posted on 8/2012 By:
Seems like everyone and their Mutter is re-hashing classic Teutonic thrash metal these days. That's just peachy, as I love In the Sign of Evil as much as the next guy, but a huge part of what makes Catalyst such a satisfying spin is the fact that it explores an entirely separate branch of "thrashy" that many of us were equally obsessed with in the mid-to-late 80s: the power, progressive, technical, whatchamahoozit faction occupied by bands such as Heathen, Realm, Heretic, et al. These bands also marched under thrash's speedier clip, but they cleaned up the raw 'n' callous technique of the Sodoms and Kreators of the day in favor of a tidier, more melodic approach that appealed to a broad spectrum of fans. By the time 1990 rolled around, the immensely distinctive puffy white high-top footprint was found in nearly every corner of the globe, and every hair-farming kid on the block was doing what they could to emulate the style.
Prototype's whole approach falls neatly within this camp, but it also tosses in just enough modern era touches as to not sound purposely throw-back. So while I could easily imagine each member spent a good part of their youth endlessly spinning records such as Blessing in Disguise and Twisted into Form, the more modernized riffing that favors a crunchy, scooting form of aggression also makes it apparent that the band has spent an equal share of time studying the rejuvenating techniques employed by enduring bands such as Testament and Forbidden, or even any of the more progressive/power-slanted bands like Nevermore or Communic.
But aggression is only a fraction of Catalyst's overall intention. The album's true selling point is how well the band manages to meld animus with simple beauty, whether it be through an infectious chorus, or via the countless mellow stretches that crop up throughout the album. The bulk of the tunes are long (four out of twelve hit 7+ minutes), so ample time is given to exploring multiple shades of a fundamentally dark atmosphere driven by smooth shifts in tempo. And the lead guitar work that jumps into the spotlight every few minutes is some of the tastiest I've encountered on an album of this ilk in some time -- melodic as balls, and exquisitely precise, but never quite extending into unduly noodly or bloated terrain.
Catalyst's biggest transgression is that it's too long for its own good. That may seem silly, considering the band's last release was six years ago, but it's something that's noticeable when trying to fully absorb twelve songs in one sitting that stretch to over an hour long. The band does, however, do an admirable job of mixing things up -- not just musically, but vocally as well. Vince Levalois primarily employs a gravelly style quite reminiscent of the late 80s/early 90s thrash scene in the US (think Meliah Rage, Faith or Fear, etc.), but later songs also adopt a rather satisfying 'deathish rasp' akin to Mitch Harris to further supplement the album's harsher angles.
Perhaps I don't spend enough time digging through the proper channels, but it seems increasingly rare to find modern bands doing this particular style this effectively. In that regard, Catalyst sounds weirdly refreshing when stacked against all the young bands exploring the more aggressive side of the spectrum. Hell, a number of folks probably wouldn't even consider material such as this to be thrash, which is fine, really. Whatever you want to call it -- power, progressive, technical, what-the-hell-ever -- Catalyst, when stripped to its core, simply exemplifies 'good heavy metal.' Remember the days when we were happy with just that? And for those of you already familiar with the band through any of their previous releases, I have a feeling you'll be very pleased with the direction Prototype is about to take you.
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