The passing of time brings longer shadows and darker thoughts to the human mind. Melancholy’s cry is never far from our ears, even in the happiest of times. But while there is no true answer to the meaning of our brief lives, music will always be a reliable and trustworthy companion through fear and uncertainty. Perhaps more than any other contemporary band, Katatonia have long displayed a masterful propensity for expressing the tears and torments of mortality, offering sumptuous glimmers of sonic hope to soothe our troubled souls. In 2016, Stockholm’s widely celebrated soldiers of sorrow will once again stir the blood and embolden our hearts with a brand new album that promises to further cement their already unassailable reputation.
The band’s story began in earnest 25 years ago when Jonas Renkse and Anders Nyström first joined forces to explore the limitless possibilities of the then burgeoning doom and death metal scenes. Bands like Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride were standard bearers for British melancholy, but Peaceville label mates Katatonia swiftly established themselves as Sweden’s idiosyncratic equivalent, releasing their debut album, Dance Of December Souls at the end of 1993 and receiving immediate acclaim within the metal underground. With a sound that was both familiar and startlingly fresh, Katatonia’s early works exhibited plenty of the elegance and subtlety that would later typify the band’s work: 1996’s Brave Murder Day (featuring harsh vocals by Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt) proved a major milestone, eliciting rave reviews and taking its creators away from the doom mainstream and into unique, uncharted territory. 1998’s Discouraged Ones reaffirmed the Swedes’ blossoming mastery of dark metallic wonder; their steadily increasing fascination with the vivid hues of progressive rock and other non-metal elements enabling their sound to evolve exponentially with each successive creative splurge. The impact of Tonight’s Decision (1999) and Last Fair Deal Gone Down (2001) was equally undeniable. These were records that brimmed with ingenuity, melodic intuition and moments of emotionally devastating dynamism: the sound of Katatonia’s metal roots being allowed to assimilate a richer, more diverse array of influences and textures.
With countless lauded live shows and festival appearances, the band’s status as one of heavy music’s most revered acts was etched in stone by the time the 21st century truly kicked into gear. 2003’s Viva Emptiness and 2006’s The Great Cold Distance were , as Renkse and Nyström further refined their mercurial songwriting talents. As the notion of progressive music began to exert its allure over open-minded music fans to a degree that it manifestly hadn’t since the early 70s, Katatonia were perfectly positioned to benefit. As their audience and appeal broadened, they began to make ever more adventurous and absorbing music, hitting a dizzying peak with 2009’s Night Is The New Day, an album widely hailed as a masterpiece. Continuing on that triumphant path and maintaining that rich vein of form, both 2012’s Dead End Kings and its delicate, re-imagined counterpart Dethroned & Uncrowned a year later inspired praise and plaudits galore. Whether dismantling and reconstructing their metal roots or diving into more ethereal sonic waters, Katatonia have been on a creative roll for more than two decades. Fast-forward to 2016 and the band are poised to release what may well prove to be their most affecting and powerful album to date. The Fall Of Hearts is Katatonia’s tenth studio album; a remarkable achievement in itself, but the sheer quality and consistency of the band’s music remains their most striking trait.
“First of all we’re proud to even have accomplished a tenth album,” says Nyström. “With that now in the bag, we’re pleased to see where it has taken us musically. We knew we had to come up with a great follow-up to Dead End Kings as we never considered Dethroned & Uncrowned to be our last album, but nevertheless that album also played a leading role in where we could potentially take our sound. The objective was to confidently deliver the best album we could within the current allowance of our musical and creative abilities.”
“As always, it is both a struggle and a pleasure to write music when you have set your own high standards,” adds Renkse. “This album was no exception. Our aim is always to break free of whatever norms there are, if ever so slightly. We focus a lot on details once we have the big picture mapped out, and it’s always a great journey to get there. This album needed to be more adventurous, I think, and that became our pole star.”
One listen to the sprawling majesty of “Takeover“, The Fall Of Hearts’ extraordinary opening track, will confirm that Katatonia have both further refined their unmistakable sound and obliterated many more musical barriers on their latest and perhaps greatest album to date. From driving, muscular and artfully metallic anthems like Serein and Sanction through to the mesmerizing vulnerability and elegance of more restrained fare like Decima and The Night Subscriber, The Fall Of Hearts demonstrates how far Katatonia have come since their earliest attempts to harness the melancholic potential of heavy music. It also proves that the band have grown in stature and skill as the decades have melted away.
