There are certainly more innovative and unique-sounding bands out there, but you’d be hard pressed to find one that has mastered the craft of brutal yet simultaneously melodic death metal better than Kataklysm. Their seventh studio album, 2004’s “Serenity In Fire,” finds the perfect equilibrium between musicianship that’s nothing short of impeccable, honest-to-god catchy hooks, heavy and melodic riffs, contagious grooves, upper and lower-register vocals (a la Deicide’s Glenn Benton), completely blown-out, grindcore- worthy chaos, and slow(er), fairly restrained tempos. The result is ten intense, urgent, and energetic (though never wild or out of control), super compact, and exceptionally memorable songs which are wound tighter than clocksprings, but also always manage to retain a concerted accessibility and easy-to-digest quality.
Track three, “As I Slither” (the album’s lead single and video), is about as catchy a song as you’ll ever hear in death metal (just try to get that spine-tingling chorus out of your brain!), and “For All Our Sins,” a blistering, thrashing punch to the throat with vocal tradeoffs between Kataklysm mainman Maurizio Iacono and Hypocrisy’s Peter Tagtgren, are two of the biggest highlights on hand here. Later on, “Blood On The Swans,” which boasts crunching, groove-oriented guitars and an awesome, insanely fast and furiously crushing ten-second long drum solo that sounds like a jackhammer on steroids (trust me, this is one for the ages), and “Under The Bleeding Sun,” which is bolstered by strong, churning riffs, black metal-lite vocals, and an unexpectedly great, blazing melodic solo, are also killer cuts. Elsewhere, set opener “The Ambassador of Pain” interlocks hooky, punching riffs with machine gun blast beats to create a very propulsive and punishing rhythm, and also includes a memorable, shout-worthy chorus; and “The Resurrected” and “10 Seconds From The End” are noteworthy for their excellent crescendos — they repeatedly build from blinding blasts to fiery, mid-tempo thrash riffs and back again.
The main drawback to “Serenity In Fire” is its mechanical, often-borderline-robotic musicianship. Plus, as mentioned before, Kataklysm have never been the most original band out there, so most listeners will probably get the feeling that they’ve heard it all before. Shortcomings or not though, this is another accomplished, enjoyable, and satisfying release from these Canadian hyperblasters, thus making it a perfect fit in their discography, and a worthy addition to every metalhead’s record collection.