The term “metal” is by all accounts a fairly elastic one. The truth of that sentence is obvious when you view the world’s classification of it in culture and conversation. Every metalhead has that story of a friend declaring themselves a devotee of the riff while naming off a slew of punk and alt rock bands. Metal means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and that genre flexibility is nowhere more apparent than in the work of bands like Catatonic Effigy, who make music that’s as unclassifiable a manner as it comes.
Similar to the work of bands like Inhumankind and even late Botanist, deciding whether Catatonic Effigy’s music qualifies as “metal” is most certainly up for debate. The band’s debut, Putrid Tendency, is a free jazz, post-metallic labyrinth of sounds and textures that is best (and perhaps only) understood through listening. It’s subtly chaotic, distinctly heavy, and compositionally odd in a way that only musicians like Colin Marston, Álvaro Domene, and Mike Caratti could dream up. But whatever genre you wish to drop this record into, the result is the same: Putrid Tendency is one of the most interesting metal-adjacent records to be released this year, and an album that’s well worth your time if you’re up for a sonic adventure.
Album opener “Putrid Density” should give listeners just about all the information they’ll need regarding the musical maelstrom to come. Simultaneously spacy and busy, Domene’s seven-string guitar licks and dances over Caratti’s jazz-inflected drum work like a jittery, highly caffeinated wasp, stinging and retreating only to jump in again with unmitigated irregularity. It’s a piece that introduces the album’s unique sonic idiosyncrasies with relish, diving headlong into a pool of weird and swimming for a full ten minutes. First brush with this track feels a bit akin to Sumac’s brilliantly improvised meanderings through Love in Shadow and their collaborative work with Japanese noise mastermind Keiji Haino, but further listens display a distinct method to the madness that separates Putrid Tendency from its free-form compatriots, and that’s its firm allegiance to jazz. While swirling in and out of feedback-heavy guitar and bass madness, it’s Caratti’s drum work that creates a distinct throughline, grounding the work in a jazz-heavy vibe that’s as robust as it is malleable. If you’re picking up what the band’s putting down in “Putrid Density”, the rest of this album is going to be a real treat.
Never comfortable repeating motifs, follow-up track “Gravitational Lensing” goes the more meditative route with a droning, feedback-heavy wall of sound that would fit quite nicely on a Sunn O))) record. It’s an only slightly less glitchy take on the sounds established in the album’s opening track compositionally, but feels like an entirely new sonic landscape regardless. But the reprieve only lasts a few moments, as “Garakku” comes roaring in with a Gorguts-inspired gut punch that features some truly impressive bass work from Marston, whose work is as always unmistakable. The album’s two additional titans, however, hold in their grasp the best and most adventurous sonic explorations on the record. “Supernova Remnant” in particular is a combination of all of the previously mentioned sounds into a widescreen narrative that feels carefully and progressively constructed, building from a atmospheric slow burn into a sunburst of doomy-riffs that are insanely effective, while closer “Putrid Destiny” ratchets up the heat into a searing finale that caps off the proceedings with grace and sufficient off-kilter menace. It’s a fitting end to an unusually unclassifiable work of art.
If the most adventurous side of the extreme metal spectrum is up your proverbial alley, you will find plenty to love in Putrid Tendency. I’ve encountered few records this year that required as much of my rapt attention as this one, but the payoff is more than worth the time spent. Call it what you may in the scope of metal-adjacent genre classification, but it’s clear that Catatonic Effigy have here created something both oddly unclassifiable and distinctly heavy, culminating in one of the most unique and enjoyable listening experiences I’ve encountered this year. A sterling debut.
Putrid Tendency is out now via Iluso Records, and is available for purchase on the band’s Bandcamp page.