Kataklysm - Heavens Venom
Nuclear Blast
Death Metal/Deathcore
10 songs (44'38")
Release year: 2010
Kataklysm, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Alex

With the turnover in the reviewer staff it falls right back to me to describe Kataklysm’s latest offering. If it is true that an industrious turtle beats a snappy hare, Kataklysm has surely gotta be close to the top of the mountain right about now. From the depth of extremity to making their brutality much closer to mainstream – Kataklysm has been plowing their death metal trade for ten full-length albums now (if my math is correct). The music business is not always true to the saying of the proverb, so simply being there and working hard does not always make you a number one hit, and that remains to be the case with the stubborn Quebecois. Those who have been long-time fans do not need convincing and will wither away when the band is over, and the ones who have not been converted – Kataklysm themselves could not give a fuck about them.

Me, I have always been a fan. There is something definitely resonating between my perhaps less than refined musical taste and the band’s simplistic brutality. I’d go to band shows when they were in the area and kept faithfully buying Kataklysm’s albums when they were out. Truth be told, however, ever since the rocket shot which has been Shadows and Dust, I am yet to reach that peak again and have had a positive but reserved reaction to just about every Kataklysm album ever since. I have not been as high as my former colleague Jay on Serenity in Fire or as low as my former colleague James on Prevail. In every album after Shadows and Dust I have been able to find a few favorite songs to play them, without focusing much on the rest of the album. Kataklysm seemed to be stuck in the same pattern I was – make a few stand-out selections on the album while the rest would be rather filler.

Heaven’s Venom finds Kataklysm on another two year album cycle, with the rest of the band’s elements, like their steady line-up, Nuclear Blast label commitment, guitar J-F Dagenais firmly grasping the producer’s reins, also unchanged. At the same time, called AC/DC of death metal for their steadiness, Kataklysm have tried putting a few new wrinkles into Heaven’s Venom to move things away from the rut. Tue Madsen (who had done wonders with Dark Tranquillity sound recently) has been asked to master the outcome, while the band themselves tried mixing a heretofore unknown to them amount of melody in the familiar atmosphere of simple but ominous riffs.

Very straightforward at times (Suicide River), ripping the painfully woven melodic fabric with slower ‘core (Faith Made of Shrapnel) or sliding into the mosh-pit pleasing way too obvious breakdown at the end of At the Edge of the World, Heaven’s Venom still attempts to restart and re-energize Kataklysm. New elements peer through the shroud of familiarity. Despite the standard song structures, vibrating riff power has melodic underpinning (Determined), the use of solos is now widespread and they actually fit the context (A Soulless God, As the Walls Collapse) and melodic hooks vary from modern black metal with its pinched harmonics to somewhat recycled Gothenburg themes (Numb & Intoxicated, At the Edge of the World). The best numbers on the album combine this carefully crafted tip-toe experimentation, like the bass solo and the use of sitar on Hail the Renegade, with the bashing militaristic marches (Numb & Intoxicated) or unrestrained speed (A Soulless God).

It is unfortunate that some old Kataklysm traits were sacrificed at the altar of novelty. More power and polish in the sound did not have to come at the expense of the trademark blasting being severely reduced. You can count on your fingers the moments of tight hand action by Max Duhamel (A Soulless God) and he was always the motor of the band. Maurizio Iacono vocals are now channeled more towards the same uniform plane and, strangely, are pushed way too low into the mix for my liking. I will miss having conversations with my non-death metal friends, with them asking how can one man growl like a beast and howl like a banshee at the same time.

Heaven’s Venom no doubt strived for consistency and definitely achieved it. Rather than being a collection of a few highlight hits and many more misses, the album is well positioned to be listened to as a whole. The band (perhaps with the label help) missed the lead single in the overly mainstream Push the Venom, but the album does pick up steam towards the second half and maintained my interest throughout. Sadly for my fellow Kataklysm fans Heaven’s Venom still will not vault the band to the very top of the death metal podium, but at this point A – we are used to it, and B – we just don’t fucking care. I look forward to seeing the Quebecois on tour.

Killing Songs :
A Soulless God, Hail the Renegade
Alex quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Kataklysm that we have reviewed:
Kataklysm - Prevail reviewed by James and quoted 68 / 100
Kataklysm - In the Arms of Devastation reviewed by Alex and quoted 88 / 100
Kataklysm - Serenity in Fire reviewed by Jay and quoted 93 / 100
Kataklysm - Shadows & Dust reviewed by Alex and quoted 95 / 100
Kataklysm - Epic (The Poetry of War) reviewed by Alex and quoted 72 / 100
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