CATHARI – It Will Hurt The Entire Time You’re Alive EP

Cathari’s 2023 release ‘In God’s Infinite Silence’ presented six tracks of wonderful bleakness. On that record’s best tunes, the band’s doom metal influenced sound centred around a clean vocal and clean guitar, which often resulted in its oppressive feel coming from a gothic perspective. Going a little deeper, an intermittent concession to cold post-metal, as opposed to recycled Sabbath-isms, gave the band a strong sense of identity. When reaching for further extremes, passages where doom collided with abrasive black metal influences suggested Cathari were already drawing from a bigger well of intensity than most. Overall, the record left the feeling that the band might deliver something even more intense going forward.

Not long afterwards, the band underwent a drastic rethink, and their 2024 EP ‘It Will Hurt The Entire Time You Are Alive’ sometimes sounds like an entirely different act. There are doom elements still present, but Cathari now blend those sounds with huge slabs of hardcore, noise rock and even a pinch of apocalyptic black metal. In Cathari’s own words, this is “a whirlwind of intensity representing [an] unapologetic approach”. You’d better believe it.

The opening bars of ‘Philadelphia’ embrace the change immediately, with the band launching into a very 90s inspired riff that pulls the anger from early Orange 9mm and Strife and retools it for a new generation. Moving into the bulk of the track, the riffs intensify and Cathari thunder effortlessly through an even bigger hardcore riff peppered with the angular noise of a classic Jesus Lizard recording, only shared at three times the heaviness. Throughout this musical assault, vocalist Magdalena Stephens roars and screams, latching onto a pure hardcore sound, but she also makes that more intense by dropping in moments of black metal ferocity and a shouted refrain, which ensures by the mid point of the number, Cathari sound like an unstoppable force. You’ll also find a classic hardcore bass peeking through the wall of noise, and a few very angular guitar parts drawn from the extreme end of post-metal, both of which keep things on the good side of interesting, and this fusion of noisy elements feels completely natural. Obviously, each of the influences can be traced back to some great musical stock, but the way Cathari blends those into something hugely uncompromising results in something absolutely thrilling.

Taking a more “commercial” approach, the opening riff from ‘Weight’ mixes a hardcore crunch with a groove metal accessibility, but in their now typical style, Cathari quickly ensure this isn’t too predictable by twisting the groove into a really punchy, lop-sided and heavily rhythmic world of noise. This shows drummer Michael Quigley in a position of strength as he takes the band on an intensive journey through a speed driven slab of hardcore and into a frightening noise rock landscape, eventually arriving a slice of doom that is heavier than ever. Unlike previous recordings, Cathari’s moments of doom aren’t of the Sabbath-esque or the purely gothic; here, they apply a sledgehammer slowness to even more hardcore anger, resulting in something that’s perfect for their new found levels of scariness. As before, the vocal moves effortlessly between a world of extremes, and whether sharing a huge roar or attacking the listener with something that comes much closer to a soliloquy lurking behind a slab of noise, Maggie’s performance is absolutely immense.

Stretching out, ‘Don’t Fear Death’ mixes 90s hardcore with a pinch of grindcore, working the entire band into an absolute fury. The slower moments of the track rank among Cathari’s biggest sounds to date, and the mix of spoken vocal and abrasive guitar – as before – sounds superb. Bend your ears past the more obvious noise, however, and you’ll find something more interesting. Bassist Zack Van Sant manages to drop in a hugely melodic performance that really shouldn’t fit the rest of the track, and yet, somehow, he’s managed to make a world of warm, fluid sounding bass notes carry almost everything, whilst Magdalena attacks with even more intensity, this time around, supplying an aggressive musical backdrop with vocals that are influenced by death metal. Naturally, this won’t win them a broad audience, but those who can find a relevant entry point will certainly love what they find here.

Rounding out the EP, the title cut cranks the tension by applying the noise rock guitars to a wall of pneumatic rhythms, which makes Cathari sound like an unholy hybrid of abrasive hardcore and grindcore mixed with an arty intent. Knowing that such a force could never sustain a full three minutes, the number gradually twists itself into a slower – but no less confronting – groove, where a mid tempo hardcore sound is presented alongside an extra layer of pure noise. It’s here, assuming it hadn’t been clear before, that guitarist Kevin Nolan is capable of shaping all manner of abrasive sheen which, more often than not, acts as a great counterpart to Maggie’s uncompromising vocal. If you’re halfway into Cathari’s world of noise at this point, this will certainly win you over. If you aren’t, this is the point where the band are set to frighten you forever – either way, they’ve prompted a definite reaction. Their musici sn’t looking to gain indifference; nor will the band blend into a never ending world of other doom bands. The huge musical changes undergone are certainly for the better.

In a 2023 interview with the Track To Hell website, Magdalena Stephens said that some of Cathari’s earlier material was written whilst she was “dealing with a profound identity crisis”. ‘It Will Hurt…’ doesn’t always fit neatly with the band’s past, but like Maggie herself, it shows an unwavering desire to embrace truth without compromise. When this works, it’s absolutely immense. The cold, Old Wind and Cult of Luna-esque passages have taken a back seat, sure, but armed with an arsenal of pure hardcore and brilliant noise rock intents, Cathari can look forward to a future with a huge confidence, and a belief that they’ve found a much truer sound.

May 2024

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