Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Death metal as a musical subgenre has now existed for almost 40 years and it’s hard to neglect Kataklysm when talking about the greats of the style. The Canadians have been releasing album after album of classic, aggressive death metal and now find themselves on the verge of releasing their 14th full length album. The band has been calling their style “northern hyperblast” after seeing an ad in a magazine and their latest album, Unconquered – indubitably again full of blastbeats – will be released on September 25th, 2020, through Nuclear Blast.
An uncharacteristically soft beginning opens the album as “The Killshot” rises in intensity before the vocalist, Maurizio Iacono, unleashes his growl along with the signature instrumental fury of Kataklysm. The band has deliberately tried to make the sound a bit more modern on this album, which they succeeded in doing well, while also making it one of the most aggressive albums they’ve ever done. The drums by Oli Beaudoin are absolutely massive – even more so than usual for Kataklysm releases – and they do an amazing job of propelling the songs forward and consistently deliver an unrelenting force of death metal. “Cut Me Down” is slightly more melodic than what the Canadians usually serve, but they quickly balance it out with the next song on the album, which is also one of the single releases, “Underneath the Scars.”
It’s almost hard to believe there’s only one guitarist in the band as the sound provided by Jean-François Dagenais is spectacular and makes it feel like there are several guitars being played at once. Alongside the near-constant blastbeats that pummel the listener with incredible speed, the album does not give you a moment to breathe. Saying that, the album is, despite it’s heaviness and aggression, still quite catchy and might even make you sing along at times, such as on “Focused to Destroy You.” By sing along, of course, I mean yell like a maniac. This has been a pattern with Kataklysm, who are one of the few bands that can really deliver extremely heavy songs that also get stuck in your head easily, such as “Shadows & Dust” and “As I Slither” from the band’s earlier releases.
The record is rather linear in that there are no intermezzos or dips in intensity, but despite that, it remains varied enough to not get stale. “Defiant” takes the prize for the most brutally aggressive song on the album and also gives space for Iacono to really showcase his vocal ability. Strangely, this is then followed by what almost sounds like a Dark Tranquillity -like somber intro in “Icarus Falling.” It’s a cool touch, but I’m not sure why it’s placed so late on the album as it would probably work better somewhere in the middle, rather than preceding the final track, “When it’s Over.”
Unconquered is a product of its time – a harsh, aggressive piece of music that acts as an answer to the world’s bizarre situation. It’s musically extremely tight and well-produced, but where this album will really shine, like with everything Kataklysm has ever done, is in a very loud live setting where those beautiful blastbeats make the world outside of the show stop existing for an hour. Here’s hoping we get a chance to experience that soon.
Rating: 8/10, 4 stars
1. The Killshot
2. Cut Me Down
3. Underneath the Scars
4. Focused to Destroy You
5. The Way Back Home
8. Icarus Falling
9. When It’s Over