My relationship with Katatonia’s music has always been one of faith and trust… at least initially, when indulging in the listening experience for the first few times when encountering each new album. Why? Their albums, for me, have always been growers; works that reveal ever-increasing and absorbing levels of emotional profundity with each new listen, to the point where I’ve been fully captivated and affectively ensnared by all the aesthetic allure they offer and provide. Katatonia have never been about instant hits of gratification; they always eschew tried-and-tested paradigms, both compositionally and in how they reify their innovative songwriting with equally inventive arrangements, where instruments are used thoughtfully and adroitly to convey all kinds of engaging moods, atmospheres and feelings, with their self-styled, always evolving progressive dynamic.
So yeah, I place all my trust and faith in Katatonia because I know that each of their albums will grow on me more and more over time, and their latest, ‘City Burials’, is no exception. And I’ll say right now that it’s fucking fantastic to have ‘em back. After their announcement at the end of 2017 that they were intending to take a break after the touring cycle for ‘The Fall of Hearts’ concluded in March 2018, and were going to put the band on hiatus, it was a worrying time. For how long? Was this the beginning of the end? Not at all, as it transpired. New live shows were announced for 2019 and it now seems they’re back in full action… with yet another masterpiece.
‘City Burials’ is steeped in the usual swathes of finely crafted and organically conceived melancholy - introspective in general feeling and with all manner of stirring cogitations, but with sporadic bursts of more hard-hitting emotional immediacy. And, true to their own self-styled aesthetic, ever-present flickers of optimism and assurance sporadically shine through, with many passages that hit sublime levels of breathtaking transcendence. So, business as usual in one sense, but they’ve continued to progress with their art.
Anders Nyström’s compositional stamp is evident throughout the album; a man whose fretboard vocabulary never ceases to amaze me in how he’s able to convey both the subtlest of touches and grandiose torrents through such a wide range of sounds and techniques. Undoubtedly one of the most underrated guitarists in the scene (virtuosity isn’t all about arpeggios played at breakneck speed), he once again proves himself a master of using his instrument in the most innovative, yet always emotionally purposeful, ways. New-ish guitarist Roger Öjersson is said in press blurb to “have been extremely significant” with his contributions, so he’s undoubtedly helped widen Katatonia’s already wide palette of different moods and colours. I’m not sure if it’s Nyström or Öjersson who’s responsible for the beautiful wah-infused solo towards the end of ‘Untrodden’, but this is a wonderfully executed piece of playing with sublime melodies. And they’ve even integrated classic metal moments into their innovative core - notably on ‘Behind the Blood’… which ultimately transcends its own sense of nostalgia. Talking of nostalgia, ‘City Glaciers’ has discernible melodic echoes of ‘Viva Emptiness’ era material during its chorus… another nice little nod to their past.
Bassist Niklas Sandin and drummer Daniel Moilanen have continued their Katatonia journey with performances and fine rhythmic craft that enhances the innovation and emotions of the material. However, it’s Jonas Renkse’s utterly beautiful vocals adorning each and every composition that elevates them with heightened emotional allure, be it through his delicately affected delivery or impassioned prowess. Full of Keys’ Anni Bernhard appears on ‘Vanishers’ for a moving duet with Renkse, on what is the album’s ostensibly most minimalist piece. Minimalist in constitution, but with maximum emotional impact.
So, what’s left to say? Another Katatonia album, another grower, another masterpiece. Savour it, play it again and again, and let yourself become emotionally ensnared by its profoundly moving essence. In our current pandemic-ridden world, ‘City Burials' offers a much needed catharsis.
Review by Mark Holmes
24th April 2020
1) Heart Set to Divide
2) Behind the Blood
5) The Winter of Our Passing
7) City Glaciers
10) Neon Epitaph
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Another Katatonia album, another grower, another masterpiece. Savour it, play it again and again, and let yourself become emotionally ensnared by its profoundly moving essence. In our current pandemic-ridden world, 'City Burials' offers a much needed catharsis."