In October of 2009, I became a contributor to Bloody-Disgusting Music. I submitted two album reviews, one being Rammstein‘s Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da and the other being Katatonia‘s Night Is The New Day. So, in a strange way, being given to opportunity to review Katatonia’s newest effort, Dead End Kings, is, in a way, a full circle journey.
But it’s more than that. One of Katatonia’s earlier albums, Viva Emptiness, was an album that shaped my view of metal, molding it into an understanding of how nostalgia and melancholy can be used as to make the listener feel incredibly powerful and poignant emotions.
So, with this history firmly in mind, I began my journey into Dead End Kings, apprehensive but hopeful of the musical path that was open before me.
The album begins with “The Parting”, which begins almost innocuously before distorted guitars roar into power. The song then mellows in the verse as a piano takes over the chord foundation and strings hover like ghosts in the background. Singer Jonas Renske’s gentle voice croons softly, his delivery hypnotic. This range, this grand scope of instrumentation and dynamic range, is maintained throughout the rest of the album.
One of the highlights of the album is the guest appearance of The Gathering vocalist Silje Wergeland on the track “The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here”. The vocal harmonies are heart wrenching and Silje’s voice adds a rich dynamic that is beautifully understated and not in any way overused. Rather, it is used a compliment to Renske.
As a whole, Dead End Kings has much of the heaviness that was present on Viva Emptiness mixed with the melody, grace, and haunting beauty of Night Is The New Day. The guitars are thick and heavy while not being overly aggressive. The bass picks exactly the right moments to make itself present and heard before retreating back as a thunderous foundation. The drums are sharp with a satisfying sizzle coming from the cymbals. And, as mentioned, the vocals are clear with brilliant vocal harmonies that are beautifully layered and spaced out.
For me, there has always been this sound to Katatonia that I can only describe as the feeling one gets when hearing an old vinyl record gently scratching as it turns round and round, wobbling up and down, warped from age. Completely organic and arresting, each song acts like a story that must be heard.
I’ve waited almost three years for this album. Now, upon hearing the album, it was well worth the wait.
The Final Word: Dead End Kings is a musical opus that is a crowning achievement for a band that has consistently grown over the years. Katatonia are not just a band. They are a force that defines the very musical path that others strive to walk.