posted on 5/2008 By:
"What the hell...everybody ends up dead. It's just a matter of when."
Sorry for the spoiler, but that's the sampled quote that opens the new Kataklysm record. As far as spoilers go, this one is quite minor in scale. If you've been following the Hyperblasters' career thus far, the fact that they kick things off in such a manner should come as no surprise. The only startling thing about this opening salvo is that it isn't nearly as cool as the ones that have preceded it. Unfortunately, similar criticism can be lobbed in the direction of Prevail itself. Painful as it is for this fan to admit, it must be stated bluntly: the tried-and-true formula that has been in place since Epic (The Poetry of War) is wearing thin.
Loquacious verbosity is unnecessary. Prevail sounds like a Kataklysm record--expect no deviance. Over the course of the past seven years, the band has essentially released the same damn album five times in a row--but, until now, that fact didn't matter one fucking iota, as Kataklysm have placed as much stock in their anthemry as they have their riffcraft. Through a combination of tireless effort and powerful determination, they have emerged as the contemporary masters of bombastic, vocal-driven death metal. Catchiness amid brutality has been their MO, and, arguably, the band has been unrivalled as of late. J-F Dagnais' unique, solo-free crunch has stomped and steamrolled, Maurizio Iacono's high/low attack has produced countless foot-on-the-monitor singalongs, and Max Duhamel's furious-but-classy dexerity has kept the whole damn thing glued together. All these traits are in place on Prevail, but there's been a slight--but marked--shift.
Oddly, Dagnais has slipped from the forefront and into Duhamel's pocket, nearly rendering Kataklysm a lumbering cousin of Fear Factory. The guitarist generates some early electricity on the title track, breaking into riffwork that recalls "As The Glorious Weep" from the aforementioned Epic, but quickly fades into faceless syncopation with Duhamel's drumming for the majority of the record. Rising to the occasion on the album's stronger cuts (most notably the heavier-than-balls "The Chains of Power" and the snarling "Breathe To Dominate"), he flashes some fury, but fails to bust out the bag of riffs that had set the standards of previous works so high. The riffing is largely recycled and predictable, rarely stabbing for the jugular. By default, Duhamel has taken the reins as leader of the band, guiding these songs through their motions with his trademark skills, while Iacono does his thing, per blueprint. This package, once dominant, now seems to have settled into a non-threatening comfort zone.
Some of these songs are satisfying in that fuzzy, same-ol'-Kataklysm way, notably "The Vultures Are Watching" and the instrumental closing track, "The Last Effort (Renaissance Part II)", which harbors more melodic adventurousness than any track they've recorded since "Where The Enemy Sleeps". When an instrumental fade-out is the undisputed highlight, though, something is amiss. And speaking of tracks from Shadows and Dust--which is revealing itself to be the band's pinnacle as the years pass--each album since then has seen a gradual decline in the Killer-To-Filler Ratio. Serenity in Fire? 75/25. In The Arms of Devastation? 50/50 (but the killer was killer). Prevail? Hate to say it, but we're staring straight down the barrel of 30/70 here, and the trigger is a hair from engagement.
Those new to the band's signature sound should find plenty to enjoy here, as should casual observers of the band's trajectory. Ultimately, however, it's the longtime fan that is going to cull the least amount of enjoyment out of this release, as there's nothing on Prevail that hasn't been done better on previous albums. It is a showcase for Kataklysm to do their Kataklysm thing, but for the first time, it is largely ineffective. While the band seem to be at the height of their popularity, they would be wise to spice things up a bit next time around; to do so, they'll need to rediscover a hunger and viciousness that is largely absent from this release. If not, that opening quote may prove to be more prophetic than intended, and the "when" may come sooner rather than later.
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In The Arms Of Devastation
Serenity In Fire
Shadows & Dust
Epic - The Poetry of War