In the Arms of Devastation

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Nearly two decades into their storied career by the release of 2006's mighty impressive In the Arms of Devastation (their tenth official release), Kataklysm are established not only as Canadian death metal's elder statesmen, but one of the genre's most consistently dependable acts to boot. Equally dependable are their always apropos, album-introducing messages, which on this occasion happens to be the classic "Revenge is a dish best served cold"; a fine quote for most any occasion (international intrigue, divorce, losing last night's game of Monopoly, you name it!), but not necessarily all-encompassing of the album's central message. Close enough to snuff, though, since, as any experienced listener will tell you, Kataklysm's strengths lie as much in their songwriting as their lyrics. One of the few death metal bands active in the mid-2000s capable of resisting the siren call of exaggeratedly technical displays, the Canadian quartet almost always manages to impart a truly welcome sense of flow to its songs, all the while never succumbing to boring or repetitive song structures. Opener "Like Angels Weeping (The Dark)" inaugurates this fluidly shape-shifting strategy with a variety of speeds and riffs so great that it lets one ignore the fact that its final doom riff was copped from Machine Head's "Davidian." Hyper-speed follow-up "Let Them Burn" concentrates on peeling paint, but the more deliberate "Crippled & Broken" delivers the first chorus worth croaking along to (clenched fists recommended), while tracks like "In Words of Desperation" (boasting quasi-black metal portions reminiscent of Yonkers' Immolation) and the quite simply immense "To Reign Again" support their messages with unforgettable riffs. The former tracks' remarkable level of excellence can't be sustained throughout (witness decent but not exactly timeless efforts like "Open Scars" and "Temptation's Nest"), but Kataklysm never really mess up either -- their only potential faux pas coming with the merely amusing Cookie Monster duet between frontman Maurizio Iacono and Kittie harpy Morgan Lander on "It Turns to Rust." By the time they drop the big one with monumental closer "The Road to Devastation" -- ideal for both shouting along and whipping out the air guitars -- Kataklysm have staked an early claim to best death metal album of 2006. Let the challengers come forth.

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