Katatonia – Dethroned and Uncrowned

Katatonia are, unquestionably, one of the most important bands in the scene, with an illustrious career in which they’ve progressed from Doom/Death Metal through Melancholic Doom, even touching on Nu-Metal in parts of their later albums. I have been a longstanding fan ever since I bought my first (and still favorite) album, “Tonight’s Decision“, over a decade ago. To say I’ve been a little unimpressed with the last few albums would be a bit of an understatement, so you can imagine my dismay when I found out that this new album was going to be a re-imagining of their last album “Dead End Kings”.

Well, reader, they’ve gone and pulled it out of the bag, haven’t they? On first listen it was almost impossible for me to believe that these were the same songs that I felt no connection with not that long ago. It’s like everything has just fallen into place; I think that, deep down, the band probably realised that this was the way that they wanted the first attempt to sound like. You will find no metal here, as this album is even sparser than Opeth‘s “Damnation”; there are no drums, the guitars are distorted on very few occasions and even then they are, they’re only distorted lightly to make a section of a lead stand out. Katatonia have opted to replace the distorted guitars with big synth-string sections and acoustic guitars and, if you’ll pardon my language, it’s fucking fantastic. The production is airy, sweet and great for the aimless floating feeling you’ve no doubt experienced if you’ve ever listened to this band before. The song structures make so much more sense in this format and the lyrics even seem completely different, although they remain faithful, as the whole album comes together. It just works that much better likes this.

Katatonia have always been masters of a very specific type of atmosphere which they’ve held on to throughout ninety percent of their career, erring only slightly with the more listener-friendly later albums. It would be a gross misrepresentation to call that atmosphere ‘misery’; unlike other bands, My Dying Bride for example, they have always managed to keep their soundsimply ‘sad’. Imagine the difference between sitting in a dark room clutching your favourite Lord Byron book, and looking out of a train window on a long, rainy journey reflecting on the mistakes you’ve made in your life. That is what sets Katatonia apart from the others and THAT is exactly the effect I have always gotten from listening to them; this feeling and sound is so refined in “Dethroned and Uncrowned” that it’s almost perfect. If only they’d decided to revisit a different album!

The formula that Katatonia attained here works so well that it would have been a dream come true to see what they would have made of “Tonight’s Decision”, “Viva Emptiness” or even “Dance of December Souls”. But let these dreams take nothing away from this record, it truly is one of the finest things I’ve heard in a very long time and if you are a long time fan I can pretty much promise you that you’ll feel the same way about this record as I do.

You can stop reading now. Go. Listen.

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