Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Kataklysm - Temple of Knowledge [Kataklysm Part III] (1996)

I remember hearing about Kataklysm around the time Sorcery was released. I believe it was an ad for that album probably on the back cover of an old issue of Metal Maniacs. This would've been around '95 and that was, for me, probably the dreariest year for death metal as far as bands breaking up or changing styles was concerned. I remember not being terribly impressed by Sorcery and pretty much wrote the band off.

A few years later, at the behest of my guitarist/Kataklysm nut, I gave in and checked out the band's sophomore LP, Temple of Knowledge.

I could tell this wasn't bad but there was still something that I wasn't quite feeling. It was almost like the guitarist would have preferred playing thrash but was being forced to come up with death metal riffs. Either that or the guy went from not knowing how to play a lick to writing songs in a matter of a few hours. I don't mean to imply that the kid couldn't play, but everything just sounded forced. Add to that the insanity (and believe me, I mean INSANITY!!!) of the vocalist and his desire to jam pack his lyrics into every orifice, nook and cranny dealt out by the guitars and finalize it all with an average drummer who is left to somehow make sense of all this, and voila... I give you... Temple of Knowledge!

All in all, this is easily the band's crowning achievement and they've pretty much released a long line of 'blah' since. Nothing terribly bad. Nothing tremendously good. Just... eh. Much of this has to do with the fact that this album was the last to feature the midget, bearded kook-monster himself, Sylvain Houde. I can say, with absolute confidence, that his work on this album is the most insane shit I've ever heard from a death metal vocalist, not to mention his frenetic stage presence. I would have really loved to have heard him in Cryptopsy after Lord Worm had gone about his way. I can only imagine how much better the Mike DiSalvo albums would've sounded had Houde been in control of that ship.

Temple of Knowledge is hardly a "stellar" album and aside from the shock value of Houde's performance there's really nothing here beyond a handful of decent riffs and accompanying blasts.

Exodus - Blood in Blood Out (2014)

When I first heard that the fat, afro-wave Bon Scott wannabe was back in the band (again) I was pretty excited. For one, I've always preferred 'Pleasures...' over 'Bonded...' and two, I thought that he sounded pretty damn good fronting his kid's band, however weird that concept may be.

Well, impact was assuredly imminent and the reunion of Souza and Exodus turned out to be one big crash and fucking burn.

The riffs are a grab-bag of 'ok' mixed in with sonic Xanax and other, various sleep inducing benzos. The main problem with them (and pretty much the album as a whole) is the production. This is quite possibly the worst sounding Exodus album in that regard. Having a "full" sound is normally good, yet, as with everything else in life, there is always the potential to overdo shit and boy did this thing overstay its welcome the oven!

While I thought Souza sounded killer in Hatriot, he sounds downright awful here. Of course the atrociously juvenile lyrics do not help in any way. They may have been cool 30 years ago, written by some hessian teen with a 1/4 ounce of pot tucked away in the pocket of his flannel, but to hear this shit dribbling fourth from a 50 year old goes WAY beyond the realm of comedy and is just plain excruciating to endure.

TRUST me... this is nowhere near as good as the first few Exodus albums. Hell, it aint even as good as Force of Habit! It's just one, gigantic mess written by a bunch of bloated guys who're only a few years away from senior citizen status.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

From Best to Worst: Kreator (the early years)

Terrible Certainty (1987) 

For me, this is the "pinnacle" album by the band. While it retains a large sum of the raw and violent tendencies of the band's earlier output, it is obvious that Mille & Co. were improving as musicians and were keen to flex their newfound abilities. Thankfully, they opted not to go overboard and the end result is the perfect combination of precision and aggression. TC reminds me a mash-up of Immolation's 'Dawn of Possession', Pestilences 'Malleus Maleficarum' and Sepultura's 'Beneath the Remains'.

While Destruction may have alienated some listeners with their prowess and rather bizarre eccentricities and Sodom always sort of chose to stand on the primitive side of the fence, Kreator were always able to juggle both ends of the spectrum with ease and TC, in my opinion, is their ultimate statement.

Flag of Hate (1986)

This 'ep' serves as the bridge between the band's ultra-primitive (yet no less violent) debut and the more, (ahem) "kreative" riffing that would become more pronounced with each release.

Though merely an 'ep', FOH boasts a few of my all-time favorite Kreator tracks including the epic and volcanic blast, 'Awakening of the Gods' and the Terrible Certanity-esque 'Take their Lives'.

Pleasure to Kill (1986) 

Not only did Kreator manage to up the ante in terms of progression and technicality, they also ramped up the violence and brutality that made their debut an instant classic. No small feat there!

There will always be a special place in my black heart for this album as it was the first Kreator album I bought and listened to, not to mention it's just so fucking good!

Endless Pain (1985) 

As far as this list is concerned, Endless Pain is the last of the truly essential Kreator albums (Terrible Certainty if you were to go chronologically).

I have many, many fond memories of blasting this album at high volume and thrashing out during my youth and despite its violent tendencies, there is a great deal of "classic rock" sounding riffs scattered throughout (riffs that were obviously taken to their extreme and warped almost beyond recognition). I can only assume that the reason being is that thrash was still very much in its infancy during this time with rock and roll not so far behind in the evolutionary chain of extreme music.

EP also features Mille at his most absolutely venomous!

Coma of Souls (1990) 

This is probably the album that should have come out after Terrible Certainty as, for me, Extreme Aggression just really didn't cut it.

Without a doubt, COS is Kreator's most mature offering to date. Everything is pristine, from the production to the selection and placement of the riffs, lyrical topics and arrangements, so on.

The bands knack for writing aggressive material is still there, but now it seems to have a purpose. Everything has been tempered and honed and I have to admit, it's a slight bummer to see the band so calculative in their attack rather than caught up amidst the slaughter, throwing caution to the wind, which seemed to be the approach on their earlier records.

Make no mistake about it, though... COS is a standout album and in many ways is as far as the band could have gone in terms of seeking out perfection. Sure, it may not be as gritty and grimy as Pleasure to Kill or Terrible Certainty, but they proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that they could write and record an album on the same level as any one of their more "well-known" peers.

Extreme Aggression (1989) 

Technically, this may be the most advanced of the band's initial run, however, there is something oddly yet undeniably anemic about it. The venom in Mille's voice has been trampled over by a more comic sounding version of his former self. Some of the lyrics are just downright fucking goofy, not to mention the fact that they're rendered cringe-worthy by the sheer awfulness of his vocal performance this time around. Though I've never been the biggest fan of Ventor's work behind "da mic", he really would've been a welcome diversion to Mille's mysterious bout with retardation on this album.

The other gripe I have with EA is the horrendously stripped down and neutered sound of the guitars. There is absolutely NO power to be found here. Sure, there is a certain "razor-ishness" to some of the more technical riffage to be found yet I can't shake the notion that the soul had been thoroughly sucked from out of the whole thing before being palmed off to the public at large.

Out of the Dark... into the Light (1988) 

The songs found on this -ep- (sans the live tracks, of course) somehow manage to sound 100 times inferior to even the worst that Extreme Aggression had to offer, and that's REALLY saying something!

It's rather perplexing that this awful piece of shit was conceived shortly after the release of the mighty Terrible. I am forced to assume that the creative process for that album must have seriously put the proverbial hurt on their asses thus rendering them crippled, creatively, until they re-entered the think-tank that led to the creation of Coma of Souls.

Cool cover, and that it!