The fact that music can be atmospheric is testament to just how fu
cked up our mutant ape brains really are. When we talk about atmosphere in music, we don’t mean that the music is windy or humid or that it has self contained pressure, what we mean is that the music somehow briefly illuminates an obscure reverie deep in the depths of our fevered unfulfillable monkey minds because we as a species will always crave something other than what is real. Music is the key that unlocks some kind of cool abstract realm of vibrant delusion within our putrid meat cores that speaks gently and lovingly to the most primal and crude aspects of our repugnant natures. Speaking of keys, Catacomb of France knew what the key to a good death metal release was, the key is Yog-Sothoth and Yog-Sothoth is the gate and he knows the gate for past and present are all one to Yog-Sothoth.
What I’m jabbering about here is that Catacomb released some of the most atmospheric death metal ever on their 1993 extended exaltation of H.P. Lovecraft’s writings In the Maze of Kadath
. The listener will legitimately feel lost amongst the dynamic riff patterns, restrained by the grasping leads, trapped by the ethereal keyboards, and suffocated by the abyssal vocals present on this ode to the unknowable realms of Lovecraft’s work. The unsettling echoed jangle of piano that comprises introductory track "Enter the Castle of Great Entities" invites the listener into the grandiose horror, the voice-like keyboard intonations infusing a just sense of dread and building anticipation for the segue into "The Key"; a song where impetuous guitar riffs and leads coaxed by the ebb and swell of subtle keyboard voices quickly ascend into a blessing in the form of a luxuriant, frothing guitar solo from omnipotent Yog-Sothoth.
H.P. Lovecraft may have been so named, but few know that what he really loved was riffs. Whatever realm of ubiquitous blackness he now lurks has probably got some extremely good riffs, but because us unfortunate mortals are stuck here on purgatory piss planet Earth, we will have to make do with what riffs we can muster on our own. Catacomb recorded some incredibly good riffs on In the Maze...
, and their ability to repeatedly evoke the same kind of dismal splendour intrinsic to Lovecraft’s writings in their own (riff) writing warrants sincere praise. There are more triumphant tremolo picked riffs than there are tentacles on C’thulu’s face, licks and leads more tempting than promises from Nyarlathotep, all tempered by crunchier mid-paced riffs that propel the songs along with tireless purpose like a flight in the arms of Nightgaunts. The aforementioned solo at the beginning of The Key is merely a prelude to the impressively emotive shred to be found throughout the short record, such as the forlorn licks towards the end of “Time’s Lurker” or the resplendent, frantic sweeping that surmounts the peak of “Hallucinated Mountains”.
While Catacomb carry out most of their worship of the elder gods through the guitars, the grotesque vocals do their part in adding a percussive animalistic aspect to the overall atmosphere and contrasting the ghostly keyboard intonations; standing out particularly in a rasp/growl duet segment at the end of "The Key". Unsurprisingly, directly quoting Lovecraft’s work makes for great death metal lyrics and "The Key"’s chorus lifts words straight out of The Dunwich Horror
to reiterate just how beautiful and perfect Yog-Sothoth really is. While the piano introductions do outstay their welcome (there is one at the start of every single song on this EP), the chilling touch of the keys is applied with skill to accentuate the riffing and embellish the horrific atmosphere while meticulously circumventing cheese like someone who is lactose intolerant.
Lovecraft did not only write about dreamers, he wrote for dreamers too. The sublime realms he described have spawned countless more in music written by band after band influenced by his mythos, and Catacomb are just a few from a cult of a countless many inspired to depict the affecting atmospheres present in all his work. It's all just another example of the powerfully absurd imagination of our fleshy sapient brains.