“We were 17 years old when we wrote the songs for Dance Of December Souls,” Renkse notes. “But I think we still keep the same kind of foundation on which our music is built, a strong will to create something emotionally unique. We just do it differently these days. We definitely have our roots in metal, so I would say we are still a metal band, but perhaps one of the more diverse ones.”
“Coincidentally, there’s a little guitar melody that was written and first introduced on Dance Of December Souls that was subconsciously lifted for a piano theme on the new album,” Nyström states. “But you have to look far and deep if you seek to find other parallels and connections. Our musical signals and language have changed considerably from 1993 to 2016, but I can still sense a common message in the atmosphere sustaining since day one. Maybe you could call us a progressive metal band with a deep passion for non-metal music? It’s easy to reach all the branches in the tree and let them sway when you have a firm root to climb.”
Now adored by fans from across the musical spectrum, from diehard metalheads to dedicated proggers and far beyond, Katatonia arrive at their latest milestone in the rudest of health and with collective spirits ablaze with the opportunities that music continues to present. The Fall Of Hearts is an immersive and frequently disarming journey through the bleakest of metaphysical winters, but your guides through the fog have just enough hope in their hearts to ensure that the experience is both hugely enriching and quite unlike anything else the world has to offer. Mankind’s inevitable demise may be looming ahead, but Katatonia continue to wring life-giving drops of hope from the fabric of our collective downfall. Long may their kaleidoscopic vision of sorrow bring solace to us all.
“The future is one step closer to the decline of everything we know,” Nyström concludes. “We wander the twilight like everyone else in slow decay. An end is forever certain, so don’t take Katatonia for granted. Enjoy the time left, like we do.”
City Burials / 2020
City Burials is the eleventh studio album by Swedish metal band Katatonia. The album continues the progressive rock direction used in recent albums while returning to some of their earlier metal instrumentation. Three singles were released in promotion of the album; “Lacquer“, “Behind the Blood“, and “The Winter of Our Passing“.
The album is their first in four years, since their 2016 album The Fall of Hearts, after entering a one-year hiatus in 2018. The band cited Öjersson being hospitalized by a serious back injury at the end of 2017, and a number of other undisclosed issues, for the band needing to take some time off and “re-evaluate what the future holds for the band.” In February 2019, the band announced their return, and a year later, they announced City Burials and released its first single “Lacquer”.
Talking about the hiatus in an interview, vocalist Jonas Renkse explained: “We felt that we needed to recharge and get some perspective. Basically we did a lot of touring from previous albums and by the end of that, the last few gigs, I think we all felt that we were pretty sick of being away from home for such a long time. There were a lot of different reasons for doing this, but in the end, taking a few steps back to evaluate what you want to do next and have some time off is very healthy.”
The Fall of Hearts / 2016
The Fall of Hearts is the tenth studio album by Swedish metal band Katatonia.
It was released on May 20, 2016. The album, mostly written and produced by founding members Jonas Renkse and Anders Nyström, was the first to also feature new members Daniel Moilanen and Roger Öjersson. The album moved in a more progressive rock direction than prior albums, and was generally well received by critics. Two singles were released in promotion of the album, “Old Heart Falls“, and “Serein“.
The album is their first in four years, after their 2012 album Dead End Kings. In between albums, the band went through two lineup changes, making the album their first to feature new drummer, Daniel Moilanen and new guitarist, Roger Öjersson. Moilanen replaced the band’s prior drummer of fifteen years Daniel Liljekvist, who left in 2014 to focus on family and pursue a more conventional career outside of music. The band mutually decided to part ways with guitarist Per Erikkson, prior guitarist of four years, in 2014 as well; his move to Barcelona complicated the band’s recording and touring schedule.
Despite lineup changes, the album was still primarily written by founding members Jonas Renkse and Anders Nyström. The two wrote in isolation from one another, only sharing what they felt were their better ideas, and then presenting the ideas they both agreed upon to the rest of the band members if they felt it was good enough to build an entire song around. Renkse stated that no boundaries were put on ideas for arranging the album, leading them to be more adventurous in the creation process, actively trying to break away from the formula of their prior few albums. The band didn’t desire to “reinvent the wheel, but rather, “break out a little bit from that old frame and do something a little bit different.
