Kataklysm, Unconquered review (Nuclear Blast Records 2020)

The 14th album from Canadian Death Metallers Kataklysm is Unconquered, a massive earth shaker that will pin your ears back and squeeze your brain.

Kataklysm is a band that has been creating music since 1991, and they are mainstays in the heavy scene. Their catalogue is huge, with not only more than a dozen studio albums but also numerous splits, compilations, and live releases as well. Fans have always had something new to look forward to with this band. The musical style has evolved over the years but they have stayed in the heavy lane.

Founders Maurizio Iacono (vocals) and Jean-François Dagenais (guitar) are joined by longtime bass player Stéphane Barbe and Olivier Beaudoin on drums (according to The Metal Archives, James Payne has since taken over on drums). The new album has similarities to the earlier work of the band, and in that way might seem like an homage to the past. The renewed sound has a sustainability to my ear, a strong tint of permanence, pointing more toward a new direction than a nostalgic episode.

A hazy photo of Kataklysm at Heavy Montréal 2019 (photo by Wayne Edwards)

“The Killshot” opens the set, beginning ominously with a quietude we know cannot last. Sure enough. Aggressive drumming blasts ravage even as guitar rhythms offer a stabilizing reassurance that is itself shaken by rare discordant clangs. The vocals are strong and coarse, easily understood, thereby becoming a narrative instrument as well as a musical one. It is a savage start, and rolls right into “Cut Me Down” for more hostility. There is a quiet melody to this song that is lurking in the background, and that makes it even more disturbing.

There is no letting up in this album. Any airy component is accompanied by a frenzied partner that keeps you on edge throughout. This characteristic is exemplified explicitly by “Focused To Destroy You” and more implicitly with songs like “The Way Back Home,” which have plainer lyrical elements living with musical gunfire and lyrics like this: “I’ll dig your grave on my way back home / I’ll gut you out like the pig that you are.” There is no waffling there, or anywhere else throughout. I will renew my prediction that this ferocity is here to stay. Recommended.

Unconquered is out now. Nuclear Blast is offering many versions and bundles – there has to be something there for every fan.


The band’s site, https://www.kataklysm.ca/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/kataklysm

Ordering from Nuclear Blast, https://www.nuclearblast.com/en/music/band/discography/overview/70940.kataklysm.html

Kataklysm, Unconquered review (Nuclear Blast Records 2020)