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Catafalque Tom Coles , July 23rd, 2019 08:02

The debut album by experimental metal duo, Catafalque, offers a glimpse over the abyss, finds Tom Coles

There's a wild hunger in the heart of every extreme metal band to stretch for higher horizons, reaching beyond the limits of traditional instruments to make an unfathomably horrible noise. This temptation leads to all manner of fleeting forays into the world of Throbbing Gristle, Merzbow and Sunn O))), all yearning for unspeakably grim horizons.

Swinging between bleak drone metal and punishing industrial ferocity, Catafalque run the gauntlet of noisy stuff just outside the traditional boundaries of heavy metal. The drawn-out, chopped-and-screwed black hole riffs curse at the audience as they traverse a bewildering dronescape. Elsewhere, the electronic beats provide something of a hypnotic quality, but when the listener focuses the effect is claustrophobic.

The harsh electronic noise is tightly coiled and sinister. Of the two predominant elements it’s the most successful. Part of what works for the album is when there's less space. For a record untethered from structure, with so much sonic real estate, this feels a little counter-intuitive, but when the listener is confronted with the coiled noises between harsh beats, the record shines. At Catafalque’s peak it feels like there’s no-one in control, that they’ve set a drum machine and left it to repeat itself ad infinitum, a howl of machinery, electronics, and gear pushed to its limits and left to decay.

There’s certainly a metal quality to Catafalque: the industrial beats, the repetitive grind, the relentlessness, the powerful catharsis, the griminess. This record feels slimy, unkempt and dilapidated. Overall though the record is undisciplined, and the more space the drone elements take, the more life they sap from the record. They have an unfortunate habit of jettisoning the bits that are working; just as ‘Gnarled Limbs’ chokes out, ‘Splintered Larynx’ rises up, a less-satisfying take on Sunn O))).

The hunger for something beyond traditional heavy music is clear here, but the execution is scattered. Ultimately, there’s plenty that's successful when they’re a little more hands-off. There’s something to be said in these sad, lonely, and secluded times for noise that simply sits at the edge of the abyss, gazing in.