This review is being posted on the 15th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington. And with the coming election in America, you’ll see that this album is an extremely timely release.
Also, GO TO MIKE’S EXCELLENT SITE for his contribution to this dual review effort!
And now, let’s look at Derek Kortepeter’s Cataclysm…
Once again I was ecstatic to receive a review copy of a new album from Mr. Kortepeter. And once more, it’s a fascinating trip through a musical landscape that is so varied, yet all controlled, everything in its right place (natch).
Electronics play another huge role, but there are also guitars and drums and, pretty much for the first time, his vocals. They’re a welcome addition. This music could conceivably convey these huge messages, but the vocals just add that extra essential layer. It’s searching, pleading, well aware of the world and wishing, hoping, agitating for change.
In his explanation of the record (which I’ve included, below), Derek worries that grunge is dead and who wants to go down such a negative rabbit hole again? He needn’t have worried, we all need to go there if we are to live with our eyes wide open (and we should). It’s not popular, it’s not comfortable, it’s not easy, but the important things rarely are. It’s easy to go on auto-pilot and let the world go past you, but it’s definitely not recommended to live that way. Wake up, Neo…
He mentions radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, and I can hear the influences in these tunes. Even the Smiths and David Bowie, too. With the good headphones on, this is a floating, rocking, cerebral attack and release of a record. I even (sometimes) get the feel from it that (and I hope I’m not way off here) there’s an 80s sensibility to the music, a la Smiths, Cure, Joy Division, and David Bowie. It ranges from gentle electronics like They Tell Us, through the blast of punk that is For The Fall…
Quite simply, Wow, what a record! If I had to sum it up into one word, taking into consideration all of the elements and politics and messages here, I would say ‘bravery.’ Not bravery for doing this to court trouble, I don’t think that’s his mission. And yes, it is surely bravery for putting himself out there with such important messages via such stellar artistry (which he surely is). But most importantly, Derek is following his heart, making the music he wants to make and saying the things he feels need saying, and that’s an essential bravery missing from a lot of music we hear today. This is the real thing, folks.
Get yourself Cataclysm. Thank you, Derek!
I tend to be a person who is always thinking about where my music should go next. I experiment and toy around with different ideas, never really sticking to one genre. One thing I never did was release an album that prominently features my voice. I do all the instruments, composition, production etc. on my records, but until now there has only been one song officially released on a record with my vocals.
Cataclysm needed my voice, because it was my thoughts being spilled into every lyric of every track. I wanted to explore the things that I find are reaching a precipice in this world. In this album I talk about war, surveillance states, government propaganda, loneliness, isolation, dystopia, depression, hopelessness, and the idea that humanity is slowly annihilating itself.
I’m not the first, and certainly will not be the last, to explore topics like this. Bands like Muse, Radiohead, Pennywise, Nine Inch Nails and many others have done it much better than I will ever do. But I do have something to say. You can take this record as a whole, or in parts. Each song can exist separately, but all tie back to umbrella themes.
In making this record I had a lot of different place for inspiration. Stories that affect me like 1984, Metro: 2033, and the Matrix. Music genres like metal, trip-hop, rock, and electronica. Journalists like Glenn Greenwald and Chris Hedges. Thinkers like Noam Chomsky and Dr. Cornel West. Freedom fighters like Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden.
Part of me never wanted to release this album. I didn’t think people would listen, that my voice would put them off or the topics I covered were too heavy. I mean the grunge era that gave birth to sweeping Nihilism in song has largely died off by now. Why would someone want to go into the rabbit hole of despair all over again? Why not stay in a bubble that allows us to think everything is ok?
I don’t blame those people, but I cannot see things this way. I had something to say, something to express and I did. You might hate it, you might love it, but in the end I hope you get where I’m coming from.