The inclusion of the technically proficient guitar playing of Öjersson led to the inclusion of more guitar solos on the album, while Moilanen’s style of drumming moved the album’s sound further into progressive territory. The album had actually been completely recorded prior to Ojerson joining the band, but the band went back and added his guitar solo’s over the finished work, wanting him to be able to “leave his mark” on the album. Conversely, Moilanen had joined earlier, and had a larger role in shaping the album’s content, with Renkse and Nystrom frequently discussing ideas with him.
Separately, the success of Dethroned and Uncrowned, the band’s acoustic/ambient reworking of their prior album, Dead End Kings, lead the band to feel more comfortable with adding more diverse elements to the album as well.
Sessions went through defined writing, pre-production, demoing, and final recording phases, though members were free to move back through the phases if inspiration or new ideas developed. Songs were often changed throughout the process, with Nystrom noting that many demos were vastly different from final studio recordings. Renkse and Nystrom chose to self-produce the album, preferring their own freedom in the creation process, and out of concern that the potential creative or financial issues of bringing in an outside producer would potentially not be a fit with the band.
The album’s overall sound has been described by journalists as progressive rock, with various other influences. Loudwire noted the similarity of the track “Serein” to 1980’s new wave music such as The Cure, due to its “gentle strumming and a soft lead… Jonas Renkse’s soothing, multi-tracked voice… a slightly uptempo rhythm […] uplifting and pop-inflected […] gorgeous, understated lead work textures.” Billboard described “Pale Flag” as having a folk ballad sound. The album’s title, The Fall of Hearts, doesn’t have any specific meaning but was rather a phrase created by Renkse that he felt best described the overall sound and lyrics of the album.
Dead End Kings / 2012
Dead End Kings is Katatonia’s ninth full-length album.
It was released on August 27, 2012, in Europe and August 28 in the U.S.through Peaceville Records. Like all Katatonia releases, the album was written primarily by founding members Jonas Renkse and Anders Nyström. The band went through a number of lineup changes, making the album the first to feature bassist Niklas Sandin, the only album to feature second guitarist Per Ericksson, and the last to feature drummer Daniel Liljekvist.
The song “The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here” is not literally about not being able to find a person, but about telling a person their preconceived notions about themselves were incorrect – that such a person does not exist. Multiple tracks, including “Buildings“, allude to abandoned city scenes, which were inspired by Renkse’s and Nystrom’s visiting of abandoned train tunnels and hospitals in abandoned villages in Sweden. The album is not politically-themed in the conventional sense of promoting ideologies or presenting solutions, but rather contemplates and laments the poor state of the world due to modern politics in general.
Journalists have noted a similarity in sound to the work of American progressive metal band Tool, a comparison Renkse refers to as accidental but flattering.
The album was generally well received by critics. AllMusic praised the diverse and layered sound production on the album, concluding that “With its various parts, ever-shifting dynamics, and blazing instrumental interludes, it sends the set off with a nearly majestic bang. Dead End Kings is uncompromising in its musical excellence, bleak vision, and dark, hunted beauty; it extends Katatonia’s reach exponentially. Kyle Ward, staff reviewer from Sputnik Music, strongly praised the album for being the perfect culmination of everything the band had strived to become after moving away from their original death metal sound in the late 1990s, citing the albums high production values, layered sound and “emotional sincerity” for the album being a “massive success”.
Night Is The New Day / 2009
Night Is the New Day is Katatonia’s eighth full-length album.
It was released November 9, 2009, in Europe and November 10, 2009, in North America through Peaceville Records. Thirteen tracks were recorded, eleven of which made it onto the record. The band describes the material as “Our most varied, diverse and possibly strongest shit all together on one and the same album”.“Idle Blood” had the working title “Kozelek”, named after Mark Kozelek, a member of Red House Painters, which is one Katatonia’s influences. This is the last Katatonia release with the Norrman brothers.
Night Is the New Day sold more than 2,000 copies in the United States in its first week of release. “Day and Then the Shade” was the first single, released in late 2009. The promotional video for this song was directed by Lasse Hoile.
