Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Katharsis - Fourth Reich (2009)

Despite surpassing 45 minutes in length, Katharsis seems to consider Fourth Reich to be an E.P. rather than their fourth full-length album. However they wish to look at it, this is the follow-up effort to World Without End and it displays even more proficiency in songwriting and execution. Released in May 2009, this record has taken the band to an even higher level, finally realizing the potential that they demonstrated on their debut album.

It all begins with "So Nail the Hearts", a song that goes straight for the throat, wasting no time in assaulting the listener in the most vicious method imaginable. Though quite intense, the music seems much more focused and less chaotic than the previous L.P. The guitar melodies sound more natural, flowing from one to the next with no abrupt changes. The drumming is more primitive and less obnoxious as well, which is certainly a good thing. As for the vocals, there is less reverb, thus enabling Drakh's voice to better suit the music. He still possesses a style similar to Nocturno Culto's old work, and the music itself is reminiscent of old Darkthrone, to a degree. The atmosphere is quite hellish; there is nothing cold about this, as one can almost feel the flames of Satan's realm. Clocking in at over thirteen minutes, this track has a lot to live up to and it delivers.

The infernal onslaught ensues with "Eucharistick Funereal", getting underway with straightforward tremolo melodies that are carried forward by blast beats and demonic vocals. This track also hearkens back to Transilvanian Hunger, though much less minimalist. The song is dynamic and features logical transitions from one riff to the next, with the percussion serving only to support the guitars and never taking over. M.K. even makes use of some old school drumming rhythms, helping to give the music a dirtier feel. It would appear that, along the way, he learned that less is more, sometimes. Improvement such as this is a very welcome thing. Near the end of the song, the tempo decreases and the atmosphere becomes darker. A morose lead melody rises from the crypt, searching for fresh blood.

"Reckoning" continues the merciless bludgeoning, during the initial moments, before launching into an old school approach that calls forth the spirit of old Bathory. This is rather brief, as Katharsis soon returns to a more comfortable style, something akin to a nuclear explosion. More 80s-inspired riffs are mixed in, giving this a raw and ugly quality. Later in the song, the tone becomes somewhat sombre, just before the next blitz.

The momentum of the record is halted a bit by the instrumental track, "Emeralde Graves". This synth-based piece works well to give the listener a well-earned break, in order to rest up for the coming battle. In most cases, it would seem more natural to place something like this at the end, but considering the intense style of Katharsis, it may be perfectly timed.

The coffin lid finally closes on this release with "Sinn Koronation". This track possesses a morbid atmosphere, accentuated by the tormented screams. The primary musical influence is Hellhammer / Celtic Frost, though more likely filtered through Darkthrone's interpretation of those early works. The pace is slow and one gets the feeling of being dragged through the foggy night, unable to resist, soon to be tossed into an open grave and forgotten. By the middle of the song, the pace becomes more frenetic for a bit. However, it slows down and allows an eerie lead solo to slither through, infecting your mind with a poisonous gloom that shall rot you from inside. So many bands miss the opportunity to add so much more to their music by employing guitar solos, and Katharsis exhibits just how effective this can be.

Fourth Reich is the most solid release that Katharsis has ever offered up and they should be quite proud of what they accomplished with this. It bears all of the elements that have placed them at the top of the German underground scene since the demise of Moonblood. This record takes every flaw from their past and corrects it with stunning efficiency. Seek this out and make haste in doing so.