Kratornas – Devoured by Damnation

The first time you listen to Kratornas’ new album Devoured by Damnation they bludgeon you so hard with a heavy sound that it’s easy to get sucked into the album and start praising it. It’s kind of a mix of thrash and war metal that serves no purpose other than to hammer away against your skull. Further listens though and you realise there’s no substance to it at all and barbarism alone isn’t all enough, there’s a lack of good, or even memorable riffs that leave you coming back to it.

War metal is in itself a genre that prides brutality over everything else, pushing black metal into territory that’s usually raw and sloppy, and Kratornas aren’t one of the worst offenders out there at being completely raw, their production is actually spot on – the guitar sound is huge, the bass clunks away nicely in the back, and there’s a cool reverb on both the drums and the vocals that give it a cavernous feel. But it’s probably one of the very few instances I’ve heard where the production on an extreme metal album is better than the music that’s present. As I said in the intro, nothing on here is memorable, I’ve listened to the album at least eight times and I don’t come away with any riffs stuck in my head, or a desire to immediately press that play button again.

I’d go into individual songs, but there’s just no point as they all sound exactly the same. Not one track stands out against the other. Here’s the anatomy of a Kratornas track – rejected riffs from the early Slayer albums – fast and simple or slow and chuggy.. That’s it. They’ve clearly been raised on a diet of the first five Slayer albums from an early age, because every slower riff is practically plagiarised – the difference being that none of them are interesting or memorable – nor with any degree of technicality at all. It’s like they jammed around on the guitar for thirty seconds, came up with a short 3-7 note phase and went with it, using no further effort. It sounds like a riff and that’s enough, whether a good one or not. On Evil is Reborn there’s a riff that doesn’t emulate Slayer, it just straight up rips off Flag of Hate by Kreator instead. Don’t worry though, they go straight into a Kerry King chug-fest straight after for a slower section.  The drums are ludicrously fast blasts for a few bars, then they slow down for a bar or two with a fill, then go back to blasting. That’s all they do throughout the album. Does the drummer get tired for a bit and need to slow down or do they think it provides a change of pace? Whatever the reason you’ve heard everything the drummer is going to do in the first minute. Much like the riffs, every solo here is whammy bar abuse in the style of Kerry King, but again, like the riffs, it’s like they spent thirty seconds playing a bunch of notes and decided “that will do” with disregard for whether it actually sounds any good or memorable. Even if their sole desire is to be fast incisive it only works the first time if it doesn’t have good writing to back it up on the second listen. The vocals are fine, they’re not really loud enough in the mix, a Marduk-esque black metal growl that could stand to be louder, as with the reverb on them they don’t make enough of an impact as they could – this guy has a seriously evil sound at some points. Take all these elements and apply them to each of the ten songs here.

It’s completely fine for what it is, and it’s definitely not going to have you reaching for the off button. It’s completely and utterly brutal and on the first listen you’ll definitely buy into it when you’re just trying to acclimatise to the pounding force they hammer you with. But on the second listen you kind of realise that it’s basically Slayer with black metal vocals and a war-metal production, with no variation or memorable qualities. Because the production is spot on I’d like to think that they’d come back with an album with better riffs and a bit more originality and really make something special – but then you discover that they’ve been around for over twenty years and realise it’s probably not going to happen.

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