Katakomba – Katakomba Review

Swedeath is one of the most stylistically stagnant and overfull genre sumps in metal, with countless bands trying to distinguish themselves by playing olde Entombed or Dismember riffs faster or meaner than their HM-2 wielding brethren. It’s hard to reach for the stars when your feet are so firmly planted in genre foundations, but every year a cadre of new acts test their might. Sweden’s own Katokomba are one of the latest to throw their hat into the everflowing stream that runs alongside the left hand path. Their self-titled debut mines all the expected influences as it attempts to killdoze you into a mass grave. To aid in this effort they’ve dialed the guitar tones up to 13 and the rawness factor to 14. This is ugly, venomous shit that the band hope to use as fuel to escape the Swepack, leaving all the other Swedeathers in their bloody wake. But is their killing capacity massive, or merely average? Let’s count the cadavers.

You’ll be forgiven for not being entirely sold on what Katakomba are selling based on opener “Damnatio Ad Bestias.” While it’s a decent representation of the Swedeath style and pretty gruesome and lo-fi, it never rises beyond genre standard, despite some weird guitar work. Things improve markedly for the title track which slows things down to a punishing stomp-plod that feels massive and weighs a fuck-ton. The mucous-coated guitar tone is a pleasure to be slimed by and this is one of those songs that feels far too heavy for your feeble floorboards. It’s clear the band is onto something here and I’m duly impressed. That said, the song runs about 2 minutes too long, thereby losing some of its mammoth momentum.

It isn’t until the back half that Katakomba truly find their stride. There’s a run starting with “Sacrifice” and ending with “Death Opus” that feels particularly virulent and inspired in a way much of the material at the front does not. The riffs adorning “Sacrifice” sound like a big sack of snakes got dropped on the floor and now they’re everywhere. It’s all slithering, crawling leads and punch-drunk death vocals approaching Autopsy levels of scuzz-poo. This means it’s a ton of fun and you will appreciate its oily discharge.1 Both “Worship Death” and “Embalmed in Concrete” bring a hammer factory to the face-smashing festival and things get so heavy the band starts to lose their grip on Swedeath protocols. There’s an unhealthy vein of old school American death infecting the crypts here and it’s gloriously meatheaded. Unfortunately, these better moments are dragged back to earth by a less impressive start to the album and a merely so-so conclusion. At a trim 37 minutes, you won’t feel fatigued but you may feel you’ve heard this stuff before way too many times.

Performance-wise the band is tight and deadly. Anton Bryvall and Leo Kulle Häll are talented fretboard warriors and they deliver a large number of bone-crushing riffs. They dot the material with odd flourishes and strange accents that help hold interest, and they churn some truly malevolent leads. Fabian Brodén handles bass and vocals and his full-throated roar is more barbaric and menacing than many in the Swedeath space. He really sounds like an unhinged maniac and his forceful delivery is a boon to the material. There’s plenty of talent here and the band show they can pen some nasty death moments. They just need more consistency and more of their own identity in a sea of endless sound-alikes.

Katakomba is a mixed bag of death nuts. The good is convincing and punishing, and the rest is dead-center average. There’s enough here to get me interested in what the band do next, and I’m definitely poaching select cuts for my leg day Death Hammer playlist, but there’s enough generic stuff to put me off the album as a whole. Close to good, but not yet there, I get the feeling these Swedes could do some grotesque things in the future. Worth a loud spin for genre hardliners.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Redefining Darkness
Websites: katakombasweden.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/katakombasweden
Releases Worldwide: July 29th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. And it has the most upbeat, jovial video in the history of death metal.
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