by Cosmo Lee

If in 2008, you asked me to hear an instrumental NeurIsis band with a drum machine, I would sooner have asked to be shot in the face. Luckily, I gave Memoirs (Poison Tree, 2008) a chance. It's gorgeous and suspends my cynicism about the NeurIsis sound. Admittedly, it's unoriginal. Later Isis is an obvious influence, especially in the rocking parts that don't quite rock. So is Mono in the tremolo picking.

But bands can utilize the same ingredients differently. Catacombe deploys NeurIsis' requisite clean tones and big riffs with refreshing directness. No interminable buildups, just passage after passage of sure-handed melodies. Like Year of No Light, Catacombe isn't afraid to go for the emotional kill. Bright hooks, dark chords, soaring lines - the contrasts are vivid.

The band is actually just Pedro Sobast; one gets the image of him stepping on a distortion pedal and flooding a room with colors. Though Sobast should check his guitar's intonation, his drum programming reasonably approximates human playing. But these are technicalities. The songs are what matter. Anthemic and moving, they stick in the head and heart. Does Portugal have more of such hidden treasures?

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