On a day off from touring in support of 2015 breakthrough ‘Awaken The Fire’, the members of New Zealand hard rock outfit Like A Storm visited the Parisian catacombs. The juxtaposition of their beautiful exterior and the human remains buried beneath would go on to inspire both the title and the lyrical content of their latest studio effort, ‘Catacombs’.
The end result is a musically and thematically heavy journey into the darker side of human emotion, and our tendency to mask inner turmoil with a smile on the outside.
Lead single and opening track ‘The Devil Inside’, a pulsing maelstrom of a song incorporating all of the band’s hallmarks, sets the standard immediately with its crunchy riffs and introspective lyrics. The first few tracks are cut from the same cloth; atmospheric and brooding pieces that deal with isolation, anxiety and emotional upheaval.
The instrumentation is augmented throughout by the sonorous drone of the didgeridoo. Far from being a quirk or gimmick, the unorthodox but effective implementation of this traditional instrument (played by lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Chris Brooks) beefs up the already prominent low end, resulting in a thunderously heavy sound replete with malevolent gravitas.
A combination of clean and harsh vocals is nothing new within the genre, but Chris‘ melodic, ethereal tones intertwine superbly with brother Matt Brooks‘ fierce, though less distinctive, growls. Their vocal interplay is best exemplified on tracks such as ‘It’s Complicated (Stitches & Scars)’ and ‘Bullet In The Head’ where they weave powerful, instantly memorable sing-along choruses.
The second half of the album brings some welcome sonic diversity. The band bursts into more straightforward metal territory with the energetic, hook-laden ‘The Bitterness’. Almost ballad ‘Hole In My Heart’ and the extreme metal infused ‘These Are The Bridges You Burn Down’ bring additional changes of pace. The flow of the album would have benefitted from a couple of these later tracks being interspersed with the solid but samey first five numbers.
On closing epic ‘Pure Evil’, the band displays somewhat more grandiose songwriting ambitions, launching into a blistering indictment of religious bigotry, the incendiary conclusion of which is the high point of the record.
Like A Storm have accomplished much with ‘Catacombs’. The feel is that of a band coming into their own, confident in their sound and stepping up to surpass past records and produce an album that can go toe-to-toe with the major metal releases of the year.