|Release Date||25 October 2019|
The time has come for Belgium’s female-fronted symphonic metal outfit Cathubodua to unleash their devastating debut album: Continuum. Featuring folk, symphonic, death, and power metal elements, Continuum wastes no time in displaying its melodic, balls-to-the-wall epic onslaught. After a short instrumental, we’re welcomed with an intense trifecta in ‘Abyss’, ‘Hero of Ages’, and ‘Hydra’ which start the album at its highest point.
It’s hard to pinpoint where Cathubodua’s sound lies because it’s so dynamic and fairly unique, too. At times they show some likeness to Elvenking, and it isn’t a huge similarity, but that’s really the closest comparison I can come up with. Not like any of that concerns me anyway because the sound is sick, the lead is sick, the drums are sick (see: ‘A Treacherous Maze’ and ‘Hero of Ages’), and everything else is, you guessed it, super cool. Numerous interlude tracks act as good transitional pieces, so the album also has a fair amount of fluidity going for it.
One thing (albeit a small thing) that gives Cathubodua an edge on a lot of other symphonic acts is that the operatic vocals are used pretty sparingly as a highlight rather than as the main vocal style. Like rough vocals, I think this more limited approach to operatics works way better than having them at the forefront all the time. It allows for more varied expression and really allows Sara Vanderheyden to attack with every vocal delivery she has, be it aggressive, tranquil, folky, operatic, powerful, or otherwise.
As with most albums, Continuum does have some things keeping it from being perfect. There’s a bit of excess that could be trimmed, namely the track ‘Deified’, which is pretty messy and a huge drop in quality compared to the rest of the album. And then there’s the way in which Cathubodua finish the album, which is with another instrumental. The second-to-last track, ‘Apotheosis’, would have ended the album perfectly, but the ending we get does the same thing ‘Apotheosis’ did but with a quarter of the impact.
But, as I may have hinted at, Continuum has a lion’s share of excellent tracks. My favourite, ‘Hydra’ has one of Vanderheyden‘s best performances on the album, showcasing both her ferocity and beauty, and the overall power from this track is great. There’re also some instrumental breaks that hearken to Elvenking’s ‘King of the Elves’ that are a nice touch. And then there’s ‘A Treacherous Maze’, which has an Eastern flavour, rough vocals, fucking crazy blast beats, killer instrumentals, and so much more going for it. Finally, while ‘Hydra’ is my favourite song, my favourite moment in the whole album is found in ‘Apotheosis’, where the melody from ‘Hero of Ages’ comes back to give you the ultimate, spinetingling goose-bumps experience.
I haven’t even touched on the great riffs or shredding solos, but hear me when I say that Continuum contains some of the best symphonic metal of the entire year. While it’s not without a few flaws, it’s a beast of a debut album (and an album in general). It’d be an understatement to say that I’m excited to see what Cathubodua come up with next, because this immensely talented group have limitless potential.
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