If you were dismayed when Vattnet Viskar began their slow dissolution, I have good news. Nicholas Thornbury, one of the creative forces behind that band has teamed up with Brett Boland (Astronoid) for what I can only call an epic success. If you like blackened death metal that’s firing on all cylinders: melodic, engaging, and full of riffs and hooks, then put Kataan’s self-titled EP in your cart immediately.
Nick and Brett are part of a New England metal microcosm with long tentacles. Astronoid, Vattnet Viskar, Infinity Shred, and Vanna are just a few of the bands related to this group of musicians. And while Brett seems to be taking a run at Kurt Ballou’s numbers in terms of producing and mixing, Nick has been woefully out of the game. But boy is he back.
I had the pleasure of meeting Nick at a Vattnet Viskar show in Toronto in 2016, before their eventual disintegration, and he was such a wonderful and humble guy. At the time he assured me that I was likely a better guitarist than he, because I practiced; now I know he should have given himself a hell of a lot more credit. I hear a lot of Vattnet Viskar in Kataan, and that is neither a slight nor a protest.
Even from the opening moments this is clearly not typical death metal. Occasionally submerging in blackgaze, emotive riffs and pounding drums continue to float above the darkness, staying focused and angry. The mix and production of the album are impeccable, as I’ve come to expect from Brett Boland, and his work as the rhythm section really lets Nick’s songwriting and vocals shine.
Thornbury’s growls absolutely crush it, and the surprising addition of clean singing results in even more depth. The lyrical content hits me dead center. “This is nothing, we are nothing, none of this matters” is an existential mantra that aligns with my own coping strategy for the vagaries of existence. “Open your eyes and see, hopes and dreams are fantasy” speaks directly to my own ennui and inability to be creative over the past year of hell. “Burn this world to the ground” indeed.
I first got wind of this collaboration what feels like years (but was probably only months) ago, and it’s been a long wait. After finally getting my hands on the EP and letting it settle into my neural pathways, I can definitively say that the wait for their first full album is going to be even longer. Maybe for once the weird nature of time in the Twenties will work in our favor, and it’ll be quicker than I expect. Regardless, Kataan has earned that anticipation easily with this self-titled EP, and I’m not going to complain.