ALBUM: Katatonia -“Dead End Kings”
LABEL: Peaceville Records
GENRE: Depressive Rock/Metal
RATING: 9.5 / 10
This album might be this fall’s most anticipated release. And yes, summer is over. The break coincided with the release date of “Dead End Kings”.
The interest for morose metal/rock purveyors Katatonia has reached an all time high the last few months and nowadays they’re at a point where they can actually live on the music. That’s not a small feat for a band coming out of Sweden, playing (well, almost) metal. There should of course be a few of them, since we have the worlds highest rate of metal bands per capita up here in the Nordics.
When Katatonia debuted in 1993, no one could have guessed that they would sound like this by the last year of Earth, 2012. But ever since the last screamed vocals was heard on the highly praised “The Great Cold Distance” the direction was firmly set. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I, myself, didn’t really care about the band until I read [article] (in Swedish) that the song “Onward Into Battle” was recorded with an insane amount of tracks and wanted to hear the sound of it. That was 18 months ago, and “Night Is The New Day” quickly became one of my favorite albums. I later picked up “The Great Cold Distance”, and even though I never could like it as much as “Night…” I felt that a duo albums this strong is a rare occurrence. And then there were three.
While “The Great Cold Distance” started paving this road, we have now reached a crossroads. If Katatonia continue to make their music of this variant (some say “Opeth meets Tool”), I think the next albums are in danger of becoming stale. “The Great Cold Distance” was a bit rough around the edges. “Night Is The New Day” smoothed said roughnesses out, and “Dead End Kings” is the final concept, and maybe the last Katatonia album we, even with good will, can call metal? For all our sakes I hope that Katatonia can continue to make music like this without losing the soul of it all.
The musicianship is top notch. You wouldn’t expect anything else from these guys. And the atmosphere of the album is amazing, which leads me to conclude that the band are really skilled producers, having produced this album by themselves, with the help of David Castillo, not least known for his work on “Night Is The New Day”. On creating this atmosphere though, you also have to give big praise to Frank Default who is the one credited for the keyboard parts and samples. In an interview with Sodomizer and Jonas Renkse they said that isolating the Frank Default-tracks make the album sound like a movie soundtrack. I do prefer to have guitars, bass and vocals in the mix too though. And, making the album really groove: Daniel Liljekvist on drums. He is doing an outstanding job creating a drive in the songs while not stealing the spotlight. The rhythm on “Dead End Kings” is airy, and sometimes eerie. Further, Silje Wergeland from The Gathering makes an appearance, and the first use of female vocals this band has brought us is tastefully mixed into a whole which is greater than its parts. You could listen to just one song off “Dead End Kings” and appreciate the competent song-writing, performance and mixing, but running through the whole disc is the way to go. Even though the music is labelled “depressive” due to it’s lyrical content I can’t help but smile for having the privilege of listening to something so moving.
“Dead End Kings” is an album I surely will promote to friends who don’t listen to metal, in hopes that it might turn them on the left hand path. A stepping stone towards heavier music perhaps, but there aren’t many albums that are on the same level of quality in any genre. I dare not give it a full 10/10 since it’s still so fresh, but come back to me in ten years and we’ll see. My words don’t do it justice. Just go buy it. I love “Dead End Kings”, and will still do so in every future I can imagine.
Note from the author:
“The Great Cold Distance” would be an 8/10.
“Night Is The New Day” is an 9/10.
Review by: MJ