Katharos – Of Lineages Long Forgotten Review

This troupe of Swedes has been knocking about since 2006, with only a 2007 demo and their 2016 debut LP, Exuvian Heraldry, to its name. Over that long period, the band has maintained a remarkably stable, if not very productive, line-up. Since its formation, the six-piece became a five-piece, shipping its vocalist, with mic duties assumed by guitarist Richard Annerhall, and replaced its drummer with newbie, Tatu Kerttula (also of Wormwood) but remains otherwise unchanged. Now ready to unleash another onslaught of death-tinged symphonic black metal, Katharos is back with sophomore effort Of Lineages Long Forgotten.

Of Lineages Long Forgotten seems a slightly ironic title for an album whose lineage is so clear to hear. Writ large across its near 50 minute run are the influence of Dimmu Borgir, particularly circa Death Cult Armageddon and In Sorte Diaboli, and Prometheus-era Emperor. This is no bad thing, however, as Katharos balance furious, frantic drums, thunderous bass and screaming tremolos against the symphonic stylings of Christofer Sköld’s keyboards. Annerhall’s gravelly rasping roar is reminiscent of Shagrath’s harsh vocals for Dimmu Borgir. From start to finish, Of Lineages rages forth, barely pausing for breath. When Katharos does take its collective foot briefly off the gas, like in the closing minute and half of the title track or on closer “Most Dread Portent,” the band imbues its sound with a sort of crawling, claustrophobic menace.

As opener, “Those Hornclad,” eases into life to the sound of marching feet and horns, it sets the scene for the battle lines to be drawn and violence unleashed. At its best, like on the rampaging “The World Serpent’s Menace,” Katharos is a ravening, five-headed monster that sweeps the listener along with it, as snarled vocals do battle with grandiose keyboards and the double guitars onslaught of Annerhall and fellow six-stringer Max Müssbichler. The almost relentless speed and bombast of tracks like “I Waged War,” belie the complexity of the multi-layered arrangements, however, which repay multiple listens. As Of Lineages progresses, it transitions through majestic onslaughts (“Feigned Retreat”) and descends into dissonant bloodbaths (“I Wage War”) rarely repeating a trick.

At times, however, the sheer density of ideas packed into Of Lineages threatens to overwhelm Katharos’ creation. While there is an undoubted flow to the album, there are also times when less can be more and Katharos could have done with offering the listener a few more moments to catch their breath. This does happen in a few places across the record, like towards the back end of “Lay Yersinian Siege,” and it gives time to digest what is going on, which is a lot. While Of Lineages certainly owes much to the likes of Dimmu Borgir and Emperor, it draws on those influences, rather than simply rehashing them. The album is well written, well performed and a lot of fun. The MVP is undoubtedly Kerttula’s work behind the kit. His battering blasts and progressive flourishes both drive Katharos forward, while also adding depth and complexity to the overall package. The production is solid, although the bass goes wandering on occasion and Annerhall’s vocals are sometimes too low in the mix, getting lost in the tumult.

Katharos has an irrepressible energy and swagger about it that it’s hard not to get swept up by. Brutal, vital and relentless, Of Lineages Long Forgotten wears its influences proudly and puts them to good use. There are no outright surprises on this record. Indeed, it immediately sounds familiar and comfortable in a way but it is executed with skill and a surprising subtlety, giving it depths that will likely keep me coming back for more over the coming months.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Willowtip Records
Websites: katharosswe.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/katharosswe
Releases Worldwide: May 13th, 2022

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