarus Falling' steers the album in a slightly different direction once again as things take a turn towards the more melodic side of Kataklysm’s spectrum, with some delightful guitar-work from Jean-François Dagenais which gives the song a great balance between these melodic elements and still packing a punch when it needs to. The final track of the album is the aptly-titled 'When It’s Over'. It brings together many of the elements that have been present throughout the record, yet does not really seem to tie things off as well it could, leaving this reviewer being a little bit surprised with it came to a sudden stop. Nevertheless, this does not dampen the overall success of 'Unconquered' which does everything it sets out to do, continuing Kataklysm’s continued evolution as a band and showing that even after all this time they remain just as much of a force to be reckoned with as they always have been.
'Unconquered' is out now via Nuclear Blast Records - stream the record here:
Check out the video for their latest single, 'Cut Me Down', below: