Review: “Betrayer” by Catalysis

The continued rise of Dundee based Metal act Catalysis has been nothing short of phenomenal with 2022 a year of highs for the five piece. Not only did they win Metal 2 The Masses for Scotland and play Bloodstock Open Air Festival but they also got awarded the Best Metal at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards on top of releasing scorching EP “Innova“. As if that wasn’t enough, the band have spent the past 18 months working on a sophomore album in “Betrayer“, a record which by all accounts continues the lyrical narrative of death, loss, issues with one’s own mental health, rebirth and personal development set in place by their previous pair of EPs. Having released no less than four records in a row all mixed and mastered by Death Metal legend Mendel bij de Leij (ex-Aborted), the new record finds the band using of Once Awake guitarist Hans Petter Solen for the purpose with artwork from Mark Cruncher gracing the cover.

Seamlessly blending together elements of Melodic Death Metal with Thrash, opening cut “Kingmaker” is the kind of majestic opening cut dreams are made of. From the epic atmospheric melodic moments to the lethal pick slides, blast beat passages and expertly layed vocals the cut is a whirlwind of a tour de force. No only of the band themselves but of the genre to which they claim the crown of. Echoes of Old School Machine Head style riffs are interwoven into the fabric of follow up “Gone“, a cut which hits like a battering ram from the Police at the door of a dealer at 2am. Embracing a couple of clean sung moments doesn’t slow down the sonic assault on the senses either and it has to be said that the use of three different vocal styles in this one works incredibly well. A previously unheard barked style vocal gives another dimension to “Endless“, another powerful cut with rich texture and sublime guitar work. The solo is stunning and reminiscent of Trivium at their finest, the deeper, darker death growl during the final third the perfect contrast to the arena sized sing-a-long parts.

One thing that Catalysis have done very well with “Betrayer” is to get the ordering of the tracks, their durations and pacing right. They have taken an all killer, no filler approach from the start and trimmed the fat so that nothing outstays it’s welcome and the tempo raises the hairs on the back of the neck. The melody of “The Bottom Of The World” has a meloncholic beauty to it, the warm lead riff an earworm that simply will not get out of your head despite the somber and sobering lyrical narrative. Another one which showcases incredible musicianship from dedication to craft from hours spent in the rehearsal space honing their skills, it surely can’t be long before a major label deal and European tour trek are offered to the band on this evidence alone? “Panopticon” brings in the stuccato riff infestations, making great use of vocal layering once more to give the song a great weight and balance. It also has at its heart a fretboard smouldering solo which maybe short but it is so sugary sweet that it will still rot your teeth out. Latin for “through my fault”, “Mea Cupla” continues the onslaught of of high grade riffage with something lyrically more introspective and personal. The grit and integrity in the vocal is phenomenal, you can hear the raw emotion in the performance and yet the band don’t stray from the path of a heavier soundscape for it. A stompy groove laden cut with a bite worse than it’s bark “Gallows” stands out from the Wolf pack baying for blood with only another ripper of a solo but a crushing downtempo finale that is absolutely monstrous. The transitions are slick and the parts well thought out so absolutely nothing is out of place, the bass and drums sounding big and bold in the mix, driving things in perpetual forward motion. All the experience of the bands previous records and confidence from their live performances has given Catalysis a verve and swagger that ensures there simply are no missed steps or opportunities wasted.

Overlord” is one of those cuts that has classic stamped upon it as the five piece bring gang chants, a scorching solo and a brutal breakdown to the party and execute them all perfectly. That plays into the hands of the defiant lyrical narrative to make for a solid cohesive unit, the band very much having the strength and destructive power of the 12 foot high boulder that chases Indiana Jones in Raiders Of The Lost Ark. That is a sentiment echoed with the 2003 era Thrash influenced American Metalcore vibes of “Never Unseen” which charges like a rabid dog during the verses before sinking its teeth in during the infectious chorus. The quality of this one is such that if you’d said it was by Shadows Fall or Unearth to someone who didn’t know better, they’d believe you without question. A tale of a broken relationship “Another Version Of The Truth” finds the band joined by Amy Wilkinson of Trauma Bonds fame and she goes toe to toe with Col MacGregor like the pair are old flames, both demonstrating clean and unclean vocal prowess. The dull ache has a dark beauty before being replaced by a whirlwind of rage, the passion clearly running deep despite the situation and touches of orchestration add to the sense of epic storytelling. Once again Catalysis outdo themselves, surpassing all expectations in stunning fashion to create what has to be one of the albums of the year that has been 2023, no word of a lie. [9/10]

Track Listing

  1. Kingmaker
  2. Gone
  3. Endless
  4. The Bottom Of The World
  5. Panopticon
  6. Mea Cupla
  7. Gallows
  8. Overlord
  9. Never Unseen
  10. Another Version Of The Truth (ft. Amy Wilkinson of Trauma Bonds)

Betrayer” by Catalysis is out 15th December 2023 with vinyl and merch bundles available here.

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