Catalyst – A Different Painting for a New World Review

I completely forgot about French tech-death upstarts Catalyst. That seems to be happening to me more often lately, and it’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, I get the privilege of experiencing sudden bursts of excitement whenever announcements for a band I haven’t heard from in a while catch me by surprise. On the other hand, it feels like a betrayal by my own mind when a band I was interested in slips out of memory. Nonetheless, Catalyst’s debut, The Great Purpose of the Lords, was a cool slab of epic tech death, as recent revisits these past couple of weeks confirmed. Let’s see what the follow-up, A Different Painting for a New World, has in store.

A Different Painting for a New World sees Catalyst expanding its stylistic repertoire while tightening up its songwriting, and in doing so, they’ve created a wild, entertaining new journey. Treading the same ground as established acts like ExocrineInferi, and GorodCatalyst blends equal parts groove, technicality, and bombast to create a dramatic soundscape sure to provide enjoyment for just about everyone interested in all things fast and dense. A light touch of doom-laden and acoustic passages provides a new dynamic for the group, allowing the quickest bursts a chance to land, rest, and recover. Purposeful utilization of that new tool to create ebbs and flow across this hour-long record further permits the runtime to shrink as listeners perceive it, creating an experience that flows seamlessly from beginning to end.

On the other hand, Catalyst still has not found their voice in the overcrowded tech death pantheon. The most concerning evidence to that point is an obvious bit of plagiarism in “Arise of the Anathema.” In its chorus, Catalyst pulls a riff, pretty much note for note, out of Sulphur Aeon’s “Yuggothian Spell.” Then, the next track, “Paragon of Devastation,” bursts out of the gate sporting the band’s best Exocrine impression, creating an uncanny valley effect for me because I reviewed Exocrine’s new album only a few months ago. In other areas, Catalyst struggle to find a balance between stripped-down riffcraft and multi-layered vocals. On one side of the coin, this instrumental restraint strengthens the impact of this record’s biggest drops (“Worms and Locusts” and “To Unleash Thy Heinous Fate”). On the other, implementing what sounds like three or four separate vocal tracks at once creates a smearing effect over the highly detailed compositions. This, in turn, makes it exceedingly difficult to distinguish not only the lyrics but also the instrumental phrasing accompanying them.

Thankfully, these complaints pale somewhat in comparison to the incredibly strong musicianship on board. Florian Iochem and Jules Kicka kick some serious axe, riffing their way through a jungle of emotive leads, transcendent tremolos, and ripping solos (“Behold Thy Purification”). Amazingly, Jefferson Brand’s bass work is not only audible but also a clinic in skillful counterpoint and acrobatic performance (“Worms and Locusts” and “The Catalyst’s End”). These attributes are further enhanced by Stef’s dynamic and tight drumming, which often feels dangerously close to flying right off the rails, but never does. Of course, it helps that a great many songs on A Different Painting for a New World toss at least one or two sharp hooks into my flesh. Whether it be by riff (“Worms and Locusts”), by chorus (“Behold Thy Purification”), or by grandeur (“A Different Painting for a New World”), Catalyst consistently instills their music with definition, purpose, and emotion sufficient to spawn entertaining earworms in a style of extreme metal infamous for being incredibly difficult to make memorable.

Taking all considerations into account, Catalyst remains an engaging and exciting young band in the tech death arena. While they still struggle to establish and sustain their identity, their chops as performers can’t be called into question with any measure of validity. A Different Painting for a New World is more than enough evidence on that account and constitutes a worthy addition to any extreme metal rotation. Moreover, I get a distinct impression that this is just the beginning for Catalyst, and that prospect alone excites me more than anything else.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Non Serviam Records
Websites: catalystfr.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/CatalystFR
Releases Worldwide: October 14th, 2022

« »