I love progressive metal fusions. To name just a few: Opeth, Cormorant, and Ne Obliviscaris are among my favorite bands. So the prospect of getting on board with a young and allegedly progressive black metal band early was certainly enticing. I say allegedly as our promo-meisters have been known to be deceptively liberal with genre labeling in the past1, but I cut them some slack and acquired Chained to a Wolf by Katakomb with interest. Despite a general reluctance to write-up EPs and especially demos, I identified some interesting things on a preliminary listen so the green light was given to compose a review.
Chained to a Wolf is initially just as deceptive as my tricky editors. A demo with just two tracks, macabre artwork, and no production values, it screamed second wave black metal début. Its sound is raw and grating, its production lo-fi and its bass component non-existent. Icy guitar melodies dominate the mix and its furious savagery is powerful. The vocals are somewhat lower in pitch than is typical for the style but are no less stark for it. And second track “μάρνᾰμαι” features a particularly buzzing aesthetic with a couple of especially filthy riffs. So far so Satan.
But then a few curve-balls are indeed thrown. The title track has light choral elements underpinning a couple of passages, a discordant-but-quite-good bassy riff, and a few other atmospheric qualities. There’s a reasonable amount of temporal variety for music which, at least superficially, recalls Norway in the early 90s. But most bewildering of all is the transition in the second half of “μάρνᾰμαι” into a twisted, bizarre, cleanly sung phase. It evokes a song from a French romance film with its composed delivery and bouncy violins except for the random and off-putting noises and the underlying buzzing of flies, as if around a carcass. It’s truly strange and occupies far too much time (over 6 minutes out of 20!) but is morbidly fascinating.
The production merits note too. It’s predictably lo-fi but there’s a harsh, piercing quality to the recording. It’s threatening, nasty and extreme in a way that reminds me why the “extreme metal” tag exists. The vocals break through the maelstrom in an alarming way and took me back to my first experiences with the overwhelming world of harsh vocals. There’s an unmistakable lack of definition but Chained to a Wolf demonstrates to me that accessibility and ease of listening aren’t necessarily beneficial to all music.
I don’t want to overstate the idiosyncrasy of Chained to a Wolf but its bread-and-butter black metal is interesting and the bizarro sung passage does have an overshadowing effect on the demo: I find myself wondering what its lyrics and mere presence signify, and how Katakomb will progress with it in the future. It’s jarring, droning and weird but utterly intrigues me. And as a consequence that’s how I regard the demo as a whole. I’ll be keeping a weathered eye out for more.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions
Websites: Too kvlt
Releases worldwide: digitally: 03.24.2017; physically: 04.14.2017;