Review Summary: Stirring arrangements make this album a "must hear".
Kataxu, fronted by Piaty who works most of the instruments as well as handling most song writing, had already put out a very solid bit of black metal with Roots Thunder. The follow up, Hunger Of Elements, puts a bigger emphasis on symphonics rather than folk aesthetics. The fact that three keyboardists are on the release, as well as one of them handling solely keyboard arrangements/orchestration, should give an idea of the scope of how keyboard dominated this album is. That is not to say aggression is not an active element in the release, for it is and it blends extremely well with the orchestral elements.
Without a doubt, the opener In My Dungeon! is one of the, if not the, quintessential symphonic black metal piece. The song sets the stage for what the rest of the CD contains. Elaborate arrangements, long building sections, sudden changes, and an overall "astral" atmosphere. The song builds of a slow clean guitar intro into a up tempo energetic vocal section. The vocal sections often phrase lines very interestingly (if you bother following the lyrics), and (important!) repetition is never apparent in the release. Yes, there are three songs over ten minutes on this release, and I challenge you to pick out a verse/chorus/bridge structure in any of them. Often riffs are not recycled, and the songs still maintain a purpose and direction as sections flow smoothly into one another.
The production is also stellar, guitars are very akin to a band like Summoning, rarely coming to the forefront to provide a leading role, but rather add an element into the wall of sound that the choirs and strings create. An element of harshness to accompany the vocals is created by them. If you do play close enough attention to decipher what they are playing you will often by surprised by what they are playing, a tribute to how extremely well the album is arranged (probably one of the best jobs in the entire genre). Drums are clear and do not annoy with any clangy cymbal sounds or high pitched snare. Only thing I miss in the mix is the bass, which probably adds even another level of depth in the arrangement.
The album also has three songs (the shorter ones) that are instrumental and feature only keyboard. The compositions are frankly very stirring, especially the end of NightSky, and while not complex they are certainly a good interlude in-between the longer metal compositions. Essentially the three instrumental songs are what you would get if you isolated the the keyboards in the longer main compositions. In the vocal department Kataxu also has a fairly unique approach, using vocals lower (but by no means guttural) than most black metal shrieks. As mentioned earlier the phrasing of the vocals are fairly interesting and provide some counterpoint to everything else going on.
One of the more musically complex offerings of the genre, all I can say is do yourself a favor and pick this one up, regardless of your musical background.