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KATAKLYSM


KATAKLYSM - With Open Arms


By Dr. Abner Mality

The masters of the Northern Hyperblast, Canada's Kataklysm show that sometimes patience and perseverance really do pay off. Their lengthy career has been composed of small, measured steps instead of big leaps that ultimately go nowhere. The result? They are now one of the most established death metal bands, with a solid career, strong label support and growing popularity.

I met up with guitarist J.F. Dagenais while Kataklysm was on the recent Metal Crusade tour with Poland's war machine Vader. The talented axeman proved to be as down to earth and matter of fact as you could hope to meet and was only too glad to discuss the tour, their latest album "In the Arms of Devastation" and the satisfying arc of Kataklysm's career.


WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: How has the Metal Crusade tour with Vader and Destruction been going so far?

J.F. DAGENAIS: We've been more than happy with the response and turnout on this tour so far. It's good to see that old school metal is still alive in America. We had one or two shows where the turnout was just OK, but the rest of the tour has been amazing.

WC: You guys have been on the road with one tour or another for a long, long time. Do you even remember what home is like?

JFD: (laughs) We've been touring a lot lately. It's always cool to go back home for a couple of weeks but when you're home for a couple of weeks, you're ready to go back out again!

WC: When I think of Kataklysm's career so far, you've made slow and steady progress instead of just exploding on the scene. Has that been the better way to do things?

JFD: I don't know if it's better or not, but one thing I know for sure is that it's more solid. Our fans are real dedicated and they'll keep going with us for a while. But building a career like this, you're also building a solid fanbase and that's important for us. I think some bands get famous for a couple of months and then with the follow-up album, they go right back down to where they were. We've been around for 15 years and we hope to be around for 15 more.

WC: What is it about Montreal that makes the metal scene so strong up there?

JFD: Canada's always been into metal. I think maybe it's something in the water over there (laughs). I really don't know exactly why but I know metal is a tradition that goes from generation to generation in Canada.

WC: I always thought Montreal was the North American city that was most like Europe and Europe has the most serious metal fans.

JFD: I would say Montreal is like a mixture of both. The culture is half European and half American. That's reflected in our band. We have a lot of European influence in our music but also some traditional American metal influence.

WC: I know you're quite a busy producer. Is there any band you recommend or are currently working on?

JFD: I've done quite a few bands for a Canadian label called Galy Records. They've got some pretty good stuff going on. It's a smaller label but it's got cool bands.

WC: They've got a band called Beneath the Massacre that's pretty good and another one called Augury that's pretty good...


JFD: Augury is awesome. If you like the real technical death metal, there's a band called Atheretic that I think is the most technical thing I've ever heard. If you're more into melodic stuff, there's a band called Quo Vadis. I just mixed a live DVD for them and it's really professionally done.

WC: I understand that the cover to the latest Kataklysm album "In the Arms of Devastation" was actually designed by a fan?

JFD: Yeah, we had a contest when the album came out. We thought it would be cool to have some different ideas for covers and we got a lot of fans to respond. In the end, we had so many good ones, we couldn't really decide so we put our five favorites on the website and had the fans vote for it.

WC: What's cool about it is that it's an actual painting, not some sort of Photoshop thing.

JFD: Yeah, yeah, that's just what we wanted! It's an oldschool type cover but it still has a modern look to it.. We're really happy with it!

WC: Is there any meaning to it? We've got a two-faced demon who has a scale with a skull on it in one hand and his own heart in the other hand. Does it mean anything or does it just look cool?

JFD: I think, for me, it basically looks cool! (laughs) . I don't know, with the guy ripping his own heart out, maybe it's like life is today.

WC: How did you hook up with Kittie's Morgan Lander to do that duet on "It Turns To Rust"?

JFD: That was Maurizio's idea. We wanted to have all Canadian guests on this record. We got Tim from Into Eternity to play a solo with us and then we thought, what about Kittie? Why not?

WC: I thought that duet worked really well. That made it more interesting than run of the mill metal. Some of your songs have a real epic quality to them. Would you ever consider adding symphonic instruments or keyboards to enhance that feeling?

JFD: Yeah, we have no barriers. Whatever works, we'll use it. We always to try some new ideas and change our sound a little with every record. I don't see why not. I think we will try something like that in the future.

WC: I also notice there's a kind of sad feeling to a lot of Kataklysm's songs. One song in particular, "The Road to Devastation", has a very sad sound. Do you agree that that's something you try to put into your music?

JFD: Me and Stephan, when we write, we really like the minor scale. Anything played in that scale sounds really sad and we really like that feeling, so we write a lot in the minor key.

WC: "In The Arms of Devastation" seems to me like it should have been the album to come right after "Shadows and Dust". Do you think the "Serenity In Fire" album was kind of a rush job in the wake of "Shadows and Dust"?

JFD: It was different because we had a different drummer and that really changed the vibe of the band.

WC: That kind of leads to my next question, which is, how important was it to get Max Duhamel back as drummer?

JFD: It felt really natural to have him back as drummer because we've been friends for so long. We write well together and have good chemistry. Our previous drummer Martin was technically a very good drummer but we didn't have that same chemistry to write the songs.

WC: Do you think Max is back to stay now?

JFD: Yeah, I think so.


WC: The sound of Kataklysm has changed over the years. Will you play any of your older "Northern hyperblast" stuff ?

JFD: There's still a few tracks we play from our older records. Every tour, we try to play different songs to keep it interesting. The weird thing is, when we play those songs, there's not that many oldschool people that know them anymore. Our new fanbase knows stuff from our last three records. We still like to play some of the old ones because they're part of our history.

WC: I remember getting "Sorcery" when it first came out years ago. I'd never heard anything so insane and technical at that time. It really seemed to be ahead of its time. Do you regard yourselves as forefathers of that kind of scene?

JFD: I think so. When we were playing the crazy stuff, the bands at that time were a lot slower, like Obituary and Death. I'd like to think we played a part in it.

WC: Kataklysm's development has been the reverse of many bands. You started out really fast and slowed down, whereas other death metal bands do it the other way around.

JFD: Nowadays we try to put more emphasis on the quality of the songwriting than just speed and technicality. If the songs are good, that's all that matters.

WC: What was the last CD or record you picked up just for your own enjoyment?

JFD: I think it was the last Iron Maiden, "Dance of Death". I thought it was actually a good record, I was impressed with it.

WC: What was the last show or gig you checked out just because you wanted to see it?

JFD: Hmmm, I was doing sound for Hypocrisy on their last tour. It was an honor to work with them, so that was a pleasure.

WC: Have you ever played with them?

JFD: We did tours in Europe but never in America.

WC: I think that would be an awesome double bill.

JFD: I think so, too. We like each others bands and respect each other a lot.

WC: Is there any Spinal Tap moment in Kataklysm history that you would like to share with us?

JFD: Of course, of course. (laughs) It's a very cliche movie but all that stuff happens for real. We've gotten lost in the venue, trying to find the stage.

WC: Any particular incident?

JFD: On our last European tour, we were waiting for a flight to Dublin. We get our tickets and the flight is called "666 to Hell"! (laughter) We went, "are you serious, are you for real?" I guess they did it just for us.

WC: You didn't see the Captain get on board with horns coming out of his hat? (laughter)


Kataklysm's Official Website