I’ll be damned. A version of Sidus Atrum of the afterlife with a few squirts of Final Coil’s latest EP just appeared on the RMR review pipe. And that’s something we’ve trouble resisting. Besides, the RMR crew likes nothing more than extracting a totally unknown band from that smelly swamp full of rocky and weedy metallic objects. Up and into the light, so they may shine by themselves and either disintegrate or move on to greater things beyond this ‘zine’s measly reach.
Indeed, the band’s so much underground, they’re hardly present on social media or on any important streaming service. There’s no website of the band anywhere. And no, your label’s Bandcamp or your Facebook page ain’t a viable replacement. In short, that’s just plain bad music marketing, and this will prevent them from getting better traction. The music industry is a merciless beast. Be known, or wither away, that kind of thing.
But Katharos XIII got true promise and – indeed – a truckload of talent. Case in point, once the record takes off, elaborate soundscapes greet you. A selection of sounds, moods, and whispy directions that are as unexpected as they’re proficient. Different sorts of doom-laden and often blackened metallic objects, tasty dissonance, a gazillion samples, and a mean gothic streak offer a pretty spicy mix of avant-garde goodness. But the relatively frequent use of the saxophone just adds that special touch to those complicated moods and hazy background sounds. Yet, I don’t quite understand why they call their art ‘jazz’. The occasional use of a sax doesn’t suddenly turn anything into that genre. There’s a tad more required for that. Just sayin’.
But once Manuela Marchis-Blînda‘s ethereal chanting appears in the mix, Chthonian Transmissions starts to feel like some cosmic version of Darkher from a parallel universe. Even if she sometimes struggles with the higher reaches and the monologues. Alexandru Iovan‘s atmospheric backing vocals perfectly complement the female musings.
And indeed, the theme speaks about dreams from long-gone itinerant cosmonauts that enjoyed a telluric (earthly) experience. Echoes from the past that reach us from the underworld with messages from the afterlife. Or – perhaps – from some faraway planet. Who knows, right?
But understanding the theme a bit better also helps with the understanding of the music on this record. Katharos XIII expertly project that sense of the ethereal, of lost souls that are stuck somewhere in the ether and have trouble communicating. You get ambient incursions into a variety of moods, then again true goth sloth that suddenly disintegrates into bursts of excellent Black Metal. And all in all, the different moods and soundscapes never gripe. Thus, the RMR team found some pretty decent songwriting and a clean production to boot.
Yet at times, Chthonian Transmissions noodles about the soundscape a tad too much. Repetitions and simple lingering are pretty frequent. And this makes the already big ask of 62 minutes of airtime feel like the double. So, self-editing and restraint could have increased the quality of the piece even further. And that’s important on a record that sports a tracklist with the majority of tracks beyond the 10-minute mark.
In the end, however, Chthonian Transmissions brought us that out-of-the-box experience, the RMR deck crew searched for far and wide. It takes a lot of effort to compose such an epic piece and pronounced skill to keep it coherent. And in that Katharos XIII succeeded beautifully. The record is a great example of expertly mixed Post Metal and Post Black with atmospherics, doom, and plain harsh Black Metal. This, together with the moody saxophone, does indeed create an atmosphere of the mystical underworld. And we quite relished that sentiment.