Catacombe – Quidam

Reviewed by: James

   I don’t know how you guys are feeling about 2014, but I feel absolutely bombarded by the amount of above average to great post-rock albums that have been released this year. There are A TON of great albums coming down the pipeline as soon as we can get to them, but in the meantime I’ve been pretty hung up on ‘Quidam’ by Catacombe. Despite being around since 2007 and having two previous albums under their belt, this is my first experience with this Portuguese post-rock powerhouse. In all fairness, they haven’t released an album since 2010 and I started Postrockstar in 2012 which is when I really started to dig deep into the post-rock surface. But with a little over 2000 likes on Facebook I almost feel bad for letting Catacombe slip past my radar.

   But I’m sure to have found ‘Quidam’, a 6-track 35 minute effort from the 4-piece band from Porto, the second largest city in Portugal which lies along the coastline (see, you get geography lessons in addition to great music also). ‘Quidam’ takes itself very serious, drawing inspiration from other “serious” post-rock artists such as Russian Circles or the earlier work of Long Distance Calling for example. In terms of sound quality and instrument arrangement this album shares a lot of similarities with Audrey Falls recently released ‘Mitau’ which was just featured on the site not too long ago. Gorgeous sound staging and instrument separation combined with above average production qualities will help set this album apart from the pack of DIY releases of 2014.

   Every great album has a strong lead up and ‘Quidam’ is no different with “Zenith” kicking things off with an alluring beat that leads into alluring guitar work that weave a web of hectic yet focused strands of reverb and distortion. “Ninho De Vespas” is next and features a unique tempo change about halfway through the track deciding to take a detour from it’s rough and heavy opening into a more melodic buildup. The track builds to a brilliant finish of multi-layered guitar work; distortion in the right channel, spiraling crescendos in the right while perpetual cymbal riding occupies both channels in the upper echelons of the mix. “Shroud” is next and is my personal favorite track on the album, taking a no-nonsense approach with an intentionally tease intro as if the band is trying to say “Hey, you better fucking pay attention!”  I love everything about this track from the downtuned guitars to the marching order drumming in the center of the track, indicating the beginning stages of a massive buildup. The screeching guitars amidst that build up are a real high point on the album to me and the culminating breakdown doesn’t disappoint either. Admittedly I’ve gotten way too into this song on numerous occasions.

   The album takes a swift with ‘Lolita’ as the tempo and mood completely change to a more mellow vibe. If you’re looking for a “pretty” track out of Catacombe, this track would be it. Although most of this track isn’t my personal cup of tea, the closing guitar work is pretty epic. “Mental Confusion” picks the tempo back up and gets back to the foundation laid by the first three tracks with more top-notch guitar work and serious natured atmosphere. The album wraps with “Nadir” which leaves a lasting impression as a mellow finisher with an understated breakdown as the song fades into the night.

I really like ‘Quidam’ because it does just enough to set itself apart from the pack but doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. It’s the product of a band with a unique sound simply setting out to make great post-rock.  The perfect album to get lost in for either a half hour or several hours as the album plays front to back with great synergy. This is definitely a release I’ll keep my eyes and ears on later in the year as we gear up for year-end awards. Well worth your listen!

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tags: alternative rock instrumental post-metal post-rock postrock Portugal