Catholicon
Of Ages Past

Well, this is it, the final album from the Baton Rouge blasphemers known as Catholicon. Of Ages Past caps a career of some of the most unique black/death metal ever recorded and the band has done it while remaining fiercely independent, firmly underground, and resolute in its disgust for the three major white-light religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam).

This fourth and final full-length album follows Treatise on the Abyss, a fine representation of Catholicon’s nerve-fraying and relatively unconventional black metal style (with a significant DM element); although the secret to the band’s musical success has always derived from an approach that defies precise categorization. That was the case with Treatise on the Abyss, as it is with Of Ages Past. The difference with the new album is that that songs breathe more and the calamity of the compositions has become a more controlled one, relatively speaking. Accessibility is not quite the correct term to use in describing the music now, but there is no question that the absorption time required, especially when heard on headphones (or ear buds, as the case may be these days), has been somewhat reduced. That said, Of Ages Past is anything but music that soothes the soul and relaxes the body.

Along with Blasphyre’s unique and iniquitous shriek (buttressed with periodic growls) and the chilling keyboards that bolster the sonic density of the bottom end is a kind of melody that permeates the pummel. Said melody though comes through riffs and leads (including those of guest player Shawn Whitaker of Insidious Decrepancy and Viral Load) that always seem to be descending into the hellish abyss, rising up only to tease before sucking the helpless listener back into an eternally spinning vortex of blackness. There are also more sections of a slower, steadier tempo that don’t so much relieve as freeze the listener into a nearly catatonic state with incredibly creepy instrumental segments that join spoken, almost chanted, vocals. Included in the lyrical content are passages from, appropriately enough, the Book of Revelations and Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy. In other words, Catholicon has musically pinpointed the place where the macabre and blasphemous meet the sonic crushingly and strangely majestic, resulting in a symphony of sacrilege that is as enduring as it is hopelessly bleak.

In the way of blasts from the past, “Anno Domini” appears on the formal portion of the album as a re-recorded version of a song that originally appeared on the band’s very first demo from 1994, while the version of Sodom’s “Remember the Fallen” (included as one of three bonus tracks) was first put to tape on the 1999 demo. Also included as a bonus track is an alternate mix of “Blood Ink.”

As a single disc of mostly new music, Of Ages Past is a grand declaration of Catholicon’s malevolent intent. Oh, but there’s more; much more. The album also includes a DVD-ROM entitled “Excommunicated: Catholicon Compendium 1994-2009 (A Complete Fifteen Year Retrospective).” And when they say complete, they really mean complete. This is no thrown-together collection of leftover material and demo tracks (though it does include leftover material and demo tracks); it is a comprehensive collection in the truest sense of the word. Specifically, it contains “MP3 folders of every Catholicon demo, live recording, rehearsal tape, and unreleased studio recording available, all restored, compiled, remixed, and remastered by Catholicon’s Blasphyre.” We’re talking almost 24 hours of material, folks! In fact, as I write these words, I’m in the process of copying everything to my hard drive (which the band encourages in the Disc II notes) and there is still four minutes of downloading time left. It is a wonderful gift for long-time fans and those seeking to learn about Catholicon’s history. And if you think I’ve already listened (and watched) all 24 hours of Disc II in preparation for this review, then I’ve got an ice-sculpting business in Hell to sell you.

Making this long story just a hair longer, Of Ages Past is a great way to begin your Catholicon School education. As for the future, it looks even darker with the rise of Heir to the Throne, the band formed out of the ashes of Catholicon. Put your sunglasses away.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Scott Alisoglu
February 9th, 2010

Comments

  1. Commented by: Apollyon

    Yet to hear the music, but have to give the band props for the bonus content; simple, but an awesome way to add value to the release. Most of the time bonus-dvd’s and whatnot are completely unnecessary with their 10-minute video advertisements for the album you already purchased. It’s always painful to witness great potential wasted.


  2. Commented by: Joe

    I wish I could have thrown Po-Boys at these guys live.


  3. Commented by: Blasphyre

    I wish you would have too, we usually didn’t get paid enough to buy anything to eat at those shows…


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