Following on from their superb ‘Night Is The New Day’ album – the point at which former doom-metal merchants Katatonia saw the light and crossed over from the dark side – comes ‘Dead End Kings’, an album so magnificent in its intensity that an immediate second spin is required to make sure you heard it right first time.
The juxtaposition of extraordinary beauty with a form of potent brutality brings to mind the finer aspects of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ though different – both generically and musically.
This is a quantum leap forward for the band, even from NITND, with stronger song structures and, despite its inherent bleakness, an uplifting aura about the whole thing, especially the vocal performance of Jonas Renske.
Eleven tracks here and it’s almost impossible to find a fault. It’s one of those albums where you almost can’t wait for the next track to arrive to see if it’s as good or better than the one being listened to.
Apparently the writing for ‘Dead End Kings’ has been a real band effort and very intense at times with long periods in the studio to get things right.
This is obvious from the very first track ‘The Parting’, sounding very similar to Polish prog giants Riverside (actually a good touchstone for much of the album), with its tumultuous guitar riff and mournful vocal showing the ambition of the band to reach into your very soul.
For me, the highlight in a whole album of highlights, follows. ‘The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here’ where the haunting voice of Silje Wergeland (The Gathering) joins the fray to stunning effect and proves beyond doubt that it is possible to be both metal and beautiful simultaneously.
A track of note is the more muscular ‘Buildings’. With its stop-start metal riffage interspersed with anthemic vocals and synth-filled quiet interludes it, perhaps more than any other track, indicates the progression that Katatonia have made from their roots.
Whilst still embracing the finer aspects of their metal motherlode, the great leap forward occurs where previously the spaces were filled with grinding guitar thrash and double kick-drum buffoonery, they are now filled with soaring synths, plaintive piano or a snatch of acoustic guitar. This, together with the aforementioned vocals and exceptional songwriting, should push the band onwards and upwards toward rock’s top table.
Katatonia have created an absolute gem here. The quiet melancholia hand in hand with occasionally thunderous riffage is a potent mix, a mix that reveals more of its brilliance with every subsequent play.
Doom and gloom have never sounded this good. Ever.
Review by Alan Jones
Alan sequences “The Eclectic Mix” on the third Sunday of every month on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, and usually manages to include some prog.
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Power Plays w/c 14 October (Mon-Fri)
SANGUINE Ignite (Odyssey Music)
GOODBYE JUNE Switchblade Heart (Earache)
SAINTS OF SIN Nasty Love (indie)
SCARLET REBELS Heal (indie)
FLYING COLORS The Loss Inside (Mascot)
KEYWEST C’est La Vie (indie)
Featured Albums w/c 14 October (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 DANGER ZONE Don’t Count On Heroes (Pride & Joy Music)
12:00-13:00 ECLIPSE Paradigm (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 GALLAGHER & LYLE Live at De Montfort Hall, 1977 (The Store For Music)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
ROBIN TROWER In The Line Of Fire (1990)
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