By Carl Begai
Kataklysm has gotten fat. Monstrously fat. And frontman Maurizio Iacono couldn’t be happier.
We are, of course, referring to Kataklysm’s latest slab of violence Of Ghosts And Gods, a thundering, seething fuck off of an album if there ever was one in the band’s catalogue. As melodic death metal goes it has rightfully been tagged as being on par with At The Gates’ stellar comeback, At War With Reality. As a Kataklysm album it has been dubbed their strongest in years, taking into account that the shock and excitement of being nailed to the wall has blown some minds into paste. Either way, the accolades can be attributed to Kataklysm burning whatever tattered rulebook they’ve been using for the last several years, and the addition of producer Andy Sneap (Testament, Accept, Arch Enemy, you name ’em…) to their creative arsenal.
“The reason we went to Andy Sneap to do this is because we thought the combination of him with J-F (Dagenais/guitars, producer) would be great,” Iacono begins. “J-F is a great engineer, but when you do everything yourself sometimes you lose the ability to be 100% on the ball because recording and mixing is such a long process. There are so many details. We wanted someone that has a good name, sure, but we also wanted someone we’re a fan of. We were lucky he even picked us because Andy is in high demand, and he’s turned down some big bands. For him to grab the new Kataklysm record was great.”
If you’re a Sneap fan it comes as no surprise to hear he succeeded in beefing up Kataklysm’s already crushing sound for Of Ghosts And Gods. As a Kataklysm fan you wish he would have jumped on board a few albums earlier once you give the new album a listen or five. Iacono agrees wholeheartedly.
“One of the things with this record is that we spent so much time on it. Andy took his time mixing this record. We went back and forth because he’d send us a mix, we’d say it sounded great, but he wanted to do more work on it. When you mix a record some producers are done in one week. Andy spent three weeks on this one. You can tell there’s a lot of work behind this music, both from us and from him.”
Ultimately, the motivation behind Of Ghosts And Gods was that well worn tale of a veteran band bent on keeping the music fresh for themselves and the fans. Not only did they bring Sneap on board to accent Dagenais’ efforts, Kataklysm took their creative process on the road and recorded the music in Texas, Montreal, Florida and England.
“This is the first time we tried something like this, moving around a lot,” Iacono says. “I’m very happy it worked. You know what, though? It was necessary. We’re on our 12th record, and I don’t know if I’ve ever followed a band for 12 records (laughs). It’s really hard to keep people with you, so if they’ve been around this long it’s because we’re always trying new things. This record is the one we need at a time when we really need to step up and deliver. Things are changing dramatically in the business so we need to come out with something really fresh and new.”
A comment that often scares a band’s diehard followers. In Kataklysm’s case it may recall Prevail and Heaven’s Venom, two albums that received mixed reviews upon release.
“It’s that surprise element (laughs). You never know with Kataklysm. I think we played it a bit too safe on the last few records. We didn’t want to gamble too much because it’s hard to be out there trying to make a living off this. We want to keep our fans happy, but we realized that’s not us. We need to be what we’ve always been; a band that takes its sound and brings it to another level by doing it our own way. This new record is very honest that way.”
Nuclear Blast’s push behind Of Ghosts And Gods resulted in two hot sauces being tied into the release – which Kataklysm has been slammed for, naturally – and a mammoth project of shooting videos for every song on the record, all of which were posted online in sequence leading up to the official July 31st street date.
“This is what happened, and yes I’m out of my mind,” Iacono laughs. “We were sitting with the Nuclear Blast staff discussing the marketing for the new album – when we were going to stream the first single, what songs were going to release – and I asked them ‘Why is it always the same fucking shit?’ I don’t want to be a part of the machine. There’s a song on the record called ‘The Black Sheep’ and that’s Kataklysm. We’re never going to be the most extreme band in death metal, we’re never going to follow a trend, we’re going to be us. I told them I wanted to do something crazy, that I would invest some money and they would invest some money into doing something nuts that people would say ‘It’ll never work.’ The label saw the idea as something cool and added stuff to it, so they were totally into it. I’ve got to admit there were times when I was on the phone with the director Tommy Jones (Videohammer Studios) saying ‘What the fuck did we just do?’ because it was a heavy workload (laughs).”
And then there’s Kataklysm’s new signature beer, straight out of Belgium and boasting the brilliant French Canadian name, St. Tabarnak. It’s not offcially linked to the new album, but it made sense to start distribution while the spotlight is on the band.
“Our bassist (Stephane Barbe) came up with the name,” Iacono reveals. “He’s the big beer drinker in the band and he said ‘Why do we have to be so serious all the time?'”
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