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Catharsis – Human Failures Award winner

Human Failures
by Andrew Harvey at 24 August 2021, 9:25 PM

Polish tech death outfit CATHARSIS unleash their third full-length album into the world in a storm of emotional turmoil, thematic depth and virtuosic madness that would make Chuck Schuldiner proud (yes, I said it!) Before I say anything else, I wish to make unambiguously clear that I have nothing against prog… well, almost nothing. There is a slight tendency within prog for musicians to make disappearing acts up their posteriors. Unfortunately, this tendency has also leaked into the tech/prog death scene (yes, observant nerdy readers, I know tech and prog are actually two different things, just roll with it for a moment!) The road from ornate to pretentious turns out to be much shorter than one might think!

It is especially gratifying, therefore, to find a band that successfully deploys technical (almost jazzy) flourishes without straying into the realm of pure self-indulgence. Dealing with mature and dark lyrical themes, the musical plate upon which said material is served highlights the gravity of the material all the better.

Album opener “Through The Eyes Of A Child” presents us with all the expected features of tech death that any casual listener would come to expect: ornate and complex guitar riffs, ever-changing drum patterns, and virtuosic (and very audible) bass! The mix is suitably clean – which allows the individual instruments to shine through in their own right – but not quite to the level of examples like NECROPHAGIST’S Epitaph: let’s all be honest with ourselves, it’s just too clean; squeaky clean!

“Slaves To Money And Greed” and “Your Truth” do not let up – setting up a high standard at album opening is easy enough to do, maintaining that standard as the album goes on is rather more difficult. For this band it seems effortless, much like the technicality of playing on display – one can almost hear the yawning in the background for want of something more challenging to play (don’t you just hate talented people!?)

I’ve been hesitant to make too many explicit comparisons to DEATH – one wouldn’t want to be seen merely as imitating a legend, and that is certainly not the case here! Having said that, one feature worth mentioning, which CATHARSIS certainly has in common with DEATH is that inexplicably Eastern sound. Something about the scales perhaps, but there is a tangible quality of the Orient contained in some of the harmonies and solos (please excuse slightly out of date verbiage!)

“Made Of Blood” is yet another strong track and adds some orchestral flair to the proceedings in its dying moments, somewhat setting the scene for “Village Of Witches”. We open with ethereal siren-song and soft yet dissonant guitar and bass before unleashing a threatening yet tightly controlled aural assault – like a surgical strike in sound. Yet there is definitely a more epic quality, flirting even with doom in places (I mean “Village Of Witches” sounds like it ought to have been on a CANDLEMASS album, doesn’t it?) A deliciously ornate solo rounds out this piece, a definite album high!

Ten-minuter “House Of Sand And Fog” opens in almost (but not quite, I hasten to add!) comically epic fashion, with guitar triplets and dissonant, almost blackened chords, defining the opening two minutes. Indeed, blackened aspects permeate this track, with an almost BEHEMOTH feel emerging from the cacophonous sonic battle between influences and tempos. The effect is actually quite unsettling, but in the best possible way! In true symphonic form, the whole thing builds up to a glorious crescendo and goes out with a bang – easily the finest track on a truly great record!

The album closes with “My Last Words”, riddled with ascending and descending scales and passages as well as clean vocals, which all creates a kind of back-and-forth dialogue. Short and sweet, this feels like an epilogue to “House Of Sand And Fog”, a tough act to follow to be sure! To return to the symphonic theme, that track feels like the crescendo to the album, with “My Last Words” performing a kind of ‘winding-down’ function.

Needless to say, this album is absolutely stunning, a perfect example of what is possible with just the right balance between brutality and thoughtfulness. I always try to make comparisons to other bands serve a purpose, and not simply a thoughtless guide to the tune of “if you like X, you’ll like Y”. in this case, the comparisons to DEATH should illustrate to the reader/listener just how sophisticated and deep this music is. I think Chuck would have approved!

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 8
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Through The Eyes Of A Child
2. Slaves To Money And Greed
3. Your Truth
4. Made Of Blood
5. Village Of Witches
6. House Of Sand And Fog
7. My Last Words
Adam Mamok – Vocals
Katarzyna Bujas – Guitar
Kajetan Pawliszyn – Guitar
Artur Pudlo – Drums (Guest)
Record Label: Mad Lion Records


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