Serenity in Fire

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Kataklysm is yet another death metal band that refuses to roll over and croak, the French-Canadian group unleashing its eighth studio album in ten years. And while Serenity in Fire doesn't kick down any doors in the genre, it does knock quite hard -- and there's a nebulous, inexplicable something that keeps Kataklysm a notch above the onslaught of tiresome, cookie-cutter death acts churning out assembly-line albums like Krispy Kremes. Maybe it's the band's conviction and lack of pretension, Serenity in Fire exuding a convincing degree of passion that's often nonexistent among more high-concept gore metal and ludicrously technical outfits. The positives: an impressive and effective arsenal of speeds and tempo shifts; upper- and lower-register double-tracked vocals (à la Deicide) utilized for variety; the epic, melodic riffing of "The Night They Returned" and the title track; ten smartly arranged songs, none of them overstaying their welcome, and clocking in at just under 40 minutes total. Negatives: an annoyingly artificial clackity-typewriter double-bass sound; a lack of lyrical creativity (more anti-religious rants: yawn); a silly, clichéd album cover that not only looks like a bootleg, but too closely resembles the art adorning Kataklysm's 2002 platter, Shadows & Dust. Still, despite the feeling that you've heard it all before, Serenity in Fire is a characteristically strong effort from this tireless outfit, which has produced yet another solid, meat-and-potatoes album that seasoned extreme metal aficionados will find difficult to dislike.

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