Calgary’s music scene produced some truly fantastic records in 2013. Continuing with the trend this new year is dissonant death grind quintet, Kataplexis, who will release their sophomore full-length, Downpour. For the uninitiated, this is fast, grinding and hostile bursts of aggression written with impeccable taste and genuine hatred. Blast beats and crunching guitars are smothered in raspy screams and guttural lows. This is the mantra Kataplexis has enforced since forming in late 2007.
“When we started this band, our mission statement was to be the heaviest and fastest band there was in Alberta,” says founding member and current guitarist Jordan Schritt, who originally started the band in Edmonton. This approach was not an easy one, as musicians who were proficient enough to keep up were few and far between in Edmonton at the time. On top of this, Schritt was growing frustrated with the Edmonton metal scene and was looking for a switch.
“Edmonton is hardcore into war metal. I like listening to it and stuff, but I fucking hate people who are way too into that scene. The people in that scene, and just any scene in general, take themselves way too seriously. Other than that, there is a lot of thrash and power metal influenced stuff and I’ve always been more into death metal, grind and really harsh black metal.”
Once Schritt made the move to Calgary, he and fellow founding member/guitarist Eric Anderson (Doberman, Daywalker) began the search to round out the rest of the group.
“Dave Callahan (Triton), our drummer, was like a pretty typical Alberta Metal classified ad. We just heard gravity blasts and we were like, ‘That’s the exact style we want to play,’” Schritt recalls. The trio began writing music before recruiting bassist Jamie McIsaac (We Found the Body) and now former vocalist Kyle Ball (WAKE). This incarnation of Kataplexis released the debut full-length, Insurrection (2010), as well as a split with the punishing grind/noise outfit Breathe Knives in 2011. Much has changed in the years since as members have come and gone, though they’ve left one foot firmly entrenched in Canada’s metal lineage. Partially thanks to legends like Gorguts and Cryptopsy, insanely talented musicians playing fast and elaborate music is somewhat of Canuck cliché. While the band undoubtedly borrows from that pedigree, Kataplexis takes inspiration from the right places and uses it to weave interesting and brutal music without descending into self-parody or pretension. Since issuing their mission statement, they’ve learned that it takes more than speed and complex riff-writing to be a band worth listening to. On this second album, the emphasis on song-writing and an overall tighter focus is discernible. Subsequently, Downpour is a real pleasure to hear.
“At some point, it’s like music for sport. Maybe this is just me getting older, but I don’t want to have to think so much when I’m listening to a metal record. Metal is an extremely enjoyable thing for me and when you tech it up to much, it’s just like sitting in math class trying to figure out, ‘Oh is this in 5/4 time signature,’ or whatever. I’d rather listen to something like All Pigs Must Die or Nasum: really solid songwriting without losing the aggression at all,” Schritt says.
While their last full-length featured songs mainly about war, atrocity and anti-religion, the latest offering has a decidedly more personal and atmospheric feel. Vocal duty and lyric writing is now on the shoulders of current vocalist Aaron Mayes (Breathe Knives, Doberman). Mayes joined after Ball suffered some vocal chord-related injuries and ultimately decided to leave and focus on other projects.
“It was a pretty painless transition,” Mayes explains. Having performed as guest vocalist with Kataplexis before joining, Mayes had a grip on the material and solid chemistry with the members. When it came to collaborating on new material, Mayes was given free reign after listening to the instrumental tracks.
“The feeling with this album when I first heard it instrumentally seemed so dark to me. I just kind of ran with it and tapped into some of the more strange places in my mind. I really wanted to dip into the insanity and the way that everything is so different based on perspective: what is real or fake, right or wrong and what our psyche feels the need to fill in when we are lost or feeling depressed, different or just plain crazy. If I can tap into the feeling I felt when writing when I’m playing it, I can draw on those emotions to get that feeling across to the listener,” Mayes explains. The album’s two-song centrepiece, entitled “Nobody Lives Here Now” and “Nobody Will Ever Live Here Again,” standout in their resonate emotional delivery — expect a ball-busting, heavy groove and a relentless vocal cadence.
Downpour boasts impressive musicianship and polish on the writing end, but the production of the album is equally impressive. Tech death and modern grind often suffers from overproduction, but Kataplexis have struck a real balance between clarity in the production and dizzyingly crushing sound on the backend. The band recorded with Casey Rogers, a freelance audio engineer, who runs a makeshift studio in his spare time. He has recorded and produced countless local bands, including his own political death grind band, Exit Strategy, and his former experimental prog metal outfit, Truck. The former will also perform at the Kataplexis album release party.
“We recorded the drums with Alan Sacha Laskow (Perfect Fifth Studios) and wanted to take our time with the guitars. We did the Doberman album with Casey and we are still good friends with him despite him recording us,” Schritt says lightly. “It’s really good, he doesn’t bullshit you about your performance. Like, you know you’re sucking and before you can even look over at him to tell him to stop recording, he’s already done it and tells you you can play a lot better.”
It may have been several years since Kataplexis’ last release, but even after the upcoming album is out, the band has more in mind for 2014.
“We have a couple summer festivals we are locked into that I can’t really talk about right now. We have three more songs to release as well. If not with another band (as a split), maybe we’ll do just a seven-inch on our own. That’s probably going to be out in August,” Schritt says.
More grindy death à la Napalm Death or Nasum from a local band can only mean good things.
See Kataplexis at the Downpour album release party on Saturday, January 11 with Exit Strategy and Chieftain at Dickens Pub.
By Tanner Wolff
Photo: Sarah Kitteringham