REVIEW: KATATONIA – “City Burials”
Formed in 1991, Katatonia were pioneers in the rising doom, death and black metal movements. As the band progressed, they transitioned into masters of progressive metallic rock. A passage that saw them grow in popularity and push ever more into the spotlight. Which is where they belong. Joyously, on April 24th, the Swedish quintet release their long-awaited follow-up to 2016’s ‘The Fall of Hearts’ with ‘City Burials’, one of their finest efforts to date. An album certain to gratify the converted, while sure to extend Katatonia’s already impressive reach.
At its best,’City Burials’ serves as a coven’s cauldron of fruitful ingredients, resulting in an album that is simply spellbinding. Playing host to a variety of compelling components, ‘City Burials’ delivers right across the spectrum; from emotionally moving, meticulously crafted melodies executed in Katatonia’s unique, melancholic fashion, to moments that touch on reclaiming some of the bands heavier roots. “The Winter Of Our Passing” demonstrates this perfectly. Led by drummer Daniel Moilanen, who gives a magisterial performance throughout, Moilanen playfully switches between a captivating groove and a simple, stripped back, heartbeat bass drum that grounds the listener. Hair raising guitar hooks, courtesy of Anders Nystrom and Roger Ojersson are spread throughout, topped off with a wholly invested and almost tear-inducing performance from vocalist, Jonas Renkse. Whose exquisite vocal and lyrical delivery has several moments of greatness on ‘City Burials’.
Indeed, if ’City Burials’ has many moving parts, the one guaranteed to capture hearts and minds alike is Jonas Renkse. “Heart Set To Divide,” with its atmospheric, soft vocal harmonies, both somber and extreme, is a healthy reminder that Renkse is one the finest writers in metal. His talent evident even on weaker tracks such as “Behind The Blood.” Which features more traditional riffing and soloing that, unfortunately, doesn’t hold up as well with other progressive elements. Such as the beautiful, dark duet ballad “Vanishers,” featuring guest vocals Anni Bernhard of Stockholm rockers, Full of Keys. And the memorable “Flicker,” whose guitar octaves lend an irresistible texture to the overall instrumentation.
There is a tendency among some to insist that metal should follow a restrictive, stale, and often safe criteria to qualify as extreme. ‘City Burials’ defies this, and the result is an enormously powerful, vividly emotional and profoundly moving album. One marking a significant chapter in the Katatonia legacy. An album that challenges the false notion that extreme music speaks only to extreme people. “City Burials’ is bigger, bolder, and braver than that. Revealing that there are many more shades and colors to darkness than just black.