Winding down the UK/Ireland leg of their Fallen Hearts 2017 tour, Swedish giants Katatonia arrived in Dublin on May 14th, to play within the intimate setting of The Academy. And Katatonia were determined to end this leg of their tour on a high note. Since their latest album, ‘The Fall of Hearts’ was released in May 2016, the band have been supporting it on the road for a solid year, and have not yet determined when they will stop with further European dates to follow. Speaking to Metal Wani before the show, frontman and vocalist Jonas Renkse said that; “This record still feels fresh to us…we haven’t begun to plan what’s next yet.”
The night began as it intended to end, on a solid high, with no better choice of opening act than fellow Swede’s, The Great Discord. Vocalist Fia Kempe refreshingly skipped formalities, with no political posturing, not even greeting, thanking or introducing the crowd to a single song for the duration of their set. Instead, they opted to just let the songs do the work. There was no arrogance here, for throughout, Kempe‘s undivided attention was focused on the crowd, with the band using what little time they had to impress. Had the headliners not been the mighty act they are, The Great Discord could potentially have stolen the show, as Kempe‘s command and presence, along with a phenomenally tight band, owned the room. Despite the restrictions of the venue, Kempe made it all feel grander than it actually was. A memorable image, too, as a “Dani Filth meets Blix the Witch” from Legend is firmly branded into your mind. As the short set finally came home, the crowd were growing, clapping and dancing with the guitarist who jumped epically from the stage and into the crowd, giving it his all. If they hadn’t been before, The Great Discord proved they are certainly ones to be placed high on the ones to watch list.
If The Great Discord were a positive sign of things to come, Ghost Bath didn’t get the memo. Technically good with some interesting arrangements, the audience were left with little more than that. If their predecessor’s lack of formalities was a refreshing if risky take, Ghost Bath‘s silence between songs was merely awkward and unwarranted. Some attendees on the night began to speculate as to whether there had been a “no talking” rule imposed on the support acts. As their set continued Ghost Bath failed to build audience momentum and, in truth, would not have been missed had they not been on the bill. On balance, the support act order really should have been reversed.
Once Katatonia’s silhouetted band of brothers finally took to the stage, the audience erupted. In semi darkness on a dim lit stage, the members stood with their backs to the crowd, facing drummer Daniel Moilanen. As they charged into their first song, it could not have been more clear that fans were already well on board with their new material. “The Last Song before the Fade” went down a treat, with the entire set following suit. Weaving between songs old and new, the uplifting “Serein” married with “Dead Letters” and the always enjoyable (and in this instance, unforgettable) “Teargas,” cemented itself as a standout performance of the night.
While also letting the songs do the heavy work, Renkse consistently engaged with the crowd, to which a collective response in the form of merry, and many, roars was returned each time. Fans old and new heard all, and more, than they could have asked for. “Evidence”, “Ghost of the Sun” and “Residual” slotted neatly next to one another, as if they were the correct pieces to a puzzle fitting perfectly together. With each new track, even some of the evening’s more passive moments, including another standout moment in “Old Hearts Fall”, the multi-generation spanning audience lost themselves in the experience. Guitarists Anders Nystrom and Roger Ojersson shared solos respectively, with bassist Niklas Sandin locking in tight with drummer Moilanen whom was nothing short of a monster player on the night, shining in “Into the White”, “Leader”, and Passer”. Surprise encore tracks “My Twin,” “Lethean,” and “July” saw the evening through to its final moments. Linked shoulders, bowing to the crowd, Katatonia delivered, music, lyrics, and the moments, never letting up for a second.
If the music of Katatonia is informed by introspection, then their live shows are the expressed clarity resulting from this self-reflection. While their performance retains much of the same gloomy, moody atmosphere found in their music, there is also a very strong sense of celebration and enjoyment, felt amongst fans and the band alike. And it’s infectious. Twenty-five years in the making, Katatonia are still going strong, producing great music and putting on a show that proves they are still kicking, still kings and still, well, Katatonia!