-by Devdutt Nawalkar
Album: “Fourth Reich” (2009)
The new Katharsis is chaos swirling around in red mists of obliteration, seeking the yellow, and impaling them on the stake of the heartless. This is one of the most intense albums released this year, and hands down the single best thing the Germans have ever done. Political correctness aside, if Hitler really wanted to give Jews a glimpse of perdition before the real thing, he’d play them ‘Fourth Reich‘ (As a disclaimer, the band has nothing to do with racist ideologies).
This is a bit of a departure for Katharsis. They seem to have aligned themselves more strongly with the (anti) religious black metal vibe evident on albums like Deathspell Omega’s ‘si Monumentum..‘ No fear, necrotrons, for this is still as rotten and febrile as ever. But, while retaining the rawness of previous releases, the sound on Fourth Reich manages to achieve an equilibrium that helps greatly to emphasize the band’s brutality.
And brutal it is. While the band’s moved on from the Darkthrone-influenced early days, people familiar with their newer material will know just what to expect here. Seriously, did you even get to breathe during VVorld VVithout End? Wave after nauseating wave of concussive, aural destruction crashing on the listener caught under its unforgiving onslaught, a density that some think monotonous but captured only by a precious few (Impiety, Funeral Mist on ‘Salvation‘, Antaeus on ‘Cut Your Flesh and Worship Satan‘).
It’s been three years since then, and while the band’s stayed true to their template of relentlessly blasting black metal, they’ve introduced just about enough variety to pole-vault them over the also-rans and take up house among the genre elite. Songs are still howling, unappeasable tempests of pure vitriol and pissed off’ness that threaten to rip off the nearest available neck of all mortal pretensions, stick it up on a pogo stick, and mock with the bellowing laughter of seven hells. The similarities to Funeral Mist’s ‘Salvation‘ have been toned down especially in the vocal aspect. Drakh isn’t channeling Arioch as much anymore; gone are most of the gasps, the hiccups, and assorted quirks that made VVorld VVithout End such a great alternative for ones easily tired of ‘Salvation‘s’ theatricality.
There’s a more pronounced melodic edge to Fourth Reich as well, at least as melodic as a band on the Norma Evangelium Diaboli stable can be. ‘So Nail The Hearts’ slows down to an amble towards the end, and employs creepy choirs so beloved of the recent orthodox Satanic black metal movement. ‘Eucharistick Funereal’ blasts, changes tack, and even engages in *gasp* a bit of repetitive, trance-like guitar tapping as it lumbers down to its climax. ‘Reckoning’ is almost grindcore in parts and utilizes what even sounds like a rabid D-beat at the end. ‘Emeralde Graves’ is roughly five minutes of ambient, synth sounds that we could do without, but the closer ‘Sinn Koronation’ is a winner, weaving different moods to lead in and out of a mouth-watering mid-section.
Katharsis used to be a relatively one-dimensional, albeit awesome, band that rarely strayed out of their comfort zone. Fourth Reich sees them upgrading their sound without compromising the trademark, unhinged, and unpretentious viciousness and, in doing so, outdoing other more anticipated releases this year.