Catacombs - _Echoes Through the Catacombs_
(Solitude Productions, 2007)
by: Quentin Kalis (7 out of 10)
Catacombs is the project of one Xathagorra Mlandroth, and is essentially the reincarnation of his former project, Hierophant. This was the first release to bear the Catacombs name and was initially available only as a CD-R, limited to 500 copies. Catacombs is now a household name in the field of funeral doom and his early work (Hierophant's _The Tome_ has also been re-released) now has the potential to find a wider audience.

In a break from the routine of re-mastering re-released albums, the original mastering has been left intact, and the re-mastered versions are, in the words of Mlandroth "strictly for my personal fulfilment, and the re-released album left in its original state, as that is what left its mark, and what fans have revered and followed for almost a decade". Fair enough. The re-masters have greater clarity, but hardly worth inclusion for that fact alone.

Catacombs retains the staples of funeral doom as manifested on Hierophant: ultra low pitched vocals, almost indistinguishable from the rhythm guitar (which proceeds at an excruciatingly slow pace) and rudimentary drumming. There are slight differences between this and Hierophant, however the narrow band in which he has chosen to reside does not present much opportunity for maneuvering. The adoption of a lead guitar on "Consigned to Flames of Woe", mournfully wailing over the trudging rhythm guitar, added a layer that is missing from his earlier work, making for a more complex and nuanced result. The lead guitar takes a break on the title track, but retains the former's nuances.

Considerably more intriguing than Hierophant, this early Catacombs is indicative of Mlandroth's growth to maestro status within the tautological "extreme doom" sub-genre.

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(article published 14/1/2008)

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