Cathexis – Untethered Abyss Review

You kids may not remember a time before omnipresent smartphones and data plans, but I do – and I remember it quite fondly. I didn’t get my first cell phone until I was eighteen, so when I would go to the record store I’d have to remember having heard about a band through friends or music forums, trust the promo sticker, or just gamble on a cool cover. The average record store is organized loosely by genre – “Metal” will give you everything from Amaranthe to Ulcerate. That’s why it’s sometimes handy to have a plethora of subcategories for the genre and even its subgenres in the modern digital marketplace. Obituary and Ad Nauseam can both be called death metal, but someone seeking out a sound like one and finding the other is bound to be a bit frustrated.

Cathexis is a death metal band from Texas. How to further classify them is up to the listener, but to me their sound is that of a TXDM band playing a mix of Obscura, Negativa, and Hate Eternal. Untethered Abyss is ambitious in that it tries to find the sweet spot between TXDM brutality, the creative dissonance of Obscura and Negativa, and the propulsive and aggressive death metal of Hate Eternal. This involves being less “out there” than Obscura and Negativa, less straightforward than TXDM, and less brutal than Hate Eternal, which seems to suit Cathexis fine – they do a good job with their chosen style and manage to sound a bit different than their peers. Untethered Abyss won’t jump out at those scrolling through digital platforms immediately because it still sounds like fairly “normal” death metal by contemporary standards, but those willing to sit down and give the record an earnest chance will hear that Cathexis has their own subtly unique voice.

While dissonance is integral to their sound, I find Cathexis succeeds most when they scale that back slightly and let their oft solid riffing do more of the talking and let disharmony act as an accent instead of the focal point. “Isolated Malevolence” does this notably well, with special mention going to the last fifty seconds of the song which cleverly spices up some straightforwardly heavy chugging with creative guitar interplay without diminishing or diluting the brutality or drawing focus away from the riffs. “Red Hook” fares well with its emphasis on interesting guitar interplay within quality death metal riffs, the main riff finding one of the better combinations of Hate Eternal and Negativa present here. “Harrowing Manifestation” succeeds in a similar fashion, sometimes coming across as a mixture of Obscura and Upon Desolate Sands stylistically. Don’t mistake this for plagiarism or “unoriginality” though; Cathexis plays this in a way neither of their influences would on those records. “Mortuus in Perpetuum” is propulsive and brutal, sporting a sensible and interesting structure and some of Untethered Abyss’ best riffs.

While Untethered Abyss is overall a quality record worthy of attention, the parts are a bit less than the whole. Cementing the influence of Steeve Hurdle (Negativa, Gorguts circa Obscura) is an almost torturously slow song in the vein of “Clouded” and “Taedium Vitae” called “Library of Babel.” Cathexis keeps their version of this sound four minutes shorter than either of Hurdle’s nearly ten-minute songs, avoiding the more intentionally droning parts in the process. It fits well enough in the context of the record, but it’s a bit of a slog to get through. Strangely, opening number “Horizonless Realm of Mechanical Retribution” is one of the weaker tracks on Untethered Abyss, leaning hard into jangly dissonance and dampening the kinetic impact in the process. Cathexis is at their best when they balance both, and that balancing doesn’t occur until the conclusion of the song.

Fortunately, even the weaker tracks here benefit from a great production job which sounds modern, organic, clear, heavy, and dynamic. Untethered Abyss sounds fantastic on a decent setup, with potent drums, a present but not overbearing bass, and guitars that are chunky but never muddy nor overtly digital. Everyone in Cathexis turns in an excellent performance, and it’s a treat to hear the nuances of each one. No instrumentalist tries to overshadow the rest of the band, instead adding in small flourishes and fills at appropriate moments to better focus on the song at hand instead of showing off. The production and content of Untethered Abyss rewards repeat listens, and Cathexis deserves them.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Willowtip Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: June 25th, 2021

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