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Cathubodua - Interbellum review


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Band: Cathubodua
Album: Interbellum
Style: Symphonic metal
Release date: February 2024

01. Effigy Of Aftermath
02. Foretelling
03. Will Unbroken
04. Amidst Gods
05. The Mirror
06. Goddess Fallacy

All things considered, 2023 wasn’t the most remarkable year for symphonic metal. However, in February 2024, an album has already come along that rivals much of what the previous year had to offer.

The album in question is Interbellum, which comes courtesy of Belgian sextet Cathubodua. Named after a Gaulish battle goddess (whose name translates to ‘battle-crow’), the group follow in the vein of many symphonic metal acts in adding those orchestrations to a metallic base derived from power metal, but Cathubodua, in keeping with their etymological origin, also infuse a healthy dose of folk music into their sound, with the violin playing a pivotal role in their music (doubtless due to having been founded by a violinist). 2019’s debut album Continuum was a hefty hour-long slab, but with half the runtime and fewer than half the songs, sophomore release Interbellum is a taut and effervescent affair.

As far as the symphonics in Cathubodua’s music are concerned, Arvid Vermote’s violin does take a leading role in the mix, but there are additional choirs and orchestrations filling the background of each track, orchestrations that are arranged by vocalist Sara Vanderheyden. Vanderheyden also occasionally pushes into operatic soprano territory, although her primary delivery is a powerful approach in a mid-to-high register; she also pulls out some proficient growls in rare but pivotal moments (there’s also a healthy amount of blast beats scattered throughout the record to match that intensity). Even beyond the use of non-metal instrumentation, however, there are classical influences in the band’s composition; for example, the first guitar part in opening song “Effigy Of Aftermath” is very neoclassical metal.

On the metal side, Interbellum does linger closest to power metal out of any genre; a song such as “Effigy Of Aftermath” surges with a blistering energy. Nevertheless, Cathubodua are by no means one-dimensional, as “Foretelling” slows things down and focuses on the stirring folk melodies carried by the violin. They also exhibit some progressive tendencies, most clearly on 8-minute closer “Goddess Fallacy”, which sprawls off in its second half with an extended instrumental-only passage featuring some delightful neoclassical trade-offs between the guitar, violin and keyboards.

Beyond all these foundational components, what makes Interbellum an impressive record is the strength of its songwriting; pretty much every song here has memorable choruses, stirring instrumental arrangements, and inspiring standout moments. “Will Unbroken” is a particular highlight song for me; there’s a grit to the verses that remind me a bit of a band like Seven Kingdoms when on form, the pre-chorus has a surging importance to it, and the chorus is soaring and triumphant (although admittedly the ‘re-imagining’ of the chorus in its final rendition does lose a bit of its magic for me). I’m also very fond of the aforementioned folksiness of “Foretelling”, but the other peak of the record for me comes on that closing song; the chorus of “Goddess Fallacy” is introduced early on, but retains its potency on each repetition, and the instrumental meanderings in the second half are consistency compelling.

By bringing together symphonic, folk and power metal, and also integrating aspects of more extreme metal (particularly on the part of the rhythm section) to add extra intensity, Cathubodua have found themselves a really effective synthesis of sounds that has firmly won me over; I’m not sure I’ve been this impressed by a new symphonic metal album (or at least one descended from the more melodic metal styles) since Ad Infinitum’s Chapter I: Monarchy in 2020. Not a second is wasted on this half-hour package, which contains more memorable songs and moments than a lot of recent albums in the genre have managed in twice the runtime; if you’re a fan of symphonic metal, this is absolutely one to check out.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 8

Written on 28.02.2024 by Hey chief let's talk why not

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