Review Summary: A seamless transition from niche-pandering slam to full-blown brutal death metal
Fans of brutal death metal, more specifically, “slam” can sometimes be a fickle bunch. Much like how a fussy toddler would prefer to eat the same thing over and over again, it would seem that variety and change is largely frowned upon in the well-worn niche genre. Endless bands with names impossible to enunciate pop up and then immediately fade from prominence due to the simple fact that they sound exactly like the last slam band before them. It seems that slam bands who try to expand their sound and go on to receive critical acclaim, only then receive a scolding from their fussy fanbase. Indeed, you’re treading dangerous waters if you try to be original in a genre that thrives off stagnation. Yet seemingly there is an exception, a band that can do no wrong, the unmistakable Russian gore connoisseurs Katalepsy.
Katalepsy have never been an overtly prominent band in the genre for whatever reason. Much like many of their contemporaries, they’re mostly spoken of in circles of dedicated fans, yet I find this perplexing. Katalepsy are unique, their music is typically very well produced, and they also have a remarkable knack for being able to create “slam” riffs that are easily distinguishable from the next. It might seem odd then, that they’ve decided a change is in order, given that their sound was unique enough to please both critic and fan alike. The most obvious difference is the level of complexity in their music has gone through the roof, and this is no mean feat. Although associated with dreary acts such as Mortician, Katalepsy always managed to pack a fair amount of intricacy into their music. On “Autopsychosis”, they’ve raised their game tremendously; this is potentially a result of multiple line-up shuffles, so many in fact that Anatoly, the bass player, is the only remaining member from their original full length in 2007. With that in mind then, the obviously question is “do they still sound like Katalepsy?” The answer is a reassuring “yes”. Although this album is a huge stylistic shift for the band, they’ve managed to retain their ridiculously infectious groove breakdowns and their signature pinch harmonics and palm muted chords, so long time fans should be happy.
The unmistakable hallmarks of Katalepsy’s already unique sound have been integrated brilliantly with a technical, but still brutal-as-hell, Suffocation-like style. The most refreshing instrumental performance of the album is the drumming of Evgeny Novikov, who manages to stand out with some nicely varied fills, robotically steady feet and some interesting cymbal work. The best thing about the drumming is that these guys have managed to avoid succumbing to the god-awful modern trend of mixing the drums intolerably high to create the illusion of being “heavy”. There is a plethora of variation in the guitar riffs, some head-bangable, some groovable and some finger-tappable, whichever way you slice it, passionate air-guitarists everywhere are going to have a lot of fun listening to this. This is aided particularly well by the thick but crisp production which does justice to every instrument, except the bass of course (This is still a brutal death metal album). One of the most inimitable aspects of Katalepsy’s sound was vocalist Ruslan “Mirus” Iskandaroff, who sadly left the band in 2011 to pursue other professional commitments. Although Igor Filimontsev’s presence would be welcomed in most brutal death metal bands, Mirus will certainly be missed for the demonic chaos he brought forth that arguably characterised Katalepsy more than any other member. Regardless, Igor does a great job behind the mic, with some growls that sound as if he feasts on brick solyanka and vodka for breakfast as well as some Demilich-like gurgling.
The song structures are chaotic and unpredictable, but still coherent. Instead of sounding as if they’ve attempted to throw in as many different riffs as possible onto one record, it’s apparent these guys understand how to execute musical sequences one after another with maximum impact to firmly retain your attention and create a chaotic atmosphere. A problem that often blights bands like this is lack of memorability, but once again, the Russian death metallers have thought their way around the issue and clearly thought hard about how to distinguish each track. There’s even an interlude thrown into the latter half to prepare you for the assault of the final two tracks, just in case you needed a breather. No two songs in a row begin in the same vein, and there’s an obvious attention to detail as to how each song goes about wreaking havoc on your senses, “Taedium Vitae” preferring a much riffier approach while “The Pulse of Somnambulist” grooves away into oblivion, for example. With the slightest bit of attention paid, the songs aren’t going to blend together.
“Autopsychosis” is a near-faultless effort from a band that is long overdue for some recognition, and perhaps opting for a more accessible route will yield great things for them. Don’t be put off by the notion that it’s more accessible than their older material though, because this album is still ridiculously heavy and should satisfy the palettes of even the most hardened brutal death fans.
Excellent album - 4.2/5
All of them