Kataan
Kataan EP

Back in 2016, New Hampshire’s Vattnet Viskar looked poised to break out in a BIG friggin’ way. While genre darlings Deafheaven were indeed the face and forefront of a blooming Blackgaze scene, the Granite Staters had made some giant strides to make a name for themselves in An increasingly packed field, leading up to 2015’s critically-acclaimed Settler that skyrocketed the band’s exposure to the tune of landing touring slots with The Atlas Moth and Black Metal giants 1349. They even had the honor of lighting the ram’s head at that year’s Maryland Deathfest. You’d be hard pressed to find a young band riding as high a wave as them.

Then, very suddenly, things came undone. After an early ’16 tour with the legendary Taake, vocalist and guitarist Nick Thornbury quit the band. To this day, there’s not a whole lot out there regarding what happened – nor is it really any of my business – but it led to the end of a band I’d grown very fond of (though we did get an excellent one-off record by the band’s remaining members on the very different, but fucking killer Vattnet). SO WHAT THE HELL, MAN?! I’m still butthurt.

Now it’s 2021, and again seemingly out of nowhere, Nick Thornbury has decided to bring his guitar and vocal talents back to the scene, this time pairing up with Astronoid frontman Brett Boland on drums and bass to create Kataan – bringing the world their first, self-titled EP which will sure sound veeeeeeeeery familiar to many.

(Fun fact: former Vattnet Viskar bassist and Vattnet guitarist/singer Casey Aylward now plays with Boland in Astronoid. Are you confused yet?)

In essence, Kataan is sorta exactly as you’d expect a project from these two to sound – albeit with a little bit more of a Death Metal-leaning overall tone. Is “Deathgaze” a thing? If not, it is now! (trademark pending). Really, imagine if Vattnet Viskar had never broken up and progressively just got a little bit heavier and heavier as time went on. That’s what you’re getting here, and frankly – it’s killer. Hit play on second track “Abyss,” and you’re right back in familiar Thornbury-led territory, like he never missed a beat. Spacious, layered riffs, along with his signature deep, guttural bellowing – all a welcome return to these ears. Similarly, “Vessel” is a soaring, familiar run into the kinds of elements that made Vattnet Viskar so compelling and appealing in their heyday. Around the 1:50 mark the band launches into a great blast beat section as Thornbury plays a really catchy lead over everything that’s trademark Vattnet/Astronoid territory, but is immediately followed by a barreling stretch of furious riffing over unrelenting double-bass drumming heavier than anything found from either member’s back catalogue – like speeding through an asteroid field into the void of a black hole. It’s a fury similarly felt right out of the gate on opening bruiser “Erase” and the crushing first riffs of “Processor,” and permeates the whole EP with a sense of weighty, foreboding doom.

As expected with these two, there’s also no shortage of “Post” elements to be found on Kataan. One of my favorite passages on the album starts at the mid-point of “Vessel,” with Thornbury starting the stretch off with a simple chugging riff over Boland’s restrained, simple beats – which the two gradually begin building on with layered guitar melodies and some neat robotic vocals, eventually coming to a massive explosion of blast beats and tremolo-picked guitars that serve as a massive, cathartic release to see an end to the EP. It, and many other sections have shades of Numenorean, Junius, Isis and other similar acts written all over them, giving everything a decidedly gloomy outlook.

Brett Boland’s greatest contribution to this record perhaps, is his production work. This is not to take away from what is certainly a capable and, at times, impressive drumming and bass playing performance (this guy really can do it all), but his experience working with the multi-layered, three-guitar attack of Astronoid certainly pays off here. The production is lush, with all the little details delicately and appropriately layered to create a full-bodied listening experience without being overwhelming.

Kataan’s debut isn’t going to blow anyone away with anything you haven’t heard before – but at the end of the day, that’s fine. Just to have Nick Thornbury’s artistic vision back on display is more than enough to get me pretty tickled. It’s like a talented author closing the book on some epic trilogy, going on hiatus, and starting a new storyline. Different, but with that author’s distinct voice and style inevitably coming through the pages. The fun part now begins, as we see where Nick Thornbury takes the story this time.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
May 14th, 2021

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