Night Is the New Day shows Katatonia expanding their music palette. The album shows a slightly more progressive sound than The Great Cold Distance, yet retains the heaviness and morose atmosphere, with electronics and synths playing an important role. The big, heavy parts are interspersed with quiet, somber electronics, and acoustic guitars. Each song transforms frequently, changing tempo, intensity and texture. “Forsaker” starts aggressively but soon the down-tuned metal chords shift to chiming darkwave strains. “The Longest Year” intertwines synth and metal passages, while the acoustic style of “Idle Blood” is comparable to Opeth and Porcupine Tree. “Nephilim” brings together a dissonant minor-chord chorus with a plodding beat and an oppressive atmosphere. The single “Day and Then the Shade” is both brooding and heavy, as well as atmospheric and progressive.
The Great Cold Distance / 2006
The Great Cold Distance is the seventh full-length album by Swedish metal band Katatonia, released on March 13, 2006. The album was recorded and mixed at Fascination Street Studios, Örebro between May and August 2005.
The album was re-released on March 12, 2007 with two bonus tracks and with the entire album in 5.1 surround sound.
There is also a special Swedish edition of the album, which came in a limited edition box with an exclusive Katatonia poster, set of Katatonia postcards and an enhanced video of “My Twin“. Music videos were also released for singles “Deliberation” and “July“.
Viva Emptiness / 2003
Viva Emptiness is the sixth full-length album by Katatonia, released in 2003 by Peaceville Records. On the album’s tenth anniversary in 2013, it was re-released, featuring a new mix, mastering, and additional keyboard arrangements.
Viva Emptiness was released on April 29, 2003. The album was re-released in 2013. The re-release features new keyboard arrangements and was completely remixed and remastered by David Castillo, as the band wasn’t satisfied with the overall sound and production of the original release. The track “Inside the City of Glass” features vocals and lyrics on this edition, compared to the instrumental version included in the original release.
Its main subjects are loneliness, social relations, crime, lying and depression. Viva Emptiness incorporates more of a rock style, with a strong but melodic doom metal sound influenced by progressive and alternative metal. The album was re-released in 2013, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the album.
The song “Wait Outside” was recorded during the album sessions, but was not released until 2005 on The Black Sessions. It was also included in the 10th anniversary edition of the album.
Last Fair Deal Gone Down / 2001
Last Fair Deal Gone Down is the fifth studio album by Swedish band Katatonia, released in 2001 by Peaceville Records. The release was the first of a series of four albums done by the band with a stable line up of Jonas Renkse, Anders Nyström, Fredrik Norrman, Mattias Norrman, and Daniel Liljekvist, after years of lineup and role changes with prior albums.
After forming in the early 1990s, the band started off by released two albums of death/doom metal music with screamed vocals, Dance of December Souls and Brave Murder Day. Strains and health issues with Jonas Renkse’s vocal cords, coupled with a desire to branch out musically and creatively, lead the band to abandon the genre and pursue more melodic metal music with clean vocals, releasing two more albums, Discouraged Ones and Tonight’s Decision. The band, happy with the progress, sought out to create a more diverse and intricate work. With prior sessions being plagued by lineup changes, the band first sought to solidify their lineup. The band hired Daniel Liljekvist, as a new drummer, a role previously filled by Renkse and session musician Dan Swanö. This allowed Renkse to focus fully on vocals and lyrics. Additionally, bass guitar, which has been covered by guitarist Frederick Norrman in the prior album, and a number of other musicians prior, was now filled by Frederick’s brother, Mattias Norrman, allowing Fredrik to focus entirely only being the second guitarist. This setup allowed the band to solidify the lineup for the albums recording, and subsequent three albums.
Writing for the album started shortly after the release of their prior album, Tonight’s Decision, in 1999. Similar to their other albums, most writing was done by band founders Renkse and Anders Nyström; Renkse would write lyrics while Nyström would write the music. Concentrated writing sessions lasted between six and seven months, though many rough song ideas had been written by Renkse intermittently over the years. The band was prone to bouts of writer’s block, so Renkse would make a habit of constantly writing down and compiling rough ideas for songs to be revisited them to revisit them to flesh them out during dedicated writing sessions.
