South America is well known for their rabid enthusiasm for heavy metal, and Brazil is no exception with their dedicated fans as well as being known to produce formidable metal bands of their own to contribute to the genre. Kattah is one of those groups, formed in 2006 with their own style of melodic heavy metal laced with Arabesque and Brazilian influences. Following up their 2010 debut album, Eyes of Sand, they are releasing their sophomore effort entitled Lapis Lazuli. This album features members Roni Sauaf on vocals, Victor Brochard on guitar, Cicero Chagas on bass, Cristian Alex on drums, and features special guest artist, the Italian piano maestro Mistheria (Bruce Dickinson, Alberto Rigoni, Lance King, Rob Rock, Solo, et. al.) on keyboards. They put forth an ambitious 13-track album that contains intriguing songs for the listener to take into account as they continue to solidify their cohesiveness as a group. Their album is a type of concept album that explores the mysteries of life throughout the world in different cultures and belief systems.
The first song on the album is Behind the Clay, which starts off energetically, but does not stay statically heavy throughout the song, with balladic bridges and frenetic re-entries that keep the song interesting and from being too predictable. The melodic vocal lines are catchy, showing off Sauaf’s prowess, and Chagas’ moving bass lines in particular are notably impressive as well. Brochard’s guitar is solid and primarily chugs along on this song, save for a couple of some speedier solos, and Alex holds down the drums with changing styles and tempo with apparent ease. This is an impression-making opener and sets the stage for the rest of the album, giving you a taste of the band in one song.
Inside My Head then begins a little slower, and the vocals enter with a low, grittily spoken voice before returning to the usual soaring melodic delivery. Some spoken lines recur throughout the song for emphasis, and are quite effective in the song. The musical delivery is solid, with some nice traveling bass lines during the choruses especially, as well as some appropriately timed slower as well as shredding guitar solos. This track is a bit less experimental and more straightforward metal compared to some of the other tracks on the album.
The third track, Apocalypse (listen in the link below), begins with a slightly Middle Eastern flavor, but builds into a heavier metal version as the song continues in the first couple of minutes. The verses are punctuated by a staccato guitar rhythm underneath Dickinsonian/Tatian-like vocals that lead into a smoother but no less quickly-paced chorus that is very catchy and appealing to listen to in particular. The solo guitar portion is extremely fast, which is further emphasized as the lick is played in octaves and then sustains into a scaled-back version of the chorus with minimalist instrumentation and the melody sung an octave lower, followed by the reprise of the original chorus style as it fades out to the end with the Middle Eastern-like riff.
The fourth track, entitled Alpha Centaury, begins with an apropos spacy-synth beginning joined by the guitars and drums soon thereafter. In a style very reminiscent of Nils K. Rue’s vocal style, this song has energetic verses with choruses that feel like they are in half time with a nicely laid-back feel. The style and tempo of the song shifts again in the approximate middle of the song with a much more easy-going beat and melody, but before long, the music abruptly shifts to a power metal style again before cycling again with the slower chorus that takes the song out.
Vetus Espiritus begins very rhythmically with all instruments kicking it off from the start, but then they all drop out to leave room for a syncopated bass solo that sounds very akin to a slower version of Dream Theater’s Panic Attack bass intro. The bassline is the precursor to the upcoming vocal line, however, which then enters like an echo of the bass solo that had set up the melody for the song. The opening verse still remains instrumentally sparse until the chorus begins, where the full band reconvenes in the song, which is quite catchy and is stylistically reminiscent of the style of Pyramaze. About 2 minutes into the song, a vaguely ethnic portion makes it appearance, but is not prominent throughout the song, and it rests in the middle like a delicately placed gem for the listener to find. Overall, I find this song to be one of my favorites on the whole album with the general character of the song as well as with the individual contributions that make the entire piece perform as well as it does.
Moving along into the sixth track, the song Rebirth of Pharoahs begins with a straightforward metal rhythm at a moderate pace with the guitars keeping a steady 8th note pace and the drums providing a solid grounding to introduce the composition. This song has a Pagan’s Mind flavor with a continuing dash of Pyramaze to it, and it features some clapping and Middle Eastern flavors in the middle of the song in keeping with its Egyptian theme. The vocals on this song are both soaring and sultry, and the instrumentals and channels between the verses and choruses are open for changes in style in tempo, instrumentation, and melody, which makes for a very interesting song.
The Hidden Voice (listen in the link below) begins with techno/sci-fi synths, with a strong drum entry thereafter paralleled by the guitars. This song picks up the pace with a lot of double kick drum and 16th note traveling bass lines and rhythm guitar support, and in the choruses, the vocals sing at a half time-like pace that acts almost like a counter to the rapid fire from the band. This pace doesn’t keep up the whole song, however; a lilting interlude in the middle of the song arrives for a sonic vacation before jumping directly back into the fast pace where they left off.
