Again Kiitoksia Paljon to Riku Hopeakoski for furnishing the promo copy of CATAMENIA’s ninth epos “Cavalcade” on his own, it is much appreciated and means a lot to me! Now he also mentioned that this album is different from what the Oulu-based band has released so far and that he hoped that I still liked it. With such an introduction, you automatically approach an album with both anticipation and fear, especially if you had liked eight albums before that, so let’s see what happened.
Well, following the release, there has been a major shake-up in the CATAMENIA band camp, with Riku being the only survivor, while three members of Power Metallers ULTIMATIUM (including former CATAMENIA bassist Mikko Hepo-Oja) as well as the ALL AGAINST vocalist taking their places. Reasons cited were other musical projects, motivation, personal issues etc., but it is a little odd that every reason apparently became acute just after the release of the new album... Anyways, so what is so different about “Cavalcade”? Well, for starters the fact that there is no wolf to be seen anywhere, which may be seen as a bad omen to some, as a break of tradition.
Musically we get an amalgamation of their Melodic Black Metal of old, a healthy dose of SENTENCED influences as well as the most varied approach to their sound to date, which probably will alienate them even further from their early fans, since the direction they have chosen is the incorporation of less heavy and more Gothic influenced elements, so I can already see the accusations flying wildly around. But what is more important to me (and should to you as well) is how does the quality look like? Well, it is a little hit and miss, I am afraid to say, less start with the hits first and work our way down the rungs of the ladder...
Opener “Blood Trails” sets out with straight mid-tempi, the Black/Death vocal interplay that we already came to know on previous album “VIII: The Time Unchained”, add to that clear vocals and the mentioned influence of older SENTENCED in the chorus and you have a less heavy, but highly catchy CATAMENIA track that will either intrigue you or send the CD flying from the player immediately. That former SENTENCED fronter Ville Laihiala (now POISONBLACK) was brought in as a guest singer obviously lends to the comparison, but it will come back in the later stages of the album as well. The title track is slower, more intense, but still very catchy and the best I could come up with to describe it is CATAMENIA meet SENTENCED meet TIMO RAUTIAINEN & TRIO NISKALAUKAUS, as odd as it may seem, it works, same for contrasting “The Path That Lies Behind Me”, where Melodic Black in the verse clashes with a super catchy clear chorus, and the title might actually have more to it than it seems, if you catch my drift...
“Post Mortem” also is one of my favourites, with an almost Doomy start and melancholic riff, before stepping it up a notch and adding growls, before the clear and Black Metal vocals unite in a duet approaching the chorus, good track as well, if you are able to accept this as the new CATAMENIA sound that is, of course.
On the other side we have a few tracks that don’t gel with me as well, though, “Quantity Of Sadness” has their old style shine through more, with some great melodies, but the deep growls don’t work with me and the song itself does not flow as much as I would have hoped for, while “The Vulture’s Feast” is a good song, doomy with exclusive clear vocals, but nothing exciting to me.
This time around we even get two cover versions, one available on all versions and the other only on the DigiPak (thanks again Riku J), the former being MEGADETH’s “Angry Again” and the latter Farewell” by SENTENCED. “Angry Again” actually works well with CATAMENIA anno 2010, especially since they use the rough vocals for the verse and give it their own touch (with is something that I can’t stress enough with cover versions) and the latter also has some nice crunch in the vocal department that works very well with the melancholy of the song.
So with the new line-up around Hopeakoski, it remains to be seen, where the path will lead CATAMENIA in the future, “Cavalcade” definitely shows us a very different side of the Finns and while not everything is up to par in the quality department, it still is a good album, if you can let go of what the band used to sound like and are able (and willing) to embrace the new direction.
(Online January 6, 2011)