(Nuclear Blast 2008)Kataklysm - Prevail

It's no question that death metal, in its myriad forms, can be a deadly weapon when wielded by skilled practitioners. You have technical death metal, with bands using its precision like a surgeon's scalpel to the throat. On the other side of the playground you have your brutal death metal, causing the blunt force trauma of a dense cudgel. Traditionally, Kataklysm have been firmly entrenched in the brutal camp, but napalm tinged wings of change are blowing. "Prevail," the Canadian skullcrusher's ninth album, ventures into the nebulous middle ground occupied by melodic death metal.

For a band whose reputation was built upon a sound that has been dubbed "northern hyperblast," there's surprising little blasting of hypers. While there are genuine face-melters like "The Chains of Power," they serve as a sharp contrast to a song like "Blood in Heaven," characterized by an almost lazily paced groove and protracted dive-bombing guitar work. In fact, the bulk of the album sees Kataklysm favoring milder paced riffing than the breakneck speed you'd expect. Whatever the tempo, the sense of melody and catchiness remains intact. Lots of current metal acts can make the same claim, but Kataklysm manages to pull it off without sounding like so much rehashed refuse. As a whole, the album is fairly similar to German deathcore giants Heaven Shall Burn. This is not a criticism; Heaven Shall Burn is awesome.

"Prevail" is sure to chafe old-skool Kataklysm fans. Taken on its own, though, it stands as a fine source of enjoyable punishment, like an overnight stay at Mistress Helga's House of Pain. Or so I'm told. Sure, it's less classic death metal and more burly-growling-modern-jackhammer death metal, but it sounds better than most burly-growl…whatever. Going on twenty years into their career, Kataklysm have managed to stay relevant by tweaking their sound and keeping up with death metal's new recruits.


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