Ontario quartet, Cathartic Demise, made their first splash in the underground metal scene with their self-titled EP in 2019. Now they’re ready to unleash their debut album on the world, and they’re determined to leapfrog to …And Justice For All rather than start with a Kill ‘Em All stepping stone in the infancy of their career. It’s a bold move and says much about their confidence and competency as musicians. But does this self-belief make for an unmitigated triumph?
The first thing you notice about these Canadian thrashers is their speed and precision. This is a band that used the Covid-19 lockdown to live and die by their instruments. All members operate at full capacity here and push themselves to keep the virtuosity levels as high as the infectious energy of their music. ‘For Power’ is a galloping thrash assault with razor-sharp rhythms and a bewildering amount of guitar parts. Bennet Smith’s vocals are a powerful adaptation of the traditional thrash metal voice in a higher fry-scream pitch, like Adam Gilley from Product of Hate. Yet underneath the neck-breaking speed is an extravagant feel for the epic power metal melodies of Blind Guardian. Before you know it the six minutes are up, and they’re already lining up a succession of labyrinthine riffs on ‘Blade in the Dark’ that begin at a mid-tempo pace and then explode into a vicious maelstrom of rapid fire. Wait until all instruments are blazing at full tilt around the six-minute mark like projectile machine guns. The low-end swoop and blasts beats will shake your senses like a hurricane.
Cathartic Demise identify with the progressive thrash genre but also display their love of death metal on their sleeves. Their influences are easy to pick out on ‘Silence Within’, which takes Kreator and In Flames as its template. ‘In Absence’ is like Locust-era Machine Head playing melodic death metal, while ‘Pale Imitations’ dissects Megadeth’s doomy opening riff to ‘Sweating Bullets’ and builds it into a fast thrash affair. Yet only at track eight with the excellent ‘Waves’ do we get a bona fide prog metal song. It’s the one time when they experiment with esoteric vocal harmonies and a slower tempo that glides along like a levitating prophet receiving the wisdom of God. The latest album from Detritus is a good reference here for the spiritual transcendence that emerges in the seven minutes and twenty-four seconds of compositional excellence on offer. Your mouth will widen near the end when they sprint through a run of colossal thrash metal modulations like Annihilator on amphetamines.
If this album were a forty-minute experience, it would have you salivating at the mouth like an extra in a George A. Romero film. But it’s not, and this is where we encounter the main weakness of In Absence. The average running time for a song here is around six minutes. Furthermore, the compositions lack the element of surprise essential to prog metal. By track five you know what to expect – every song starts with a two-minute intro of technical thrash rhythms and ends with the same indulgent riff salad. Songs like ‘Pale Imitations’ and ‘Disparity’ have no justification for going beyond seven minutes in length. ‘Desire’ adds nothing to the album as the closing piece. Like …And Justice For All, we get as much overkill as awe-inspiring metal.
Cathartic Demise are an ambitious outfit and deserve praise for their willingness to embrace the epic. The potential of this band is undisputed, and their future prospects are bright. But they will learn that the best albums balance virtuoso musicianship with variation and a willingness to slow things down when the mood demands it. In Absence contains some extraordinary moments to entice you in but has an occasional tendency to push you away with its self-indulgent posturing.
Release Date: 09/04/2021
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: For Power, Blade in the Dark, Waves
Suggested Further Listening: Product of Hate – You Brought this War (2021), Blind Guardian – Nightfall in Middle Earth (1998), Bloodmores – Too Close to the Sun (2021)