Catapult the Dead is one of those heavy metal bands that reminds you why its called heavy metal. Their droning, crushing compositions are forces of myth and nature, Hephaestus’s anvil weighing down your body and soul, pinning you to the floor as the guitars roar and bass lines melt in your ears. It’s pulverizing without pummeling you — less an all-out assault than a war of attrition, wearing you out second by second, snare hit by snare hit until you succumb wholly to the sonic oppression.
It’s called doom metal, but it’s really roots metal, hearkening back to the genre’s glorious slow-burn beginnings when Black Sabbath shattered your soul with their plodding, terrifying self-titled song from their debut LP. It’s the heaviness that makes it so daunting. It doesn’t astound with feverish, rageful speed, but rather hypnotizes with impending chaos like the calm before the storm; the silence before the apocalypse.
This all sounds very dark and foreboding, but the Oakland-based band’s debut album All Is Sorrow is more than a sinkhole of despair. Featuring piercing keyboards alongside the wall of guitars, the record, comprised solely of one nearly forty-minute title track, resembles a symphony at times. Full of movements like a classical composition, Catapult the Dead successfully pull off this epic form that, with a band of lesser talent, could have easily descended into obnoxious pretentiousness or listless boredom.
Around the 15-minute mark it dawns on you: You’re captivated by something greater than the looming dread and dirge-like structure. It resembles something like beauty, a peak through the clouds during a hurricane. The band understands that light and darkness are inextricably intertwined, that both the sun and moon inhabit the sky at the same time. Lucifer was a fallen angel, after all, a being that experienced both the unfathomable sublimity of heaven and the deep depravity of hell.
That sums up Catapult the Dead quite nicely — majesty and terror, light and dark, beauty and doom. Set some time aside today for this one.