Though melodic death metal seems to have had much of its cake and eaten it in 2015, the simultaneous returns of Carcass and At the Gates (the latter particularly varyingly received) recovered a sense that there was enough strength left in the scene’s best song-writers to deliver slabs of worthiness. Canadian quartet Kataklysm never quite garnered the same sort of status, but simmering beneath the initial wave of hype that saw both the aforementioned bands totally implode suited them just fine; they avoided back breaking pressure and trundled out some of the most solidly consistent Metal, and there’s much to be said for their second tier longevity too.
“Of Ghosts and Gods”, their 12th full-length, does not once re-invent the wheel, nor does it tread through territories that haven’t been explored before, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an idiosyncratic piece of work. Lazy comparisons to European contemporaries Amon Amarth are likely, but actually the best moments here aren’t always the most original.
They begin by incorporating their trademark sonic experiment of using film samples in their music; “You say you didn’t cause this? Your God did… I am a God! I am a God!” So begins ‘Breaching the Asylum’, before turning into a cascading burst of melody-lead grooves and At the Gates-indebted thrash. ‘Marching through Graveyards’ is a properly barn-storming, old school folklore centric, melo-death rager in its own right. Following this, the band hit their wholesome mid-album stride, sounding particularly comfortable on the likes of ‘Thy Serpent’s Tongue’ and the frantic, blast-beat lead but relentlessly catchy ‘Vindication’.
They run a little too close to one-dimensionality towards the albums final throes, and closer ‘The World is Dying Insect’, though harmonious, doesn’t bring enough bleak atmosphere or diversification to live up to its suggestive title. However, ‘Shattered’ may be the closest the band have ever come to writing a ballad, and its epic, slow-burning soul is tangible through lyrics like “my blood is thicker than water, and your wall is shattered”.
While anyone aware of Kataklysm’s back catalogue will find little to be surprised about here, the best moments are the most refined, the most focused and the most fists-in-the-air heart rendering. It’s another solid release for conveyor belt of decent releases from the band.