Katakomb - Chained to a WolfI 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.

Katakomb 2017The 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.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions
Websites: Too kvlt
Releases worldwide: digitally: 03.24.2017; physically: 04.14.2017;

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  1. Genre labeling is more art than science. – Steel Druhm
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  • Sean Sky

    Was expecting more than 2.5 based on the review. Gonna check it out anyway. Also gonna check out Cormorant and Ne Obliviscaris too since I don’t know them (every time I think I have some metal knowledge I find out I don’t know anything on this neverending path to trveness).

    • AgonMcDuck

      I’m not a huge fan of NeO, I wish I liked them more than I do, but Cormorant are the tits. Metazoa especially is so good.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        I really like tits so I guess I should check Cormorant out.

    • Drew Music

      Ne Obliviscaris are spotty, to an extent even within albums more than just altogether, but when they’re on they are ON. If you can get there (which really isn’t even much of a chore, the weaker moments of the song are relatively brief,) the dark buildup/explosion that begins at the 11 minute mark of Painters of The Tempest, pt 2 is a strong example of that.

    • El_Cuervo

      NeO, while more popular, seem more divisive. But I thoroughly recommend Cormorant. As below, Metazoa is also my favourite.

      • Sean Sky

        I’m listening to “Portal of I” and I can say I’m definitely digging NeO big time. This pretty much clicked for me instantly.

        • Davy Bonnevalle

          know that feeling :)
          looking forward to their new album

  • Frost15

    This band needs a good producer asap. I see a lot of talent here…

  • Westpaceagle

    Good, bad it’s hard to say but if nothing this is interesting metal and worth a listen. Excellent write up Cuervo!

  • sir_c

    The embedded vid gets more than a 2.5 from me. I like that wicked maelstrom of madness they crafted here. If they make an album with some proper production, I’m definitely interested to hearing it

    • El_Cuervo

      It’s tough to grade more highly than this when I’m usually grading entire album lengths’ worth of material. Plus the extended weirdo bit which occupies a third of the demo. But there’s defo cool stuff here.

      • sir_c

        my remark was indeed solely based upon that one video. I do not know what else is hiding beneath the surface, so I’d have to trust you in this.
        The bottom line is that we agree that the potential shown here is very promising. So it’s another entry on the watch list.

  • You wot m8?

    Let us just all agree that even if the musical content is just okay, that cover art is great. Gotta love some dark neoclassical album art.

  • Tofu muncher

    So, I paused my 80’s Hair Metal throwback on iTunes to listen to the embedded track, and is glad that I did.

  • Lord Miklite

    Not a real huge fan of “bread and butter” black metal. My main comment here is that from your review (and my general experience with black metal), I was expecting the vocals to be a lot more forward. They sound thoroughly subdued behind the instrumentation to me.

  • Nexus

    I keep coming back to this. It’s grown on me. I also found out the cleanly sung part at the end is the swedish poem “En spelmans jordafärd” by Dan Andersson