Katalepsy – Terra Mortus Est Review

Ah, death metal, my old nemesis. This style and I have never quite seen eye to eye on things, which I think comes down to me not having an especially high tolerance for prolonged brutality. I like rhyme and reason, order, and all things calm and sane. So given that, you might wonder why I would read the words “Russian brutal death metal masters Katalepsy return with their devastating new record Terra Mortus Est” and think “sounds good to me!” Honestly, I would too. But I did pick it up, this third album from a group very excited about brutality… and I’m not unhappy that I did.

You see, I like versatility in my music even above rhyme, reason, and whatever else I typed up there, and Terra Mortus Est is a very versatile record. It took a couple of listens before it really clicked for me, but the more of my attention I lent the beast, the more powerful it became. At any given moment, it seems that the three guitarists (one bass, rhythm, lead, you know the drill) are doing three completely different things, though it all flows together remarkably well. “The God of Grave” absolutely kills it in this regard, highly technical without any kind of compromise on the brutality front. My repertoire of death metal references is sadly low, but I believe I’d approve of the band’s comment that their music is for fans of Ingested and Aborted; this is loud, in-your-face, brutally riff-tastic death metal.

But, like I said, there’s nuance, and in that vein, I’m going to take a moment to highlight Katalepsy’s secret weapon on Terra Mortus Est: the bass guitar, and the man who wields it. Antoly Shishilov is an absolute beast across this album. I’d love to see a bass play-through video for any song here. It’s low, deliciously rumbly, and often weaves in and out of the spotlight, occasionally taking over for the guitars completely – seamlessly and effectively. “Night of Eden” and “Closer Than Flesh” are great examples of the way that the three guitarists in Katalepsy just kill it working together to weave memorable brutality across the album. Thankfully, the production, while loud, allows the bass to be heard and felt in equal measure, and the album is greatly improved for it.

The main drawback I’ve found for Terra Mortus Est is a common lament around these parts – it’s a bit too long for my liking. At eleven tracks clocking in at fifty minutes, there’s a lot of drum-thunder, roar-roaring, and in-your-face riffing to process, and I usually last until “Terra Mortus Est” or “Kings of the Underground” before my attention starts to wander a bit. It’s not that the second half of the album is bad by any stretch, but despite the aforementioned nuance, this is still very much an album of overbearing loudness, where melody takes a backseat. My ears always perk up again at the end of the album though – “Land of a Million Crosses” is simply terrific, with plaintive picking, haunting narrations, and a really strong conclusion that fuses narration and roars together to create a sound that isn’t quite clean, but maintains melodic promise. It stares down death-doom bravely, and hints at a new sound for Katalepsy going forward.

Katalepsy, I’ve learned, have been evolving their sound for some time now. Originating firmly in slam territory, their sound has gradually become more progressive and technical. Terra Mortus Est continues that trend, to the point where I couldn’t really guess what the next Katalepsy is going to sound like. Technical death metal, brutal death metal, death-doom metal – I could see any one, really. Terra Mortus Est is a very nuanced record in that way – which is ironic, as my largest complaint about the thing is the homogeneity of the album as a whole. Despite this, I do see this as being a strong album and a welcome slice of raging brutality to bear against the storm that is the 2020 calendar year.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Unique Leader Records
Websites: Bandcamp | Facebook
Releases Worldwide: July 31, 2020

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