Review Summary: Katalepsy falls into the mysterious trap of becoming more repetitive whilst also increasing stylistic variety, but thanks to well-developed individual tracks Terra Mortuus Est remains a decent modern death metal album.
Expectations for the newest Katalepsy release were probably reasonably low for most people. With their drummer departing to join Slaughter to Prevail
, and after the somewhat lackluster Gravenous Hour
, the band had reached an apparent low. Their one-off single signified a shift away from the tech-death direction of Gravenous Hour but regressed too far into rudimentary, almost nu-metally slam, certainly not the hooky and well-round brutal death metal of 2013's Autopsychosis
. Terra Mortuus Est therefore had a difficult job righting the ship, and to an extent it succeeds.
A fact that is universally evident through this release is that their returning drummer Bauglir is simply just not as good as Evgeny Novikov, whose driving energy and unpredictably fast playing resulted in their slower material packing a lot of punch. There are some good beats throughout this album, with some neat Dirk-blasts on Those Who Rot the Souls
, but the drums lack the same commanding presence as on Autopsychosis and Gravenous Hour. This may be the fault of the production, which is overall a mixed bag. The guitars sound incredible and in general there is a lot of heaviness, but some of the clank of the bass is absent and as a result the bass and drums don't really have the same clarity and punch as before. The vocals have shifted to a more shouty style, akin to some deathcore and metalcore bands, but aren't really bad in any way and they aren't as distracting as in some cases (Mike DiSalvo on Whisper Supremacy most obviously). There are some remnant tech-death leanings, but they are much more tastefully implemented for the most part, and with some more open-ended songwriting (many tracks reaching 4-5 mins in length), there is significantly more variation per-track than the rest of their discography.
The songwriting is somewhat unusual in comparison to earlier Katalepsy releases. In general the hooks are a bit more spread out, but the tracks have more different parts and are less tonally homogeneous. In a way this makes the individual tracks more interesting, but it unfortunately also results in them having fewer unique elements in the context of a whole album. Almost every track has a great riff or two, but rather too obviously similar slam riffs and backdrops crop up on multiple tracks. Closer Than Flesh
, Night of Eden
and Those Who Rot the Souls
form a pretty potent opening trio of tracks, but there are parts which sound too obviously similar across the former and the latter which make them feel less distinct than they otherwise could be. Night of Eden is especially strong thanks to it avoiding dropping too many transitions that would break its momentum, and it otherwise has some of the best grooves on the album.
The inclusion of potentially too many different parts also results in some of them having more layers than normal, which is both a good and a bad thing. With the heavy but not terribly clear mix, sometimes too much sonic information in the riffs gets lost, such as in the leads of Neonomicon III
, an otherwise pretty great track. However, the lead parts also contribute a good proportion of the hooks for the album and in general are well executed. Despite this, the best tracks tend to drop leads for the most part, such as the crushing Deep Down Madness
, which is the closest in style to Autopsychosis with a good variety of little technical accoutrements to offset some great slam grooves. Unfortunately, all too many tracks here have too many transitions or fail to really develop the necessary momentum with a good hook, such as the title track, and most egregiously Kings of the Underground
, which puts in a really unnecessary and pointless bass break that saps its groove. Combined with a relatively long tracklist and several fairly long tracks by brutal death metal standards, Terra Mortuus Est often fails to really drive in the same way as earlier Katalepsy efforts.
All in all Terra Mortuus Est has possibly the most good ideas of any Katalepsy record, and when they align correctly on tracks like Night of Eden
, Those Who Rot the Souls
and Deep Down Madness
, it is every bit as pulverizing and enjoyable as Autopsychosis. Unfortunately, it too often gets bogged down with too many transitions between parts and the instrumental performances are to a lower standard than in the past. Regardless, its relatively even tracklist and great riffs will ensure some degree of enjoyment even if a lot of its potential is wasted.