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Shadows And Dust

Review by Mike Korn

Sometimes it takes a while to get it right. Montreal's Kataklysm has been prowling around the death metal underground for more than ten years and with their latest effort "Shadows and Dust", all the pieces seem to have fallen in place. Starting their career as an insanely technical grindcore band, the group has slowly added to their musical and songwriting skills with each album, arriving at last to the current record.

"Shadows and Dust" is characterized by meticulous songwriting, judicious use of both brutality and melody and a sense of structure. None of the tracks is outright blasting speed but there's a part in just about every tune where they really cut loose. I have to tip the chapeau to drummer Max Duhamel, who attacks the skins like a rabid beast. He's the guy who really propels the band's sound. There are also some slower, even stately sections of riffing and elegant twin guitar leads. The best comparison I came up with is a cross of latter-day Bolt Thrower with the melodic speed of Dissection. That gives you a good idea of where Kataklysm is coming from.

One slight drawback is the vocals of Maurizio Iacono. He alternates between a hoarse deep bellowing and a raspy croak highly reminiscent of the Muppet stalwart the Great Gonzo. He isn't bad; it's just that I feel the vocals don't match up to the rest of the product. This is well worth checking out for fans of classy but brutal death metal. "Shadows and Dust" is a keeper and proof that good things come to those who take the more difficult long road instead of the quick dash to fame.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 2 at

Track by Track Review
Shadows and Dust
The opening cut starts with narration that I believe comes from the "Gladiator" movie. Then it hits with a brutal, simple riff that brings Bolt Thrower to mind. The speed kicks in more and more, led by Max's blinding drumming, and there's a crushing mosh part. The track is a microcosm for the album as a whole.
Beyond Salvation
This begins with chopping, staccato riffs and the unusual, highly catchy chorus. It's another excellent combination of speed and melody, with a mid-song break that almost reminded me of Metallica's "Four Horsemen".
"Illuminati" is a fast and complex number, with lots of time changes but still managing to come across smoothly. Those Gonzo vocals go into overdrive here.
Chronicles of the Damned
This is a pure speed number and simpler than most of the tunes here. It is very classy and aggressive at the same time.
Bound in Chains
This starts with speed but soon slows down into a more bruising mid-paced mode. The sorrowful chorus riffing reminds me a lot of some other band but I'm damned if I can remember who. The vocal hooks are catchy despite the Gonzo singing.
Where The Enemy Sleeps
Metallica and old-school thrash again comes to mind with the opening chords of this tune...a catchy and classy sequence of mid-paced twin guitar hooks. The song speeds up and develops an almost epic feel with its great contrasts in pace.
Centuries (Beneath the Dark Waters)
This is a grim and foreboding cut, like a slower paced Dissection. It has a cold feel similar to Norwegian black metal but mixed with a doomy mode. Some great chunky riffing in the middle encourages a healthy pit.
Face the Face of War
This one sounds a little bit too much like what has gone before. The mournful speed riffing and intricate picking are a bit too similar to past tracks but I do love that chorus with Maurizio bellowing out "Forever Face the Face of War!" in both his deep voice and his Gonzo voice.
Years of Enlightenment/Decades in Darkness
The single guitar picking that starts this out is cool to the max, with an almost regal feeling to it. But once the proper track kicks in, it lacks the aggression of most of the rest of the album and again sounds a bit like going through the motions. The song is not bad; I just don't feel it was strong enough to cap off an otherwise fine album.
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