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Album Reviews : Catacombs – Sin

By on April 7, 2016

Catacombs SinOften when albums are first released, you can glean quite a lot about it purely from the song titles alone; the types of ideas or themes it may be exploring, or where it plans to move emotionally. But in the case of Catacombs‘ most recent release, ‘Sin’, which was first released in September of last year, such is not the case. In an unusual turn, the Melbourne melodic death metal band decided instead to simply adopt Roman numerals for the seven-track album and employ nothing else. It’s a curious and  idiosyncratic step, but one I actually quite like for a couple reasons. One is that because of this, it really forces you to listen to the album. What I mean here is, sometimes when listening to metal records, one can simply put it on, and whilst still taking it in, also tune out a little and let it become background noise to whatever else they might happen to be doing at that time. As you can’t so liberally take this attitude here, it made me personally invest that much more of myself in what was actually happening in both the music and vocals, but also the lyrics. Due to its cryptic nature, I invested more effort to decipher the meanings behind vocalist Matt Askeland’s rasped screeches and low growls. Dealing with what appears to be an existential journey through the seven deadly sins, as well as the inner workings of the human psyche, it gave me another level of appreciation for what Catacombs are doing here.

Whilst I will say that Askeland’s vocals are a bit more unconventional in terms of death metal, and at times strays closer to that of black metal, you do get used to it as the record presses on. And in fact, given the heavy symphonic flavour to this record, the vocals actually complement it quite well; in the same way Ihsahn’s vocals played well to the symphonic attitude of Emperor. Something about this style feels quite fitting to the forlorn and sorrowful music playing amidst the metal carnage. This is especially true of the opening and closing tracks of the album, “I” and “VII”.

One of the interesting aspects about this record is the fluidity at which it moves along. It flows with a smooth pace and often blends into a melodic whole. No one element overpowers the next and it’s quite easy to lose yourself in the listening of this record. ‘Sin’ not only shows a distinct progression in Catacombs sound, but also a willingness to stray from the tried-and-true methods of their peers and explore sides of their genre often left untapped; including the vocal and melodic approaches. There is a distinct black metal influence to this record (pulling especially from the likes of early Behemoth), and it could well earn the title of ‘blackened melodeath’. Due to the ambient and symphonic black metal touches, the death growls slide into the mix with surprising and welcomed ease. There is a lot to this record, and it honestly takes a good few listens to properly take all of it in. Even the riffs; never becoming stale, with “III”, the opening segments reminded of Clutch, and there are moments that rise from driving Amon Amarth-esque riff and drum work to sullen, mournful rhythms.

All of these newer elements add a whole other layer to Catacombs’ music, and one that feels much needed in today’s oversaturated market of melodic death metal. When it is incredibly difficult for bands to differentiate themselves from so many others, to see one take such a radical step as Catacombs have done here is both quite interesting and worthy of celebration.

You can stream and purchase your copy of ‘Sin’ now via Catacombs’ bandcamp page.


Jonathon is an aspiring fantasy/sci-fi novelist and music journalist. Thanks to the influence of the music he grew up with, he has always possessed a keen interest in metal and rock. He is also a huge fan of mythology, legend, and folklore from all across the world. You should follow him on Twitter.