Death Metal is perhaps one of the most diverse sub-genres out there. It’s existed for about thirty years and has branched off into various styles. Given that, a large number of the bands within these branches have historically focused on technical musicianship/progressive structures, melody driven songs, or just all out brutality. Rarely does the scene come across a band that attempts to incorporate all of these musical intricacies into a cohesive sound. In 2015, Hellucination decided to tackle all of these traits on their debut album “Katabasis”.
The technical nature of Hellucination’s sound becomes apparent on the album’s second (full) track “Shepherd of Vileness”. The drumming carries the song at a quick pace and occasionally directs tempo changes for appropriately placed breakdown sections (such as at the 1:40 mark). The impressive part about this is that throughout the song there are also consistent and sudden alternations between rapid fire double bass, blast beats and fills. Throughout “Katabasis” the drummer demonstrates his palate of technique and manages to avoid redundancy. The track “Silenced” is another point of interest on the album, particularly when the predominately thrash-based song unexpectedly drops into prog territory near the end. The Cynic-esque atmosphere and guitar solo clearly showcases Hellucination’s affection for progressive death metal, as well as an ability to reconstruct it within their own sound.
While the album has its technical and progressive qualities, it never fails to skimp on the traditional death metal brutality. The guitarists, in particular, are able to create a soundscape of pure aggression and demonstrate that they are competent in transitioning between various death metal trademarks. The track “Rot in Hell”, for example, effortless switches between high energy tremolo picking and tech-death breakdowns before ending the song on a devastatingly heavy slam-riff. I can honestly envision any crowd destroying a venue during that last riff! The vocals predominately focus on low-end growls but will occasionally shift up into the mid-range or into guttural squeals. While this approach isn’t exactly groundbreaking, the vocals are still very powerful, professional, and surprisingly coherent. The average Summer Slaughter or MDF attendee shouldn’t have any objection with this band.
The surprising amount of melody on “Katabasis” is what really caught my attention. Typically with death metal bands this heavy and technical, the melodic side is pushed to the backburner or completely non-existent. What’s really cool about this album is that the melodies are just as powerful as anything on the rhythm end. Hellucination are clearly not afraid to let their Gothenburg influences jump to the forefront on tracks such as “Undead” and “Katabasis”. Some may argue that these are just rehashed At The Gates’ riffs, which may be true to an extent, but these melodies are used sparingly throughout the album and don’t come off as an attempt to hop on the melodeath/metalcore bandwagon. More notable than the Gothenburg influence are the melodic sections within the songs, such as the classical metal introduction of “Kill It”, the lead riff that erupts at the 1:30 mark in “Ephemeral”, and my personal favorite, the melodic breaks before and after the solo in “Shepherd of Vileness”. Subtle nuances like these almost serve as an aesthetic beacon of light amidst all the carnage and brutality.
My only real gripe with “Katabasis” has to do with the pace at the beginning of the album. The “Intro” and “No Sun” don’t accurately represent the rest of the album, as the former is just a sound clip and the latter is about as obsessed with breakdowns as any average deathcore band is. Sure this may seem like a petty complaint, but first time listeners could easily be put off by this and subsequently neglect to continue listening to the rest of the album. Aside from that, “Katabasis” is a strong debut album. Hellucination appear to be a very ambitious and talented group of musicians that are willing to explore the entirety of death metal’s sonic assault, and for that reason alone you should check out this album! Otherwise, “Katabasis” is highly recommended for fans of In Flames (ca. 1996-2006) and All Shall Perish.