It is about time I got around to reviewing a disc by Canada's northern hyper blasters, KATAKLYSM. After enjoying what I heard of the last several albums and suffering through the disappointment of two live performances, thanks to horrid sound mixes, I have now been able to spend a little quality time with "In the Arms of Devastation".
As it turns out, "quality" is the operative term here, as the band's eighth release is a consistently good listen from start to finish, the adroit mix of melody and heaviness approaching perfection. Consistency is the name of the game, as skipping tracks or shutting the album off at the halfway point are not options. The highlights are many. "Like Angels Weeping (the Dark)" is as strong an opener as you'll hear on a melodic death metal album: the speed, the weight of the rhythms, JF Dagenais' fat 'n' melodic chords, and the fist-pumping one-line chorus combine to exemplify what made the best of the early Swedish acts so alluring. Forget about a one-two punch to open the album. How about a one-two-three-four punch? "Let Them Burn" arrives next with another up-tempo rhythm and memorable chorus, this time highlighting Maurizio Iacono's superb use of high-register screams to complement his thick growl. "Crippled & Broken" attacks with a slow and ominous pace during the chorus, like an armored division rolling through war-torn streets (it will put a snarl on your face), alternated with bombing run intensity on the main verse. Fooling us for a few moments, the clean picking intro of "To Reign Again" gives way to more pummeling chunk and machine gun rhythms, led by drummer Max Duhamel's flawless performance, one that is tight and teeth-rattling. You'll feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand at attention when Stephane Barbe's rotund bass line is heard in all its naked glory.
Coming into the album's mid-point, "It Turns to Rust" features scathing guest vocals from Morgan Lander (KITTIE), though the changeup is not too far removed from Iacono's screaming bits. Closing the album with the churning tempo of "The Road to Devastation" was an excellent choice. The track's mournful chords and the way a melodic lead winds the track down lessens the album's otherwise breakneck attack, allowing the listener to finally descend from adrenaline-charged heights. Though it probably goes without saying, the tag team of producer Dagenais and mixer Tue Madsen gives the album a rich and powerful sound.
Few albums play as well from beginning to end. "In the Arms of Devastation" is a beacon of light in an ocean of melodic death metal blandness. The album is exceptional not because the style is a new one, but because the song craft is strong, the confidence palpable, and the approach convincingly crushing.