Katana Cartel – The Sacred Oath
Release Date: 26/02/2021
Running Time: 48:07
Review by Simon Black
The debut album from these Melbourne, Australia based metallers has, like so much of the last eighteen months, been put completely on hold by Coronavirus. When this is your debut release, the decision to hold back or plunge forward is slightly trickier. Debut albums are critically dependant on bands’ getting out on the road and working their dues in gruelling support slots until enough people realise they are there and start creating demand for their music; then it’s about working the brand for all its worth. Australia and the state of Victoria have been locked down harder and longer than most (as my father, who lives there, never ceases to remind me) and so to release an album too soon and risk it disappearing, relatively unheard, despite rave reviews cannot be ignored. Equally, the financial costs associated with the production need to start to be met, which no amount of streaming success will balance out. It’s a tough call and my personal view is that a band should have the courage of their convictions and keep moving forward if they can. So with no sign of things lifting out of lockdown enough for touring to start any time soon, we need to work on the basis of what’s available and try and support the acts themselves, which is why I always ask people to buy the product directly from the band or label’s web site – even if they dip their toe into the streaming waters to see if they like it first. Because if we don’t there won’t be many new bands for us to enjoy.
And enjoy is the key word with this record, something the band clearly do and that infectiously spreads to the listener. Like many debut’s Katana Cartel have had a longer gestation period and the material presented is likely to be the pick of the material the band has crafted to date. Equally, when you are self-produced there is also the danger that without a manager or label forcing editorial decisions that the path of self-indulgence sometimes opens up. I need not have worried in this case, as the eleven tracks on here feel wisely chosen, well-written and a great showcase to the musical abilities of the band.
This is punchy and lively traditional Metal, with a strong early Thrash sentiment underpinning it instrumentally. Vocally the style is largely clean, but with enough of the Thrashier aggressive vocals mixed in to keep it from sounding retro, so consequently you can absolutely hear the influences, but the overall feel is very fresh and modern. What this translates to is anthemic and energetic songs liberally interspersed with some blistering technical time changes and instrumental interludes which show off the skill without being self-indulgent. OK, maybe they do a bit with the album’s closer (the brilliantly named 2000 AD comic tribute) ‘Judge Shredd’, as when you are treading the same lyrical path as one of Thrash’s Big Four, you need to differentiate. Which they admirably do, with several minutes of pile driving blistering shredding and playing that’s tighter than a possum’s bum hole and then counterbalanced by a more melodic and gentle few bars to counterpoint it and close it. It’s a great bit of playing and that’s probably the weakest track on the album!
I really can’t fault the rest of the record and its infectious energy has slowed down my writing, as I’ve been loath to stop listening and move on to what’s next in the pile. That tells me this is an act that I’m going to enjoy listening to for a while longer and therefore one that’s got legs. I’m normally slightly more generous on my scores with new bands, as I cut a little slack first time out, but in this case the score is fully deserved and if I could have gone up to eleven I would have. Because that’s what the band have delivered.
01. War Prelude
02. Air Raid
03. Bang Your Head
04. Night Town
05. Dime A Dozen
06. The Battle
07. Fragile Denial
09. The Art Of Self-Destruction
10. Judge Shredd
Steven (FluFFy) Falkingham – Vocals
Rob (Rockit) Georgievski – Rhythm Guitar
John (JP) Price – Drums
Matt (Matty) Lentile – Bass Guitar
Dylan (Dylzy) Reeves – Lead Guitar
Dr. Mike Trubetskov – Keyboards
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