Catarrhal – Putressence

Catarrhal is sort of the anti-Suffocation, despite how they could both be conceivably described as brutal death metal bands (the latter more than the former, of course). Where those widely heralded New Yorkers specialize in their dark, claustrophobic, oppressive compositions, Catarrhal takes a different route: one markedly more melodic, to be sure, but still quite brutal. These Belgians play a uniquely open, expansive variety of death metal, with riffs that dance higher on the fretboard than usual and song structures that employ subtle changes in dynamics to change the song’s texture and mood. The music here is as much newer Behemoth as it is Decrepit Birth, and is significantly better than one of those artists. I’ll leave you to decide which one (Decrepit Birth).

The riffing here reminds me peculiarly of some of the more modern grindcore bands, and it’s not just due to the riff on ‘Metastasis’ which seems lifted from Circle Of Dead Children’s ‘A Wooden Heart Never Bleeds’. The guitar lines are often chaotic spider crawls up and down the fretboard, basic melodies transposed higher and higher to mount tension. The solos here are of note, coming in seemingly three flavors: Morbid Angel circa ‘Covenant’-era dark hysterics, Behemoth’s grandiose, sweeping bends and vibratos, and the space-age melodies of Canada’s Martyr. Perhaps the grindcore influence I detect is in the mood itself: not nearly as dark and oppressive as most brutal death (though substantially more than any pop music you’re likely to hear); a bit more reflective and grandiose. This grandiosity is another one of the defining parts of the music: transfers between fast-paced blasting and double bass sections shift easily into ‘Demigod’-esque slow, epic portions, including one song that seems to be a pure worship of the style displayed on that Behemoth album (‘Cycle Of Rottenness’, with its repeating riff, dominating double bass and erudite lead guitar).

Performances from each member are solid: drums combine standard death metal technique with, yet again, Inferno of Behemoth’s propensity for militaristic combinations of speedy double bass and quick, snapping snare rolls while unusually audible bass guitar echoes the guitars at lower notes, forming the rolling foothills around the mountains that are the riffs, arcing gracefully underneath the most obvious sounds. Vocals are a standard death growl; not unique, but effective and suitable for the sounds. Catarrhal is primarily an instrumental band anyway; while not very catchy, the songs seem particularly demanding of one’s attention, as if threatening to leave you without a clue as to where you’ve been or where you’re going, like taking five minutes outside of a film for a smoke and being greeted with a dozen new characters. Is this a good thing? Perhaps; it encourages a more active listener, but it also prevents itself from being particularly comfortable background music.

The music here is solid enough for all intents and purposes, but I can’t help but get the feeling that ‘Putressence’ is more a mere combination of the parts of other bands than a true synthesis of styles into something new. All the various riffs and segments can be rather directly attributed to other bands; a pinch of Vital Remains here on ‘Ethereal’s Hate’, a dash of Immolation there on ‘Exquisite Corpse’. I don’t get the feeling that anything is really being created here. ‘Putressence’ is really just a stew; a bunch of elements put together in a pot and stirred up. Sure, it’s tasty enough, but it doesn’t reflect a great deal of talent from the cook and no new flavors present themselves at any time.

Regardless, for what is there, minus all philosophical and artistic underpinnings: good death metal, and likely to age well.

(Originally written for


~ by noktorn on August 10, 2007.

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