By Carl Begai
“When we released In The Arms Of Devastation in 2006 it changed a lot of things for KATAKLYSM,” says vocalist Maurizio Iacono as an intro to the band’s new slab of hellmetal, Waiting For The End To Come. “It was a big record for us. It was a very melodic record and that took the European market by storm. It was our biggest selling record, and after that we didn’t explore ourselves as musicians as much. I think we took the attitude that ‘This is Kataklysm, this is what we do and we do it well, so we’re going to continue doing that.’ Heaven’s Venom (2010) was a great record for me and I love it, but I think some people heard it and said ‘Yeah, but they’re not dangerous.’ It was the ‘but’ that bothered me. We had the songs, but I realized that people don’t just want the big songs, they want that element of danger.”
Which is why Kataklysm fans are now feasting on arguably the band’s most dangerous album in years. Iacono is humble discussing the achievement, but there’s no mistaking his pride in delivering more than what anyone was expecting at this stage of the game.
“This is the longest stretch we’ve had between albums. It doesn’t seem like it, but it is. It’s been three-and-a-half years going on four. It was one of those things where the record came out and we had time. We decided that we needed to come back with something different and more dangerous because we wanted to make a statement with this record. We didn’t want to come off as if we were coasting, we wanted to surprise people. I think that’s what we did with this record because we changed a lot of things. The production, the artwork… a lot of things are different."
“It’s an all out attack. Everything that we like, we put it on this record. Kataklysm is a mix of a lot of different influences. Stephane (Barbe/bass) loves black metal, J-F (Dagenais/guitars) loves IRON MAIDEN, and I love more groove-oriented stuff like PANTERA; if you mix all that you’ve got a very unique sound. If people don’t like this record maybe it’s time to think about retirement (laughs). It sounds modern, it sounds fresh, I don’t think there are any bands out there that sound like what we’re doing on this record.”
The Pantera influence shows up a few times on Waiting For The End To Come, something Iacono won’t apologize for even if some fans feel a groove has no place in Kataklysm's brand of metal.
“Pantera had a huge influence on Kataklysm, for sure,” says Iacono. "They’re one of those bands that’s timeless for me. I think Pantera influenced everybody, but they’re relevant for Kataklysm because a lot of death metal bands – I think – are afraid to go and explore stuff like that. I think they feel they’re going to get criticized if they add a groove to their sound. That’s the sort of thinking that makes a band stagnant, and we don’t want to be stagnant. We want to be a very diverse band where one moment it’s chaos, melodic, bordering on black metal if you want to call it that, and the next moment there’s this Pantera groove that’ll blow the doors off the hinges. I think that’s a very strong element in the Kataklysm sound.”
The almost-four year space between Heaven’s Venom and Waiting For The End To Come is attributed to Kataklysm’s touring schedule, working on the band’s epic retrospective Iron Will DVD released in 2012, and Iacono’s Roman Empire-inspired project EX DEO. It was also Ex Deo – which features all four Kataklysm members – that forced the band up their game for the new album. Iacono explains:
“We never would have done this record if it wasn’t for Ex Deo’s Caligvla record (released in 2012), because what’s happening is we’re competing against ourselves. The Ex Deo record was a big album for us; we’re already seeing the hype from that record grow from the last tour we did (with NILE). Ex Deo is starting to blow up for us but in a very paced way. What’s happening is the songwriting for Ex Deo is a lot more advanced; it’s epic and it’s intricate, and there’s so much detail because of the keyboards. So, if you put Heaven’s Venom or Prevail up against an album like Caligvla you can see the difference in the songwriting. That challenged us on this record because we can’t do a Kataklysm record that’s less advanced (laughs). This is our baby, so we’re kind of mindfucking ourselves. At the same time it’s helping us because when we didn’t think about how the new stuff compared to the last Kataklysm record, we first compared it to the last Ex Deo record. It’s odd and it’s weird for some people, but for us it’s important because it’s the same people writing two different things.”
“None of it sounds the same and I’m very proud of that,” says of the comparisons between Kataklysm and Ex Deo, which is like comparing beer to red wine. “I hate when band members do a project and it sounds like their band. What’s the point? I love that we’re able to be so different. I think the future is going to be heavy for both bands.”
When all is said and done, Waiting For The End To Come faces one major stress test when it comes to the Kataklysm faithful. Drummer Max Duhamel, the man responsible for giving the band its Northern Hyperblast call sign, didn’t play on the album, having been replaced by former NEURAXIS drummer Oli Beaudoin.
“Max is on a big leave of absence and we don’t know if he’ll come back at all,” Iacono admits. “ He’s part of our family but he’s got some serious issues to take care of. The stuff that‘s been going on with him has been hurting us over the last couple years. We needed someone that had the ambition and the edge to do this record, and Max didn’t have it. It was a decision that we needed to make, and Oli came in full power. He wanted it and you can tell on the record. The drumming is phenomenal. Oli was a session drummer for KEEP OF KALESSIN and BELPHEGOR as well. He’s used to playing the heavy shit so I think that his coming in is also a factor in how this record came out. He brought in this energy and this sense of new blood. He blended into the band and it was a very easy transition. ”
“We’d send him skeletons of songs with a metronome in the back for the beat, he’d take it, and within a day he’d have the drums programmed. He’s so advanced technology-wise, he’s experienced with engineering, he’s got his own studio, so we’re not used to that. Max is an old school fucking drummer, so we have a different guy in the band now that enabled us to write this record. The thing is, Oli would send us the stuff back and it sounded great, but we had to ask how he was going to play it since the drum programs were so technical. His response was ‘Don’t worry about that…’ (laughs). And when I was in studio watching him record that shit I was like ‘…wow…’ He’s an incredible drummer.”
“He’s an all round drummer and Kataklysm needs that. We can’t have a drummer that’s just blastbeating his way through the whole time who doesn’t know what a groove is or is too automated. We needed a guy that can almost play the blues."
Which leads to the obligatory discussion about Kataklysm's tour plans, how they intend to balance their schedule with Ex Deo, and if there are and other projects in the works. At press time the band's North American tour supporting SEPULTURA had been cancelled, throwing a wrench into Kataklysm's plans, but under no circumstances with the band's members sit around waiting for something to come their way.
“If you look at the way we’ve planned out career, we’ve kept busy no matter what," Iacono says. "It’s a lifestyle because this is something that you have to do full time. You can’t take four years and not do anything. The world is moving so quick these days that if you don’t do anything, you’re gone. It’s all about the way you go about organizing everything.”