Recording took place intermittently between April and December 2000 at Sunlight Studios. Financial issues forced the band into recording it in spurts, throughout this time. The sessions were stressful, with band members frustrated that their financial limitations often lead to forced breaks when they desired to continue working on the album. Additionally, the increased downtime lead to worrying and dwelling over little details of what they had accomplished in their time in the studio. The reflecting lead to many parts being edited, redone, or omitted from the final version of the album, Renkse felt was stressful at the time, but ultimately lead to an album that more accurately reflected their desired sound.
The album found the band moving farther away from their metal roots. Renkse stated that the music was still rooted in metal in a vague sense, but that the band had moved away from the sound in favor of something that “their parents would listen to”, with more of a mature sound. Feeling that prior albums, especially Discouraged Ones had too many songs that sounded too similar to one another, Renkse stated that the band aimed to have to have each song have a stronger individuality as its “own chapter or sound”. American progressive metal band Tool and its album Aenima was a strong influence on the album. William York of AllMusic described the album’s sound as “depressing, heavy alternative rock with a notable Cure influence” but that “Katatonia is not really playing metal anymore here”. The album features entirely clean vocals of Renkse, frequently overdubbed, along with thick distorted guitar parts and hard-hitting drum sound. The track “We Will Bury You” contains electronic elements replacing the drum parts. This was initially done because Liljekvist was living out of the city at the time of the city, and had already left when Nystrom had finished writing it. Due to the limited time in the studio, and generally short length of the track, a drum machine was used to replicate the sound, something the band felt helped contribute to the album’s diversity without completely changing the band’s sound.
Lyrically, Renkse described them as “intensely personal” and about his own problems in life. He tried to combine the lyrics and vocals to give a sense of desperation he felt over his troubles. Overtime, he felt the personal lyrics may become overwhelming for both himself and the listener, and decided to write a few songs based around fiction instead. “We Will Bury You” was about a newspaper article he had read about people committing an accidental murder, and the fear and regret he imagined they felt in taking care of the body. “Sweet Nurse” was another entirely fictional account.
Tonight's Decision / 1999
Tonight’s Decision is the fourth full-length album by Katatonia, released in 1999 by Peaceville Records. The album was reissued in 2003 with two bonus tracks.
Discouraged Ones / 1998
Discouraged Ones (stylized discøuraged ønes) is the third full-length album by Katatonia.
The album was released on April 27, 1998. This is the last Katatonia release with Mikael Oretoft. It is also their last release with Jonas Renkse on drums; on future releases, he would focus on being the band’s lead vocalist and contributing additional guitar work. According to Renkse, Discouraged Ones had sold roughly 20,000 copies as of 2001.
Brave Murder Day / 1996
Brave Murder Day is Katatonia’s second full-length album, released in 1996 by Avantgarde Music.
This album created a new guitar position with Fredrik Norrman‘s input, and features harsh vocals by Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth. It is also the last Katatonia LP to feature any death growls and other death metal elements.
The original version of the record was not mastered, but the 2006 Peaceville Records re-release finally released a mastered version of the album and included the Sounds of Decay EP as bonus tracks. The remastered edition also includes new liner notes by Anders Nyström. The previous Century Black reissue of the album included the four tracks from the band’s For Funerals to Come EP. A vinyl released was issued through the band’s Northern Silence Productions.
Dance of December Souls / 1993
Dance of December Souls is the first full-length album by Katatonia.
The album was released on CD in 1993 by No Fashion Records and LP by Helion Records, released in the USA in 1999 by Century Black. In 2004, record label Black Lodge reissued the album with all new artwork, but the band has stated on its website that it does not support this release for personal reasons. In 2007, the album was reissued, this time under Peaceville UK with a blue version of the original cover and all five songs from the Jhva Elohim Meth… The Revival EP appended as bonus tracks. In 2010, Svart Records released a double vinyl version, which also included all songs from the EP.
This album is the first release with Guillaume Le Huche as the bassist; prior to it, Anders Nyström had been contributing all guitar and bass guitar.
This album displays a primarily death/doom sound.
REVIEWS AND INTERVIEWS
The album starts with the first track “takeover” which reminds me to the glorious “The Great Cold Distance” time. A soft vocal upon an aggressive drum and guitar, which becomeFebruary 11, 2018 by Tero Tolkki