Katatonia – Dead End Kings

Prejudice is a bitch. It can form our opinion about the people we barely know and see once in a while on the street but when you are Katatonia, one of the most influential bands that ever graced metal – not an exaggeration IMHO, they are maybe not that commercially big but their influence is immeasurable – everyone seems to know everything about you. How should Katatonia sound, where they should go in the future, are they supposed to abandon metal and electric guitars because they were supposed to grow up by now, should they change completely, did their songwriting become formulaic and lifeless…

Those were all opinions that could be read around the release of Katatonia’s 9th full length entitled “Dead End Kings” but what people seems to forget is the most important feature of this band – that Katatonia was never forced into one mold but the music of the band has always reflected the personal life and influences on people in the band, mainly Jonas and Anders. The main idea for creating sorrowful metal was always there but the final outcome shaped depending on the circumstances – when they were angry teenagers they did “Dance of December Souls”, when Jonas could not growl anymore it was time for “Discouraged ones”, their newfound love for indie rock poured all over “Last Fair Deal Gone down”… the examples are numerous and they prove that Katatonia is not the band but rather a living organism, a mirror of souls for its creators.

And what is Katatonia anno 2012? Finally generally accepted force in metal (and not only there) mainstream gaining the accolades they have long ago deserved, and also strongly connected to Opeth and Porcupine Tree, both in friendly and musical way. So what can you therefore expect from “Dead End Kings”? Simply an album that shows that Katatonia has rubbed off some influences from aforementioned bands while continuing the path they have taken with their few previous releases.

So as I have stated, expect to hear one album that continues precisely where its predecessor “Night is the New Day” left off but Katatonia have thrown in some curveballs just to make thing interesting for patient listeners, and I have used the word “patient” very deliberately since “Dead End Kings” is one album that does not carry some straight 3 minute hit songs such as “My Twin” or “Teargas”. Instead, “Dead End Kings” is one whole that tends to open after repeated listening sessions, its atmosphere initially was very cold and gray to me (just listen to those lyrics of “Hypnone”) but after a while I have started to discover characteristic Katatonia textures, such as their trademark “sorrow sings” guitar melodies in f.ex. “The Parting” or absolutely gorgeous “Lethean”.

It should be mentioned that keyboard player now became stable member of the band which resulted in his biggest share in Katatonia’s music, the trend that was present on previous album has fully blossomed on “Dead End Kings” and keys are now playing equal share of melodies as guitars rather than just being background ambience. The moments where Katatonia have ventured the most are “Dead Letters” where the guys go almost full on progressive/Tool, and “The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here”, duet with Silje Wergeland from The Gathering where all the instruments are playing just the basic part and the melodies are carried on great voices of Jonas and Silje.

I also must note the album cover which looks like modernized version of bird from “Brave Murder Day” which serves as nice quote that even though Katatonia moves on, they are not forgetting about their past. So as I have said, this band is growing old but in natural way, their emotions are more subtle and my personal travel with them still stays undisturbed in its core – they still deliver just what I need in proper time. Rare are the bands and the music that I have grown such a connection with.

Tracklist:

1. The Parting (04:52)
2. The One You Are Looking for Is Not Here (03:52)
3. Hypnone (04:07)
4. The Racing Hearts (04:06)
5. Buildings (03:28)
6. Leech (04:23)
7. Ambitions (05:07)
8. Undo You (04:56)
9. Lethean (04:39)
10. First Prayers (04:28)
11. Dead Letters (04:49)

Line-up:

* Anders “Blakkheim” Nyström – bass, keyboards, guitar, programming, vocals (backing)
* Jonas Renkse – drums, vocals (lead), programming, guitars, keyboards
* Daniel Liljekvist – drums, percussion

Guest musicians:
* Silje Wergeland – vocals (track 2)

Originally published on www.metal-sound.com

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