Progressive and technical death metal has been having a real moment over the last couple of years. As with everything, however, there is a dark side to the genre’s current boom. With so many fantastic progressive death metal albums flooding the market, listeners run the risk of becoming disaffected by the genre’s inherent excitement and otherwise-outstanding records can often get lost among the mix. The upside to this over-saturation is that, when an album does stand out, you can be confident that it’s something truly exceptional. Catalyst‘s debut album The Great Purpose of the Lords is one such outstanding release, which deserves better than to get lost in the fold.

What sets Catalyst apart from the usual progressive tech-death crowd – beyond their outstanding musicianship and fantastic songwriting – is the rawer, old-school aesthetic in which The Great Purpose of the Lords is drenched. The production is still crystal clear, but it has a certain roughness and boomier bottom end, which stands apart from the standard, hyper-polished presentation favoured by most modern progressive death metal acts. The added “oomph!” is also felt in the compositions themselves. Although the album cover and subject matter suggest a more ethereal palette, the songs themselves are often much grittier than the usual tech-death fare and are often heaped with a hefty dose of groove as well; imagine the intersection of early Obscura, Nile and classic Death and you’re on the right track.

There’s also a captivating melodeath sensibility that underpins a lot of the guitar playing. The influence which comes to the fore on “Celestial Resurrection”, which book-ends a ferocious mid-section that brings to mind Amon Amarth played at double-speed with a flurry of Iron Maiden/early-In Flames-style lead guitar harmonies. “Demophobia” and “From the Last Sunset” are your resident heavy-hitters, with the former exploding out of the traps in a manner worthy of Dyscarnate, while the latter blends Hannes Grossman/Alkaloid-style Morbid Angel worship with moody, Celtic Frost-esque atmospherics. These are just some of the highlights, but most of the albums tracks contain most, if not all, of these elements and they are never combined in a manner that isn’t both thoughtful and powerful in equal measure.

There’s plenty to bite into here and – as if to truly assert Catalyst’s progressive credentials – the album is also a concept record, about a group of elemental spirits seeking a mythical messiah in order to wrest power and control over the universe back from a vindictive creator. So there’s also that for those who like to delve a little deeper. Coincidentally, The Great Purpose of the Lords is a debut record that puts many of progressive and technical death metal’s reigning overlords to shame. Don’t let this one pass you by.

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The Great Purpose of the Lords is out now digitally, with physical copies coming at the end of the week. Both can be ordered through Catalyst’s bandcamp page.