By Luke Rodgers
Sweden’s favourite doom merchants have spent 20 years perfecting their craft, culminating in the masterpiece that was Night Is The New Day in 2009. On the verge of a breakthrough, much like fellow contemporaries Opeth in 2005 with Ghost Reveries, Dead End Kings could prove to be their most important of releases. Whilst some of the world’s finest bands are destined to simmer below the surface I feel greater things are in store for Katatonia.
On first listen you may be forgiven for thinking this is just another Katatonia album, but Dead End Kings is so much more. There are so many layers, each listen revealing something new. Beginning with the symphonic assault that is ‘The Parting’ the album begins to soar instantly with a battle between the thunderous guitars and the serene beauty of Jonas Renske’s voice. The album continues in a similar vein with ‘The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here’ and ‘Hypone’.
‘The Racing Heart’, one of the standout tracks from the album, moves things into another dimension, providing a rare tender moment. Mixing a pulsing beat with a heart wrenching melody, drifting between tranquillity and the chaotic, shivers begin to travel up and down the spine. The peaceful moments take a backseat as the stormy ‘Buildings’ threatens to bring down the heavens, whilst ‘Leech’ and ‘Ambitious’ seem to replay the fall from grace in slow motion.
The penultimate song ‘Final Prayer’ really takes the album to a whole new level, everything coming together to produce a moment of divine splendour. The guitars create the momentum but it is Renske’s voice that really elevates the song, combined with a haunting harmony, beautiful and other worldly in equal measure. ‘Dead Letter’, the final track and possibly the finest, opens with an Armageddon-inducing riff echoing Tool – crashing to life and then pausing for a breath, the hurricane and the butterfly flapping its wings. If this was the only song that Katatonia had made in the last twenty years then, for me, it was all worth it. This is clearly not the case however.
Night Is The New Day was always going to prove a hard act to follow but Katatonia have made it seem effortless whilst at the same time showing the commitment and dedication it takes to create a work of art of such tortured beauty.