St. Paul, Minnesot'as True Metal Record Store (RIP as of Dec. 24, 2015)
Bonjour from Québec! A relatively familiar name for us today in KATAKLYSM, but perhaps an unfamiliar recording known as The Mystical Gate of Reincarnation. Originally recorded as a demo in 1992 (as The Death Gate Cycle of Reincarnation), it found new life with a bonus track and fresh moniker in 1993 upon the band’s initial signing to Nuclear Blast. Ever since being dropped and then reintroduced to that label’s line-up several years later, KATAKLYSM have cranked out seemingly endless amounts of fairly indistinguishable, milquetoast death metal that does its best to stay neatly within the lines.
In contrast, what we get in The Mystical Gate of Reincarnation is an absolutely psychotic hell-ride constantly threatening to come apart of the seams.
Now HERE is the true Northern Hyperblast to which the band’s current incarnation can only weakly allude. This is SUFFOCATION and AUTOPSY in a high-speed blender, infused with a strident transcendental streak by a complete derelict freak of a vocalist named Sylvain Houde.
The utter disregard for rhythmic flow and narrative within these songs is pure death metal dark comedy, as is the lack of taste for conventional musicianship — check out the weirdo quarter-note bass drums on blasts or distorted bass trading off solos with the lead guitar to see what I mean. Thankfully, the riffs, disjointed as they may seem in context, tend to stand alone brilliantly, leaving us to contemplate how the arrhythmic and subterranean cacophony of the ecclesiastic Houde brings everything to the center. Few bands in the genre’s long history have been able to marry the sublime and entropic quite like Houde-led KATAKLYSM could, and I recommend a read of the lyrics with your listen to The Mystical Gate for the full experience.
This stuff really shines a light on how CRYPTOPSY’s Blasphemy Made Flesh or None So Vile, despite a similar death/grind aesthetic and madman vocal approach, were far and away much more composed, conventional and put together. And perhaps that can help shine a light on how bad many of their later albums ended up being. (It also explains KATAKLYSM’s rapid descent into the mundane once Sylvain floated off.) Never fear though, as CRYPTOPSY’s early gifts keep on giving, as do GORGUTS’s albums (Obscura being the prime example) that took up the mantle of mystical and chaotic death metal KATAKLYSM once shed.
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