KATAVASIA - Magnus Venator Gatefold LP (Blue With Red Splatter Vinyl)
Katavasia’s debut ‘Sacrilegious Testamant’ (2015) was something of a Varathron tribute album from this Greek supergroup. Now with five years of distance they have offered us follow up ‘Magnus Venator’, and the change is instantly striking. Knitted into the epically melodic heavy metal stylings of recent Varathron we now have smatterings of symphonic and pagan black metal. But the real takeaway message that ‘Magnus Venator’ wants to convey is a band more sure of themselves, less preoccupied with genre box ticking and more focused on crafting majestic and epic pieces of romantic extreme metal. There is a greater energy and purpose that can be found in the stronger production, the willingness to vary tempos, greater contrast between tracks, and a diverse array of influences; even Stefan’s vocals – already full of character as Varathron’s long standing calling card – feel more varied and full of live.
As a result, this album emphasises one aspect of what made Hellenic metal so special – namely the refined sense of melody that was far ahead of their other European and American counterparts – to the detriment of the other: the ability to invoke lost or forgotten places and stories with the most basic ambient pieces, or more laid back, loose guitars and production not so overly compressed as to squish out any of this atmospheric potential within the music itself. It’s a small caveat, but an important one in this age of content saturation. Of course, pinning down a unique and arcane atmosphere is far from an exact science, especially when compared to the precise riffcraft that defines this album, but it’s also an underrated feature of what made early Hellenic extreme metal special. Of course, we could aim for something entirely forward thinking, but that seems to fall outside the remit of Katavasia, which however well crafted and joyful to listen to, is still fundamentally a backward looking project.