Album Review: Katatonia - 'Night is the New Day'

23 December 2009 | 2:14 pm | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

Albums of this magnitude, in terms of execution, composition, and artistic veracity, are few and far between.

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Katatonia has always been somewhat of a black sheep in the ranks of the Swedish death metal scene. Having delivered one of the eponymous records of Swedish death metal in Brave Murder Day, the band’s switch to a cleanly sung style, building on the dirge-like characteristics of groups like My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost, has been a story of great success, but not without some struggle with balancing their influences. Of late, however, the band has been dawdling toward increasing staleness with albums “Viva Emptiness” and “The Great Cold Distance” depending all too much on a proven formula of heavy choruses and cold, bleak verses, not leaving adequate space for guitar maestros Fredrik Norrman and Anders Nystrom to flex their creative muscles.

Jonas Renkse’s clean mid-ranged vocals have always lent themselves to a somewhat depressing experience, and this album is largely no different (though tracks like Day and Then the Shade, the leading single from the new record, show hints of up-beatness that would have previous stood starkly against what the band was all about). Renkse’s voice is spectacularly clear, unfaltering and never ostentatious, but remains the cornerstone of each track, providing a mournful tone around which the rest of the band delicately weave their intricate concerto.

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The track “Idle Blood” shows off . The impeccable composition of fingerpicking, understated drumming and synthesized string section draws immediate comparisons to some of the lighter moments from Katatonia’s bigger, heavier brothers in Opeth, such as ‘Harvest’ or “Credence’. In fact, while the similarities in sound may be relatively few and far between, there are many comparisons to be drawn between this record and the magnum opus that is Blackwater Park, and any record that can be set in such a parallel without seeming vastly inferior is a worthy record indeed.

Keys and other synthetic elements on Night is the New Day are provided by freelance composer Frank Default, and give tracks like ‘The Promise of Deceit” a texture more commonly associated with acts like Massive Attack, Orbital and even Boards of Canada than with the Swedish metal scene. The partnership born from the interplay between the guitars and synth lends itself to an atmosphere that has been lacking in Katatonia’s catalogue, in my opinion, since 2001’s “Last Fair Deal Gone Down”.

Michael Akerfeldt’s shining endorsement of this album as “godly” should be enough to inspire listeners to pick it up and give it a listen. If not, then the high degree of diligence and considered creativity poured into this record and the rare capacity to transcend the boundaries of exclusivity around the Swedish metal scene should make this album a must-have.

1. Forsaker

2. The Longest Year

3. Idle Blood

4. Onward Into Battle

5. Liberation

6. The Promise of Deceit

7. Nephilim

8. New Night

9. Inheritance

10. Day & Then the Shade

11. Departer