The buzz surrounding American duo Nicholas Thornbury (guitar and vocals) and Brett Boland (drums and bass) is as deafening as a food blender on the highest setting. Kataan inked a deal with Prosthetic Records earlier this year, and Bandcamp selected the group’s debut EP as record of the day. Many are calling their music dystopian death metal as if this is a new kind of force within extreme metal. But is it the second coming or nothing but hype?
The answer is neither. There’s no reason why something can only be extraordinary or mediocre. Kataan’s debut release is a captivating listen that promises to push ahead with a unique sound of its own. Distorted guitars hum in the mix like a nuclear power plant pulsating at full capacity and threaten to pull you into a vortex throughout the twenty-one minutes of intensity. This is claustrophobic, nay, even agoraphobic in its pessimistic outlook, like the last two Ulcerate records. Opener, ‘Erase’, might even qualify as the first ever atmospheric death metal song if we ignore the sonic mindfuck of the latest Altarage LP. Thornbury’s guitar distortion drowns out the efficacy of the chord changes on his fretboard, but it’s deliberate and effective in building a wall of tension between band and listener. Kataan are already in the abyss and trying to drag you through it with an outstretched hand that might also be calling for your help. How apt that they have a song called ‘Abyss’, which starts with a darkwave vibe and sails the same choppy waters as Moonsorrow. A few moments of hope emerge with melodies slipping through like light rays in a solitary confinement cell, but you’ll do well to escape from the overwhelming sense of futility. Kataan want to grind you down, and they succeed.
A major problem of dissonant or dystopian metal is that the guitars often fulfil the function of noise pollution to add more density to the mix. ‘Processor’ does the opposite. Here we get a fuzzier version of Tombs with Thornbury standing back from the microphone to give his voice a distant despair like Mike McClatchey of Lament Cityscape. It all culminates in standout track, ‘Vessel’, where the duo discharges a muffled black metal melody and throbbing bass before going back to 1985 for a dose of vicious proto-death metal passages that Bathory and Celtic Frost would applaud. The morbid harmony vocals turned low in the mix only add to the unease. It feels like you’re being sealed alive in a coffin and loaded on to the catafalque ready for cremation. “Let me out!” you scream, but the band show no mercy.
Like Autarkh, Kataan already know the distinctive sound that will come to define them in the future. It may create a disconsolate mood, but this EP gets better with each listen. Expectations for their debut full-length will heighten the hype around this band.
Release Date: 07/05/2021
Record Label: Prosthetic Records
Standout tracks: Processor, Vessel
Suggested Further Listening: Altarage – Succumb (2021), Ulcerate – Shrines of Paralysis (2016), Lament Cityscape – The New Wet EP (2020) / The Pulsing Wet EP (2020)