Review Summary: Time to pick sides
When listening to Kataklysm’s Heaven’s Venom
, you may be forced to pick a side in an inevitable argument that fans and critics are likely to rage over the band’s discography since 2001’s Epic – The Poetry of War
: stagnation or consistency? Both sides have legitimate points to back themselves up concerning the Canadian death metal outfit’s work in the past decade: On one hand, the band have done little to progress their sound since Epic
, and on the other, they have never failed to deliver fist-pumping death metal anthems and respectable amounts of catchy riffs with each release, perhaps best displayed on 2006’s In The Arms of Devastation
. Yet even if you do happen to favor the latter side, though, when do you think enough is truly enough
? Is the band’s formula so strong that perhaps it can last them a few more albums? Or do you personally think that it’s truly time for them to go back to the drawing board and try something new instead? Tough call.
Whatever side you choose, though, you must settle with the fact that Kataklysm are not making revolutionary material here; in fact, one could argue that they never have in the past. The four-piece have always been a good, respectable death metal band, but have never been anything great or particularly noteworthy in and of themselves. New effort Heaven’s Venom
will do nothing to affect their mid-level ranking in the death metal tier, getting down to it. Their eleventh studio album plays out to be a little more catchier than 2008’s Prevail
, slightly more consistent too, but it is still clearly in the same realm of sonic crafting that Kataklysm have become known to deliver with each release. Songs like “Hail The Renegade” and especially “At the Edge of the World” display guitarist Jean-Francois Dagenais’ knack for creating catchy memorable riffs, a point of interest that is one of the main reasons why so many listeners return to Kataklysm with each new album - even if they can already predict what they will hear beforehand.
It must be mentioned, however, that this predictable sound entails the use of Kataklysm’s strong vocalist, Maurizio Iacono. Surprisingly an owner of his own pizzeria, Iacono has a vocal performance that has progressed nicely with age, peaking with 2006’s In The Arms of Devastation
, and continuing to the present as a premier example of melody-flavored death metal voiced correctly; with just enough bite to remain grizzly, enough of a deep tone to prevent ear-grating screeches, and the perfect level of harsh-to-understandable ratio to fit nicely in context of the music. His rough, memorable vocal melodies give replay value to ninth cut “Suicide River”, meshing nicely with the lead-heavy river of distortion that Dagenais creates to carry the vocalist on. Earlier on the album, “Faith Made of Shrapnel”, a song that runs a couple of minutes too long for its own good, would surely be a lost cause without Iacono’s varied use of both his high, harsh tone and that of his respectable lower growl, keeping interest in a song that the other three members of the band just weren’t able to implement successfully themselves.
That last point is perhaps the problem that’s holding Kataklysm back in their set sound, though. Iacono is a great frontman, sure, but instrumentally the band’s aesthetic is really starting to get old. Each of the band’s post-2001 albums all contain a number of memorable tracks, but taken as a whole individually, there’s just not enough to tell them apart. And like those before it, Heaven’s Venom
is, in a lot of ways, just another
Kataklysm album: There’s head-banging riffs and a number of catchy, harsh vocal melodies, but overall it’s just the same mid-grade melody-flavored death metal that the Canadian band have been playing for years. Still not sure which side of the argument you fall on now? Understandable, it’s still a thin, blurred line that Kataklysm stand on after all, but with each new release I can’t help but feel that the odds are continuing to stack against the Canadian four-piece’s favor: Sadly, it would seem that Kataklysm are stuck in a cycle of repeating themselves, essentially lost on a path of stagnation.