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A Basis for Death: Katabasis’ “Neurosis”

Jessica Gallagher

Slams, breakdowns, and other bluntly aggressive movements in both death metal and deathcore serve their respective purposes well. However, they have a harder time reinforcing an album’s more complex content, especially with respect to technicality. The more bands rely on what are essentially crowd-movers, the more they fall under the “deathcore” tag where there’s a shift in how you’re supposed to listen: with your mind, or with your body. The key to all this is balance, which sounds easy in theory, but is devastatingly difficult in practice. If you have an incessantly slamming album which rips apart time with noodling riffs and insane shredding, you’ll have a manic festival lacking all coherency. All slams, and it’s totally vapid. All tech, and it might just be contrived. A solution might be not “overdoing it,” but then would it actually be deathcore-inspired anymore?

Katabasis, an unsigned Alabama-based death-something quintet, surely aren’t the first band to nail this balance, but they do so with impressive aplomb — impressive not just because they’re relatively green, but because they managed to hone fresh sounds from a saturated scene without destroying its tenets, trends, and tropes. Their upcoming debut album Dreams of Dying Remedies feels like the work of a band who’ve had oodles of time to experiment with different formulas, develop an evolutionary line, and amass loyal followers — it’s stylish, groovy, both technical and slammy, and above all, heavy as hell without being overbearing. Check out an exclusive premiere of the music video for the album’s final track “Neurosis” below.

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The video itself is standard fare: shaky shots of the band in a dimly-lit room full of candles and foliage, and a surface/interpretative narrative featuring unknown characters in turmoil. Its purpose is obvious, though: showcase the music first, add visuals second. An interesting twist (both musically and visually) toward the end of the video highlights the song’s behemoth climax. To this end, Katabasis’ songwriting is clear-cut but all the more exciting. The key is to write something familiar, but still different, with plenty of variance. Centerpointing the aural assault of “Neurosis” isn’t the buttery smooth crunch of the guitars (overall, the album is remarkably well-produced), but the range and flavor of the vocals, from boisterous growls to harrowing shrieks.

What helps make “Neurosis” (and Dreams of Dying Remedies‘ other six tracks) special is Katabasis’ attention to atmosphere. They dedicate sizable chunks of time building themes of confused despair and blind hurt with eerily layered guitars: a lead with a slow, discordant pulse on top of crushing rhythms. These crescendi serve a dual purpose: making the album feel endlessly undulating, and keeping things from being super extreme all the time. As far as deathcore goes, you definitely get breakdowns, plus juicy post-processing on the vocals at key moments. As far as death metal goes, the grinding churn of aggressive instrumentation gets technical, but not distractingly so. Katabasis are casting a wide net with Dreams of Dying Remedies, but the album’s focus is singular: pump you up, then break you down.

Dreams of Dying Remedies will be self-released this Friday, January 19th. Follow the band on Facebook, Twitter, and Bandcamp.

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