Catacomb – In the Maze of Kadath (1993)


Article by David Rosales

Straight from the peak of the death metal movement comes the French band Catacomb and their 1993 demo / EP In the Maze of Kadath. The production is suitable and enhances the vibe that any death metal band would want, saved from overproduction by the limitations of its time and probably band finances. It is the sort of release that from the time period that has all the right examples of its betters so that it can produce an appropriate atmosphere, but its capacity to create something original and valuable of its own is shaky at best.

Songs are introduced by a monochromatic piano, not unlike that of Goatcraft on All for Naught. After a short passage, the band proceeds to pick motifs from it and move on to a very consciously “progressive” treatment of the music. As I have said before, all good death metal is progressive music, in the sense of the word’s original usage when describing classic and jazz inspired rock bands of the early seventies. Bands that sound more explicitly and intentionally progressive are usually trying something closer to through-composition. The dangers of through-composition, however, can be seen in how acts such as The Chasm meander into nothingness, or in the corners of Timeghoul’s longer explorations, which they barely keep together. Catacomb is an example of a band biting off more than it can chew. While not outright offensive, one gets the feeling that the songs’ storylines get lost, and part of this is because it’s difficult to tell if Catacomb has a clearly defined style or not. It is more like a collection of atmospheric death metal tropes combined with more conventional technique closer to a traditional/speed metal approach, although Catacomb tends to perform at middling tempos.

One strength of this band on In The Maze of Kadath is their haunting use of keyboard, its sound complementing the tone of the guitar as they play in unison. This is a subtlety lost on modern bands who fail to notice how a huge and devouring guitar sound eats up the space where a keyboard would spread to get that truly haunting feeling. Less admirable are the random guitar solos with very little staying power (a lack of correspondence with the music, with which it only shares tonal coherence) and often awkward-sounding arpeggiations. All in all, this is an enjoyable but unimpressive and forgettable work music. If you wanted the progressive ‘chops’ with the dark atmosphere, Timeghoul provides a much better delivery. If that proves too gnarly and the reader only wants that spacey, desolate sound, Thergothon’s Stream from the Heavens would be a far more compelling and potent choice. In the Maze of Kadath may please momentarily and entertain for its cult status, but musically, anything it has to offer has been realized more convincingly in the works of others.

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6 thoughts on “Catacomb – In the Maze of Kadath (1993)”

  1. SomberSun says:

    I saw this mentioned in the comments section the other day and checked it out. It started of promising with the intro, but for some reason what came afterwards just felt kind of lackluster, when i was expecting more.

    While it doesn’t rival the other worthwhile Death Metal releases of the time, it is still a good effort.

  2. Anthony says:

    Reminds me a lot of Darkified, with the combination of death metal/horror movie keyboards and slightly scattershot composition. The Timeghoul comparison is apt as well.

    I could see why some might be annoyed by the songwriting vagaries, but I tend to enjoy this style over others.

  3. Can you survive the blitzkrieg says:

    Damn now I’m not allowed to like this or The Chasm or even Timeghoul!? What fools we all were, utter ignorant fools..

    1. Deaf says:

      Rosales always uses The Chasm as an example, wrongly. Unable to perceive what makes them great, he sees them as failing in the very moments of their songwriting success. They are a magnificent, superior band, as were Timeghoul.

      1. Timeghoul keep it together, The Chasm, not so much, they just spiral out and go nowhere.

    2. Hahahaha
      You are confusing “criticism” with “mandates”.
      This is only about being aware that there are better things out there.
      We can all enjoy something while acknowledging that it is not the best or most efficient. You don’t need to believe that your first edition X-Men comic is high literature to enjoy it and take in whatever value it may awaken in you.
      I myself am a very big fan of Timeghoul and will enjoy The Chasm once in a blue moon.

      And how did you get any idea that I was speaking negatively of Timeghoul here? Frankly, people’s interpretation of wording and meaning appalls me.

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