Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Kathaarsys - Anonymous Ballads. 88/100.

The title for the record, ‘Anonymous Ballads’ seems almost like a ploy on the part of the band themselves and a relatively humorous one at that. Its a cruel irony that has been staring them in the face since their introduction to black metal, which wasn’t that long ago. The simple fact is, not many people know about this band. Or, at least, if people do know about them, they keep them on the down-low. There’s something strange about black metal fans which struck me a long time ago and still remains. When they find a totally outrageous band who’re awesome in every way possible, they like to keep it quiet because its “kvlt” to like a band who have a small fan base and its “kvlt” to be one of the first fans that the band has. Its all rather irksome since, as a small musical community, we should be able to share interests and recommend one another the best bands, especially from smaller scenes. I wouldn’t necessarily say Spain is a small scene, but it certainly isn’t thriving the same way that the German scene is, for example. However, the positive side of things suggests that bands like Kathaarsys are perhaps willing to follow in the footsteps of a famous man who goes by the name of Harold Macmillan and enforce a Wind of Change in regards to public opinions on Spain and Spanish black metal. Having previously self-released ‘Portrait of Wind and Sorrow’, which is my ultimate favourite Kathaarsys record, Silent Tree Productions have wisely snapped up this monumental band. Smart work.

Slight alteration in vocals from the previous efforts, but generally, a lot of the instrumentation has taken a similar shape, which is positive since the material present on the last two records were fantastic. The harsh vocals are beginning to sound more and more like Akerfeldt’s deep growls for Opeth, even the song structures resemble them slightly, which isn’t any sort of inconvenience since Kathaarsys are a million times more innovative than Opeth have ever been, even when including the offbeat ‘Damnation’. The innovation, however, can cause some mild irritations. Like an annoying rash that will not just disappear, Kathaarsys seek to use numerous genre’s for their gain. Melodic death, progressive and technical death and black metal all sit graciously alongside the simplistic black metal elements, though there is sometimes a call for some form of normality as the Spanish act like to intrigue and surprise, especially on songs like ‘The Advent Of Madness’ with its quirky guitars and inspiring bass that commits itself whole heartedly towards enhancing the emotional readout, whilst smoothing over the connection with the avid listener. The intrigue in their sound is more than a match for most bands to compete with. The mystique and unusual style has been taken a step further this time around, as opposed to other occasions where Kathaarsys seemed to believe the combinational style of clean vs. harsh vocals made them more avant-gardé than most other bands which, in actual fact, it did.

Reaches the emotional heights of bands like Anathema with its desireable clean vocals and effective bass lines that hover beneath the surface of the soundscapes, ominously showing signs of a emotional breakdown. Luckily for the emotional side, which begins to spiral and spill over onto the soundscapes, influencing their every move, the crushing distortion of the guitars, which are the biggest black metal aspect, keeping everything together like Prozac for the mentally unstable. Musically, Kathaarsys can’t often be compare to Anathema, but there are stages where the two seem to meet and greet with conversational pleasantries about how to structure convincing emotional songs, and both do it fantastically, though in two contrasting ways. There are even times when the stylish Spanish band can be compared to acts like England’s Akercocke, a black/death hybrid who have pioneered such a seductive sound of late with massive improvements on their earlier pieces. The vocals, in particular, resemble that of Akercocke’s vocalist, as well as the infamous leader behind Opeth, another progressive black who may contain some ties to the black metal scene in their varied music. At times, its odd how Kathaarsys seem to blend the three bands together and produce a devilishly slick sound that, at points, surpasses anything that any of the aforementioned bands have produced since their individual creations. Production wise, the sound is a bit murky, though it doesn’t manage to hinder the progress of elements like bass and such. Even the subtle symphonies are accounted for.

‘No Guide’ is a supreme example of the splendiferous nature of the Paganism inspired bands sound. References to Akercocke and Opeth can be found in the deep grunts of the gruesome vocals, and though these are not the most experimental element, they fit superbly alongside the faster tempos that includes an increased presence from the instrumentation and tickling the fancies of traditional fans with tremolo efforts that dig furiously away at the beaten path in order to uncover the more negative emotional aspects that Kathaarsys may tinker with. However much Kathaarsys may take influence from bands like this, they forge their own distinctive sound through perseverance with experimentation. Whilst one guitarist lays down a doom laden riff, the other spurts out a solo of superlative proportions, as shown again on the enigmatic ‘No Guide’, with its brilliant technical abilities. In terms of the comparisons to Anathema, these are sparse and mainly formed from the emotional aspects that hit deep like any of the best Anathema tracks. The clean vocals of ‘Thoughts About Worthless Things and the Future’ even remind me of Anathema’s laid back vocalist, Vincent Cavanagh. The emotional vulnerability of his voice is comparable to the aforementioned front man, both of which lead terrifically well, despite being laid back and relaxed. There’s an honesty that you cannot buy within the songs that makes it instantly likeable.

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