BraveWords Interview: KATAKLYSM – A Perfect Storm Of Defiance

By Carl Begai

BraveWords: “So, on ‘Icarus Falling’… a piano? Seriously?”

Maurizio Iacono: “(Laughs) Why not? Yeah, some purists will lose their shit… until the song actually starts.”

Settling in with Kataklysm’s intense and good-natured frontman, Maurizio Iacono, conversation begins with a look at the second-to-last song on the band’s new record, Unconquered. The track is question begins and ends with, as mentioned, a piano, which is far from normal for the Canadian death metal legends. At this stage of the game Iacono knows, of course, that here will always be a small group of scorned fans screaming “Sellout!” for even the slightest deviation from the norm, but he’s prepared for any fallout. Not that he’s expecting any, as Kataklysm plans ahead for every occasion.

“That’s why we released ‘The Killshot’ as the first single, because it’s a heavy hitter,” Iacono says. “We did that to tell the fans to calm down, everything is okay when they start hearing some experimental stuff on the album… like a piano (laughs). It’s been a constructive and crazy ride doing this record.”

Unconquered is the sonic bludgeoning present day Kataklysm fans hope for, delivered crisp and clean blow after blow for a memorable nine-song romp. In contrast, Kataklysm’s previous record, Meditations (2018), seemed to come and go without much interest or fanfare. This is not an isolated opinion, and Iacono is on board with those fans that gave it a few spins but not much attention.

“When you start promoting a record you’re always selling it by saying you had a good time making it and so on,” Iacono explains, “but the truth is there was a lot of turmoil in Kataklysm when we were making Meditations. It was the first record where we had four heads involved, and when you have four heads involved you get pulled in different directions. I find that record has really strong moments, but there are moments where it just doesn’t flow right. I’m not knocking the record – it did well for us and we didn’t go in any weird or bad direction – but I find it’s a bit choppy when you listen to it. We worked with Jay Ruston, who is more of a rock producer, so the record is extremely clean. It’s very light in my opinion, so I think it was lacking in power. Coming into Unconquered we changed a few things around.”

“The first thing we did is we went back to the way we used to write, which is me and J-F (Dagenais / guitars). All the big Kataklysm records – Shadows & Dust (2002), Serenity In Fire (2004), In The Arms Of Devastation (2006) – were written by me and him. And I don’t know what was going on with me over the last year but I had a lot of anger in me, so I had J-F come up to Chicago and just spearheaded the making of this record. When J-F came in he decided to switch from a six-string to a seven-string guitar to beef up the sound, and it all started rolling fast and super smooth. The next thing is we had Colin Richardson (producer) behind the record, which is huge because he was retired. We sent demo tracks through Colin’s assistant and he decided that he had to do this record. He was totally into it, and the production is much bigger than Meditations in my opinion.”

“In general, there’s a difference in how both records were handled, and I think we nailed it with Unconquered. This record came together easier. If you press play and go from beginning to end, it’s a perfect flow.”

And that flow is short, sweet and solid. Nine tracks, no bullshit.

“That was the mission,” Iacono agrees. “That was something we felt that we needed to do, to step it up on certain things. It’s difficult, though; we’re 14 records in. You can’t achieve complete consistency for 30 years. It’s very difficult if you’re not challenging yourself. Some bands are able to do that and they keep releasing the same record.”

With Iacono and Dagenais taking over the songwriting for Kataklysm once again, the duo returned to form in a big way. This included calling each other out for not giving 100% if and when it was needed, which has been their long-standing way of working.

“We are absolutely our toughest critics. When we do something I might tell him ‘You’re getting lazy on this riff…’ or he might tell me ‘You’re not giving it your best performance; put some balls in there.’ We’re not afraid of criticising each other because it’s very important. The moment you stop doing that you’re not putting the quality into the music. The cool thing is, once we’re done with it we ask the producer who is mixing the record ‘What do you think?’ On Unconquered in particular, we were told by the producers – Colin Richardson and Chris Clancy – we should maybe go back and fix this or that. They were so involved in Unconquered and liked it so much that we did go back and work on stuff at their suggestion. In the end there was a general concensus of the people working on the record.”

Read the complete interview here: