Canada’s become a bit of a metal hotspot of late. It’s been barely a month since the country’s biggest export – the one and only Mr Devin Townsend – graced these shores, and the airwaves are abuzz with hype for the new albums from Protest The Hero and Gorguts; and of course all this follows prog rock-gods, Rush, finally being inducted into the hall of fame earlier this year.
Not to be ignored is the masterful new album from self-styled, Northern Hyperblasters, Kataklysm, whose music might not be as progressively driven or cerebral as their fellow ‘Nucks, but have no less produced one of the best records of 2013 in the phenomenal Waiting For The End To Come. Although, the association falls off once, Guitarist, Jean-François “J.F.” Dangenais reveals the band have left those maple-encrusted, northern lands behind – now operating out of territories almost south of the boarder.
“I’m based in Dallas, Texas, I’ve been living for four years now,” J.F. tells me.
Four years is a long time, but it’s not even a quarter of how long J.F. and Kataklysm have been at the extreme metal game, with last year’s Iron Will: 20 Years Determined marking the band’s 20th anniversary.
“I think it’s nice to see that, 20 years later, we can still write music that’s relevant to the scene. Everything changed so much from when we started to now. It’s really incredible to see that we can pull it off,” says J.F.
“We’re really passionate about what we do, we really love playing music, and what we’re doing with this band.”
For a band who have been at it for over 20 years now, releasing 12 full-length albums along the way, beginning with Sorcery way back in 1995, it’s hardly surprising they’ve decided to shake things up.
The band’s sound itself, while not too far removed from its original incarnation, has undergone two notable changes over these last two decades; the first coming with the departure of, original vocalist, Sylvain Houde, in 1998, which saw Kataklysm opting for a more riff-driven approach on their third album, Victims Of This Fallen World, and all those that followed, and somewhat of a melodic revolution that occurred somewhere around their career defining, eighth album, 2006’s In The Arms Of Devastation. Waiting For The End To Come, continues the melodic evolution of the band, incorporating a higher degree of vocal melody and striking guitar leads into Kataklysm’s groove-based sound.
“We have many of the elements that are really important to us. We focus a lot on the groove aspect but the melodies are so important,” J.F. says, “It’s a big, big part of our band and we worked really hard on the ones we have on this record also we used melodies that we hadn’t used in the past that were kind of fresh for us, a little bit outside of the box and outside of my comfort zone.
“That’s where I went on this record and the result is really good but those songs are still really quite hard to play for me. We’re getting ready for a tour now and I still need to practice a lot of them and they’re not as easy as some of the other stuff we wrote in the past.”
The elevated, lead role of the guitars is certainly noticeable on Waiting For The End To Come, especially the remarkable, melodic harmonies of ‘Kill The Elite’, which bring to mind such classic harmonic guitar attacks as those of Judas Priest or Iron Maiden.
“I never really stopped listening to the classic albums I used to listen to as a kid; listening to heavy metal bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica and Slayer; and still to this day, they’re some of my favourite records because that’s what I grew up on,” tells J.F.
Waiting For The End To Come is not without its modern influences however.
“Everything changed so much from when we started to now. It’s really incredible to see that we can pull it off,” J.F. says, revealing that a large degree of inspiration for the new album was derived from more modern acts like The Deftones.
“…Well, they’re not so modern now,” J.F. says, laughing, “But they have this really groovy, bouncy sound that’s really heavy and we tried to incorporate that into our music.”
Surprisingly, inspiration for Waiting For The End To Come comes from even more unexpected places than the ‘90s, alternative metal godfathers.
“I’m inspired from many different things, also watching movies and watching different things happen around the world, different views and stuff like that. For instance, we have a song on this record called “Fire”, the opening track, and I was inspired to write the music from watching the TV show Twin Peaks, an old TV show from the ‘90s. I just got caught up in it and I picked up my guitar and I came up with all these riffs. You never know sometimes.”
“I think inspiration comes from how passionate and much time you put into what you do. And with this record, everyone gave their 200 percent on their part and I think it paid off.”
“I’m stoked about the album. I think we managed to keep our original sound, our roots but adding a lot of cool elements to it. We managed to push ourselves to another level.”
“We wanted to make sure everything was there and we worked very hard on it and I’m very proud of my voice on this one. Everyone did a really killer job especially Maurizio (Iacono, Kataklysm vocalist) really took it to the edge. There were so many days where we’d leave the studio and he could barely talked because he’d screamed all day.”
“We just wanted to nail every part. It was a lot of hard work but I think it pays off in the end. I think the results are really killer.”
Waiting For The End To Come is out now on Nuclear Blast Records.