Review Summary: An absolutely chaotic, brutal, and well-written death metal album that remains one of Kataklysm's greatest even 18 years after its release.
Ah, Kataklysm. In case you don't know who they are, here's a brief description: Once upon a time, in the early 1990s, there were four young men from Canada who each shared a passion for chaotic, brutal, unapologetic death metal. They decided to form a band and create some of the most original, hard-hitting, and energetic death metal on the scene. Thus, Kataklysm was born. After releasing their "Mystical Gate of Reincarnation" EP in 1993, they decided to give the scene just what it needed. Something that captured the genuine chaos and anger that death metal was always hyped up to be. With their classic breakthrough album "Sorcery", they succeeded, and created an absolutely chaotic, brutal, and well-written death metal album that remains one of their greatest even after almost 18 years.
Contrary to the knowledge of many of their younger fans, Kataklysm were led by a different singer for their first two albums. This man's name was Sylvain Houde, and even to this day it's nearly impossible to find a death metal vocalist who sounds like him. Which is part of why "Sorcery" and its successor are quite a bit different from the band's later material. Musically, the album is much more complex than later Kataklysm, as well as much rawer and faster. That being said, it does not sound like a completely different band; it's still unmistakably Kataklysm, just a more insane version of Kataklysm. However, if you're expecting it to sound just like the Kataklysm you hear on "Prevail" or "Shadows & Dust", prepare to be proven wrong.
Songs like "Mould in a Breed" and "Elder God" display a side of Kataklysm that is rarely, if ever, present on their post-Sylvain albums. A side that sacrifices all accessibility for a musical display of technical prowess and absolutely psychotic-sounding vocals to back it up. For those who wonder how Kataklysm's style got labeled as Northern Hyperblast, this album is the perfect proof. Max Duhamel does a fantastic job of combining precision and speed when behind the drum kit on this album. It's not the fastest he's ever played with the band, but it is certainly one of his best performances in the studio to date. Combine his drumming with the fantastic basslines of Maurizio Iacono and the evil riffage of Jean-Francois Dagenais, and instrumentally this album is death metal perfection. The album also manages to add some melody behind all the chaos, as evidenced on songs such as "Whirlwind of the Withered Blossoms" and the instrumental "World of Treason".
In regards to Sylvain's vocal style, let's just say that he sounds like a genuine maniac. Compared to Maurizio's vocals, his style is much less decipherable, deeper, more emotional, and the musical equivalent of a deranged man in a mental institution crying for help. And when it comes to death metal, that's a good thing. His vocals compliment Kataklysm's old style well, and he is simply an amazing vocalist who's work cannot be duplicated. You would have to hear the album yourself to believe it. Sadly, he left the band many years ago due to becoming sick with schizophrenia.
Though I absolutely adore everything that Kataklysm has made since day one, "Sorcery" is definitely one of the best albums they've ever created. It may take a few listens to get used to the vocal style and sheer complexity of it, particularly if you are used to their later style, but in my opinion, you have not fully absorbed Kataklysm until you have heard their work with Sylvain, especially this album. Anybody who calls themselves a Kataklysm fan needs to get this album.