Review Summary: Doom.
Despite dropping a fifty-four minute slab of old-school death-doom on us barely twelve months ago, Symptom, aka. JT Gilmore is showing no signs of creative exhaustion. Caverns of Katabasis
is certainly not a radical departure for the one-man band in terms of its sound, but it is still a commendable evolution from this album’s predecessor. Indeed, Symptom’s musical approach is not too different to what we found on last year’s Opulent Atrocity
, but the overall execution is far more focussed and deliberate. Compositions have lengthened substantially, and the minor but noticeable focus on melody has been almost completely erased. Caverns of Katabasis
is more or less the realisation of what Gilmore was attempting to achieve beforehand, more akin to Disembowelment than to Incantation, but not an imitation of either.
Caverns of Katabasis
bellows and lurches like a vindictive behemoth, flattening all that is unfortunate enough to be straddling its path. Molten layers of distorted guitars and bass, as well as reverberant shrieks and howls create an eerie, menacing environment – one that is all too easy to get lost in. The opener, a primal assortment of ringing chords and cymbal crashes, instantly highlights one of the album’s most invaluable assets, the production. The drums are untriggered and organic, the guitar tone is raw yet bountiful and the record’s bottom end is powerful enough to register on the Richter Scale. The ample sound engineering creates a sonic snowball effect – the individual tracks are able to remain engaging even at their slowest and most drawn out, which in turn allows Gilmore to persist with individual ideas for minutes at a time, creating an ominous yet hypnotising aural experience.
Interestingly enough, it’s often – though not always – during the faster sections in which the atmospheric build ups take place. Unfortunately, there is a crippling lack of variety in these up-tempo sections, consisting almost entirely of unadventurous tremolo picking, with Gilmore paying little attention to differentiating them. The production does a superb job in limiting the damage caused by the bouts of sameness, but some infectious riffs scattered throughout would have done wonders for the overall experience. However, one could contend that this was Gilmore’s intention, seeing as most, if not all of this album exists for the doom. Most of the faster sections serve as precursors to the thunderous, doomy assaults that make up a huge proportion of the album, akin to the tremors that precede a volcanic eruption before monolithic plumes of ash and magma blacken the sky and intoxicate the atmosphere. As such, the abundance of clouded doom is surprisingly forgiving to the listener, without sacrificing the sinister mood that Symptom is notable for.
Though not ground breaking in any sense, Caverns of Katabasis
is a logical expansion on Opulent Atrocity
, firmly grounded in established ideas but more audacious in its enactment. Placing a greater emphasis on the doom aspect of Symptom’s sound, it also opens up some interesting avenues for future releases. Devastating, gloomy and untouched by the hand of modernisation, Caverns of Katabasis
is both a tribute to the acts that inspired it, and an interesting glimpse into what the future may hold for this underrated one-man act.