In Quebec, a delicious golden ale called La Fin Du Monde has been brewed for over twenty years. It’s potent by regular beer standards, sitting at about 9% alcohol. The first time I tasted it I was with numerous smart people in a pub, and as soon as I took one sip I knew this would be a beer I’d have a long and happy drinking relationship with. Quebec has also seen the production of Kataklysm material for over two decades now, and my first time hearing them via Serenity in Fire’s “As I Slither” yielded similar results. It’s potent by melodic death metal standards, and by releasing quality records at a fairly consistent rate they’ve been a band that I’ve had a long and happy listening relationship with. Of Ghosts and Gods is Kataklysm’s twelfth full-length record, and I took the opportunity to delve into it and see if it sounds like a nice fresh bottle of La Fin Du Monde or one that’s been sitting out in the sun for too long.
While I’ve been listening to Kataklysm for about a decade now, I’ve honestly never bothered to think about what other bands they sound like before now. On Of Ghosts and Gods, the melodic leads sometimes recall the introspective nature of both Insomnium and Rapture, but instead of putting dead puppies under your Christmas tree Kataklysm put red meat, beer, and a set of dumbbells under there. This leads into a predictable comparison to Amon Amarth, who often use melody to portray bloody glories in battle. You’d be hard pressed to confuse the two due to Kataklysm’s overall heavier sound, but the similarity lies in the usage of less depressing melodies that evoke hard-fought victory instead of wallowing in existential despair. With the mixture of these two broad schools of melo-death in mind, Kataklysm’s music reflects to my ears an internal battle to better oneself in the face of odds that seem insurmountable. In other words, crushing riffs and excellent melodies are, as they have been for quite some time, the order of the day.
Of Ghosts and Gods sees Kataklysm playing what they’re good at while taking the odd step outside of their comfort zone. “Vindication” involves one such step, incorporating what sounds like a melo-death take on “Moonlight Sonata” alongside riffing that is at once fast, melodic, hooky, and heavy. “The World is a Dying Insect” comes across as a callback to “The Road to Devastation” in its somber leads, but the band improved the idea with more variety, better song structure, a more confident use of reserved atmospheric elements, and a great closing riff that’s melodic and triumphant but not cheesy at all. On the familiar side, “Carrying Crosses” uses the “hyperblast” drumming style to great effect beneath JF Dagenais’ signature melodic style, and “Breaching the Asylum” opens the record with a pummeling worthy of Shadows & Dust replete with a film clip in its introduction. Mariuzo Iacono’s vocals are as charismatic and powerful as fans are accustomed to, and his knack for memorable phrasing has been aging like fine wine.
While the misses here are both incredibly minor and very few in number, Of Ghosts and Gods does have its flaws. Though it’s a great song, “Marching Through Graveyards” dwells on pseudo-atmospheric noises needlessly for thirty seconds in its introduction, which comes across as gratuitous. While they don’t dip into deathcore, both “The Black Sheep” and “Hate Spirit” feature staccato riffs that sound a bit too close to breakdowns for comfort due to Oli Beaudoin’s kick drum being mostly in lockstep with Dagenais’ guitar and Stephane Barbe’s bass. “10 Seconds from the End” and “Like Angels Weeping (The Dark)” avoided this slight pitfall in the past, but this is a minor quibble and it does nothing to diminish Beaudoin’s fantastic performance throughout the record.
JF Dagenais handled production as per usual, and while a bit less compression on Beaudoin’s drums would’ve made his kicks hit harder, it’s a solid effort in line with Waiting for the End to Come and much like that record, Barbe’s bass is thick and always present. That Kataklysm has lasted over two decades as a band is impressive, but their biggest accomplishment lies in them continuing to make music that’s a worthwhile addition to the metal scene as a whole and wipes the floor with many of their melodic death metal peers. Much like a fresh bottle of La Fin Du Monde, I’m looking forward to cracking Of Ghosts and Gods open plenty more times this year and many after.