Katharos
Of Lineages Long Forgotten

I think we can all agree that Willowtip has been one of the most consistently reliable US-based extreme metal labels around since they kicked out the Creation is Crucifixion/Fate of Icarus split back in 1998. From legendary bands like Rune, Watchmaker, Defeated Sanity, and Impaled, to recent bands like Hath, Cathexis, Contrarian and Ominous Ruin, the label has delivered top-notch metal, that resides mainly in the death metal arena.  A few forays outside brutal or technical death metal like Arsis, and even comedy metal like Crotchduster litter the label’s killer discography. They are branching out though. Earlier this year they released a progressive, post-rock/shoegaze effort from Seven, Nines and Tens. But even now, one thing they have never released is a symphonic black metal album.

So when the label announced they has signed Sweden’s Katharos for their second album, I and probably a few other folks were intrigued by the signing, and immediately went and checked out the band’s self-released debut, Exuvian Heraldry. And then were immediately relieved to find the band and that album were fucking excellent and that Willowtip’s first foray into the genre was going to be good.

And so that brings us to the said album, Of Lineages Long Forgotten. And if you like IX Equilibrium, Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk and Prometheus era Emperor, you are in for a fucking treat.

While definitely symphonic black metal, this is a much more labyrinthine, technical, and complex delivery of the style as opposed to the more theatrical, bombastic style of many of their peers. The mix/master from Tore Stjerna at Necromorbus Studio (Watain, Maveth, Mayhem, Ondskapt), cements the sound with a crystal clear, tight, and surgical sound. You can hear Ihshan’s unmistakable compositional influence in virtually every moment of the album, Just go to the second track ” Feigned Retreat”, or 4th track “The World Serpent’s Maw”  and listen to those opening riffs. And while the classically inspired, brass-heavy keyboards deliver mostly austere, continual, background atmospherics, they are not quite as orchestrally overbearing.

As a result, Of Lineages Long Forgotten, like the albums its influenced by, isn’t an immediate listen (heck, I’m still trying to get a better grasp of Prometheus), but rather an album that takes multiple listens to truly unpack as its regal majesty unfurls over multiple listens. I mean, christ,  the 9-minute title track itself, which really leans into the latter Emperor march, stutter and blast mentality, is an exhaustive, absolute monster of a track with so many different time changes and chord progressions, its dizzying. But in a good way. Another standout, “Lay Yersinain Siege” (where the synths are actually used to dramatic effect early on and in the mid point) is another absolute beast of a track that would have Ihshan ripping off one of his sweaters in sheer respect.

And even when going more directly for the throat, as in the aforementioned “The World Serpent’s Maw” or “I Waged War”, it still has that shifty, slithering, but still stirring gait that’s hard to fathom or process quickly. It’s not until after a track or even the album is over, that you can take a breath and kind of digest what you just heard. And on closer, “Most Dread Portent”, Katharos even show a rare, restrained side with a more labored, controlled sway to start and in its midsection, of course, all of it amid a magisterial vortex of shrill riffs and regal discordance.

Like I Am The Night‘s recent While the Gods Are Sleeping , is a must-have for Emperor fans. But where I Am the Night recalls the frosty majesty of the early work, Katharos is a brilliant, stirring homage to Emperor’s later divisive genius.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
May 16th, 2022

Comments

  1. Commented by: Nick K

    Awesome review Erik. I also hear some Arcturus Aspera Hiems Symfonia on this. These guys are definitely students of the game. AOY candidate for me.


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