The eighth track, Lapis Lazuli, is named after the semiprecious stone (found primarily in Afghanistan and Chile) and begins with a very tribal-influenced musical opening. With a widely varied and ethnic approach to this song, Sauaf sings in English and Portuguese, even during a portion with children also singing along. There are also heavy portions, sustained moments, driving rhythmic parts, and even thunderstorms and other natural sounds in the song giving it an eerie sense. It is difficult to categorize this composition, and is a prime example of the more unique style that Kattah is becoming known for and is worthy of being the titular song for the album that best represents the band.
The ninth song named after the Brazilian martial art/dance/game and its music, A Capoeira, is the shortest song on the album at about 40 seconds in length, and is like a recorded take that someone might have recorded in a village while everyone sings without regard to the overall cohesiveness or pitch-perfectness of the song. The loose vocals, shaken percussion, clapping, and eventual basic chord strumming from the electric guitar give it an almost haphazard feel, but not necessarily in a bad way – much like an impromptu get-together jamming session around the campfire, and is in the style of the music used for Capoeira to be performed alongside.
Land of God starts softly with an acoustic guitar, and has an easy vocal entry with a smooth and syncopated delivery. This song gradually builds throughout and remains fairly innocuous even in its full build. This could be considered the rock ballad of the album, and gives a nice shift in the album to something relatively consistent in its style and not too hard hitting. This is another favorite track of mine with its good melodies and consistent approach.
Moving into the eleventh track, You Will Never Be Dead begins with a piano introduction, followed by a strongly abrupt addition by the band. After that musical statement, the song scales back to acoustic guitar and vocals only, with a soft entry by bass, light piano, and background vocals an octave lower. Percussion for most of this portion of the song is absent and relies on the acoustic chord changes as the vocals are the feature of this song, until about 3 minutes in. Then the tone of the whole song changes for about a minute as all instruments come in with a driving power-chord and repetitive vocal section. Then at the four-minute mark, the style changes again to a more ethereal feel with a guitar solo that is reminiscent to the opening of Dream Theater’s Octavarium on the Continuum. The heavier elements resume shortly thereafter and the push of the chorus continues until the end of the song.
Untitled is also a very short song on the album with a single acoustic guitar and nonverbal vocalizations over the melody. It is a simple but effective song that provides an acoustic shift for about a minute in length before leading into the last song of the album.
The album closer, Last Chance, opens with a very Dream On-ish entrance that sounds much like Aerosmith tune. However, have no fear that a clone tune is coming as it continues on into its own song. The vocals enter soon with the keyboard and guitar background playing softly in the background, but before long, a strong wall of sound snaps you out of your lulled senses with heavy, strong electric guitar chords with rhythm support. It settles back into the vocal-led verses with the guitar and keyboards lightly in the background as it follows the same pattern into the more in-your-face chorus. This song has much more of a 70’s vibe than their other songs with the guitar tones and style incorporated along with a massive Hammond Organ-led solo at the end with no holds barred.
Kattah’s style musically as well as vocally seems to be a hybrid between Pagan’s Mind, Queensryche, and Pyramaze, with hints of Aerosmith, Dream Theater, and Iron Maiden as influences that readily come to mind. The band clearly has influences within the melodic and progressive metal realm but has created their own signature sound, especially by not being afraid to incorporate cultural music inspirations into their type of metal. There seems to be nods to influential bands within their songs, but they are brief quotes and references and stop short of sounding like a garage band trying to emulate their heroes by writing songs that sound too much like sibling covers. Kattah appears to be maturing as a band, and with this second album, they are perfecting their style and bringing different elements to the table to stand out from their peers. Their songs don’t follow any particular type of predictable style, and they are not afraid to mix styles, tempos, and instrumentation in each of their tracks. This aspect of their writing can be both a strength and a weakness, where the variety keeps things interesting and not prescribed, while on the other hand, too much experimentation without clear direction can be confusing for the listener. While I feel they are heading in the direction of the former, I hope they do not venture toward the latter. The musicianship of each band member is commendable, and I particularly liked the varied and unique vocal style of Sauaf and the traveling, intricate, and outside-the-pocket bass playing style of Chagas. Brochard’s guitar playing is solid, and he has the ability to shred with the best of them, though he doesn’t rely on that to be the only trick up his sleeve as Kattah’s guitarist. Alex’s drums are very solid throughout the album and accentuate what his bandmates are doing to keep the album on an even foundation. Mistheria’s keys are a nice addition to the album and are not overdone, providing just the right touch when the song calls for it. Kattah has many strengths as a band and with more time and experience together I feel that they can provide a very cogent and exciting band in the genre of melodic metal. Lapis Lazuli is a fine offering, and one that definitely caught my attention amidst all the new music coming out from this next generation of bands. Fans of NWOBHM, Melodic Metal, Ethnic/Folk/Oriental Metal, and Progressive Metal will find something in this album that will appeal to them, and I would recommend this album to those looking for a new experience in their musical selections.