Friday, 18 September 2009

Kathaaria - The Complex Void Of Negativity. 92/100.

And so begins a new series of reviews that documents works that should belong to an exclusive canon, a group of works accepted by the majority as being the best of the best. This time, I will attempt to uncover some of black metals best kept secrets. These are the full-lengths that have been lost in the daily shuffle between one band and the next, or simply those that have not been discovered at all by the majority of the public. I cannot seem to decide whether our first stop is surprising or not considering the magnitude of the scene within this country and the fact that it has one of the most domineering scenes on the entire planet - which is no mean feat in today’s society where black metal has risen to almost ridiculous popularity. Germany, one of black metals most loyal friends, has driven its listener to a state of euphoria with the most engrossing bands in the future and today’s example is no exception. Kathaaria, a two man band from the North Rhine, are in a different class to a lot of modern German black metal bands. This band are more orthodox than depressive, so the reader can sit back and relax, let go of their apprehension because we’re not visiting our dear old friend depression today.

Germany has a love-hate relationship with depressive black metal. One on hand, they are home to some of the best, most pivotal bands of that scene. On the other hand, they also house the worst of the worst, bedroom bands who manipulate the listener into believing they might be professional, but they’re clearly not. Thankfully, debates in that department are left to the side today as Kathaaria fit into a new faction, one that doesn’t relate to the depressive sub-genre which dominates the German boarders, or even the traditional side, which tends to house Burzum, or Darkthrone clones, as they are often referred to as. Kathaaria strike me as a rather odd band, which is why I refer to their sound as “new”. Though there are similarities to other bands, Kathaaria, who are class personified, have a weird mood altering sound that seems to shift from downbeat to upbeat in a flash, quietly deceiving the listener who had pre-conceived notions about the material at hand. Personally, based on a few generalisations, I had expected this to be a “raw” effort, especially considering the rather clichéd band name, which is the only aspect of the bands façade to leave a lot to be desired. There is a subtle raw side to Kathaaria, but it is outweighed by the stellar performances that interweave between contrasting sounds - aggressive, jovial and melancholic through melodious movements in the atmospherics towards a harsh concept.

The lyrical themes - negativity and misanthropy, to be precise - themselves seem to suggest that Kathaaria will supply a tremendous amount of traditional pie, but the serving is small and tolerable in today’s modern society which is fixated on fresh and new aspects of black metal music. The mood alterations are carried out by the pivotal guitars, as they usually are, and often interjected by aggressive passages that align the downbeat and upbeat mood tendencies in one shift movement, causing a smooth transitional period between the sounds that is both deceiving and cleverly placed in the terrific song structures that has a lot of complexities to it, leading me to believe the title might be some sort of metaphor for the material. Without a doubt, the best thing about Kathaaria is the mood alterations and the way in which the bands chooses to exhibit these. Even at their darkest, I can always sense a feeling of hope within the soundscapes that is lacking in just about every other black metal band in history. There are, of course, “romantic” black metal bands like Amesoeurs but, in the strictest terms possible, they’re not a definitive black metal band since they incorporate a lot of post-punk elements. So, it would seem, Kathaaria are in a league of their own, able to manoeuvre their way in and out of textures with complete freedom.

Since the material is so “new”, its hard to judge it without taking a long, hard look at what we have on offer - giving the title for this debut an ever-so-apt name, given the complex nature of the mood shifts and instrumentation that deviates from the normality of the black metal scene which often shows an institutionalised sound, meaning that bands tend to follow a particular movement, step-by-step, on from those who created it. Every now and then we find that there is a band, who like to rebel against the ways of the forefathers, but they’re few and far between and not always is the rebellious sound a joy to behold. I’ve previously dealt with an associated band of Jhn’s, the drummer and vocalist of this band, that being Paria. I thought Paria were distinctly average, if anything, leading to the surprise of this hidden delight to be heightened, but never exaggerated. I always suspected Kathaaria to be more or less akin to Paria, but they’re not. This sound is modern and instantly likeable, unlike Paria’s dirt ridden and grimy sound that obscured my vision. Thankfully, there is nothing even remotely average about the way in which Kathaaria portrayed their negativity ridden sound. The bass is inviting and doesn’t have that melancholic vibe that most black metal bands have.

Perhaps its due to the exceptionally professional production values and the overall crystal clear sound, but Kathaaria sound extremely well adapt to play progressive song structures and upbeat styles of music, despite the black metal references and harmful lyrical themes. Take ‘To Dare Not Speak Its Name’, for example. The Shining style bass lines (this is modern day Shining, as on efforts like ‘Halmstad’) are altogether grooving beneath the surface, whilst the guitarist lays down a jovial lead that isn’t as distorted as I expected. Again, the sound is generally very clean. Every snap of the snare, or crash of the cymbal can be heard with vivid expressions. The instrumentation benefits highly from the professional sound that allows the material to cruise along seamlessly and without negative interruptions. The only outward signs of negativity, as in the usual black metal theme, not a deterrent to liking the piece, is the rasping vocals, but they’re not overwhelming in the slightest. ‘The Complex Void Of Negativity’ is a well formed mutation of black metal, one that disposes of the original themes and begins to structure a new platform with which the adoring fans can revel in the delights of.

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