Review – Katalyst – Death By Design
It's probably safe to say everyone knows what a catalyst is, but to really be safe, let's consult Merriam-Webster:
catalyst: an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action
Replace the "c" with a "K" and we are presented with a 22 year-old man from the Chi with an incredible zeal for making Christ known through music. As you likely ascertained from the album art, Katalyst's Death by Design is a somber, earnest, and thoughtful debut offering. Death by Design primarily centers on two themes: the death of Christ and consequently, the exhortation to his followers to die daily to themselves and the world in order to follow him faithfully.
Admittedly, this is quite an ambitious and weighty overarching theme for a debut album. Thankfully, Katalyst proves himself capable on mic and his zeal for Christ and producing disciples is downright infectious.
While capable of holding his own, Katalyst rounds up some impressive guest spots including UK's finest, Dwayne Tryumf and Reach Records' Lecrae, though lesser known artists like Mimik and Decipha make some big contributions as well. Even more crucial to the album is the stellar group of producers who contributed to the project including Alex Medina, K-Drama, EMJ, G-Styles, and Tony Stone.
Backed by some stellar, diverse production, Death by Design is not only a success in regard to its dense Christ-centered content but also in its execution.
The album begins with “According to Plan,” a stirring excerpt from a John Piper sermon which paves the way for Katalyst to set the table for the album with the title track, "Death By Design," an anthem that will smash the incorrect assumptions of lukewarm Christians, correct false teaching, and reveal the gospel of Christ in an in-your-face passionate way. I love this track simply because it declares to the glory of God’s redemptive plan in Christ while encouraging listeners to die daily in order to follow Christ.
"U Kiddin' Me" is one of several heavy street joints. On this song, Katalyst teams up with Mimik to correct false doctrines and beliefs within the church and the hood. These brothers demonstrate some palpable chemistry and I hope this is just one of many tracks they bless in the future.
Another hard-hitting track is "I Got Proof" featuring Lecrae. Producer Alex Medina skillfully flips a vintage line from Da T.R.U.T.H., crafting a hype anthem for Katalyst and Lecrae to get their Jude 3 on, that is, contending for the faith. This is the type of track that'll make you wanna run through a wall to preach Christ.
While Death by Design has its fair share of bangers, Katalyst wisely employs a significant amount of melodic and soulful tracks as well. Featuring a set of smooth synths and faint keys, "Preach Christ" sports the unique blend of autotune and a reggae-influenced hook. The combo works surprisingly well as Katalyst comes hard, spitting some moving gospel-centered sixteens on the sufficiency of proclaiming Christ alone.
Additional noteworthy tracks also include the uptempo number "Come Back Home," the stirring autotune ballad "Find A Way" and the Christ-exalting anthem "Satisfied".
While the good certainly outweighs the bad/mediocre, Death by Design is not without flaws or blemish; at times, Katalyst is merely average and some beats and hooks, though well intended, fall flat (“I’m Saved” features the same dope sample as theBreax’s “For What” but is horribly flipped).
Still, I think many would agree that most albums, particularly debuts, lack direction and vision. Death by Design is not one of those albums. Katalyst’s debut is impressively cohesive and weighty as it oscillates between thick, grimy, street joints and soulful, uptempo counterparts.
Content-wise, Katalyst’s passion and truth may be uncomfortable for listeners to deal with. This is the good type of uncomfortable, the kind that speaks truth, convicts, and corrects in the hopes of producing repentance in Christ. Many listeners will enjoy this particular facet of Katalyst’s truth-speaking, some will probably dislike certain doctrinal stances (ex. election) the young artist affirms. Thankfully, the album isn’t 17 tracks of Katalyst exalting doctrine, it’s 17 tracks of Katalyst exalting Jesus through proper teaching.
The album closes in an appropriate way with an poignant and convicting excerpt from preacher Paul Washer’s “Shocking Message” (YouTube it, folks) giving listeners a convicting challenge to submit fully to Christ. It’s totally fitting that the last sounds from Death by Design are ones that force you to examine who you are in relation to Jesus and call you to submit to him.
Death by Design may take a few listens to fully grow on you, but this album has a lot to offer to the spiritual-carnivores, the spiritual-milk drinkers, and the non-churched as well.
Release Date: March 24 2009
1. According To Plan
2. Death By Design
3. Thinkin Bout
4. I Need the Truth
5. U Kiddin Me feat Mimik
6. Come Back Home feat EMJ and Decipha
8. Preach Christ feat Tyrone Andrews
10. Meaning of Death
11. Die If I Have To feat Paul Washington
12. Find A Way feat EMJ and Dwayne Tryumf
13. Ready To Die
14. I Got Proof feat Lecrae
16. I'm Saved/not Saved
17. I'm Talking About You