When I force myself to listen to death metal, which is not very often, I would like to think I'm getting the real deal. Death metal bands and the myriad of variations are abundant and still quite the rage these days, making them nearly inconsequential and unimportant in the metal genre. Then there's Canadian stalwarts Kataklysm who've been going strong since 1991. Call them old school death metal, if you will, but on their eleventh album Heaven's Venom, they get it right.
Long on heavy intensity, Kataklysm remembers that death metal is built upon two simple foundations traditional heavy metal and its offspring thrash metal. Of course, other characteristics define the genre, and Heaven's Venom is replete with blast beats and billy goat gruff vocals. Fortunately, it doesn't begin and end there. Kataklysm has been always a notch above their peers by tempering their extreme with a bit more technical precision, varying vocal styles and, god forbid, a sense of melody. To this end, tracks like A Souless God and Hail the Renegade far exceed conventional death metal, allowing Kataklysm to rise above their peers. For pure intensity with that subtle sense of melody, As the Wall Collapses delivers the goods. For seminal thrash meeting heavier metal, At the Edge of the World fills the bill (and makes you wander what it would sound like with clean vocals).
But that has always been with rub with death metal, not only for me but many others. Often the things that define death metal become its curse: the humongous amounts of blast beats and persistent gruff and growling vocals simply become overbearing and oppressive to the point of redundancy. For this heavy metal fan, I find myself having to say after three or four songs, enough is enough; let me get back to this later. The only time I should have to do that is when the band and album really suck. Kataklysm doesn't suck. But I hate being pummeled by any music to the point I can't even think. Nevertheless, Kataklysm's Heaven's Venom is pure and intense death metal at its best and as it should be done. It's certainly better than the latest from labelmates Malevolent Creation.