Sweden’s Katatonia is a band of pleasing contradictions, one that combines differing elements into a darkly emotive blend of sound. While watching them perform at New York’s Irving Plaza on September 24th, those paradoxes came to the fore, mostly to the band’s advantage. Onstage it’s not physically stoic (considering the act’s name, that wouldn’t be a surprise), but its players don’t run amok like sugar-stoned toddlers, either, and singer Jonas Renkse kept his face hidden behind his curtain of long dark hair like a grieving widow, never showing his face. Despite being a progenitor of the doom genre, its set list didn’t sound depressing or disturbing enough to be described as black. Its uptempo moments weren’t consistent enough to be straight metal; the same goes for its progressive characteristics.
But Katatonia isn’t a band with an identity crisis. Its self-confidence is evidenced by new album Dethroned and Uncrowned, where it stripped down the songs from previous record Dead End Kings – and we’re talking the entire album, which already had plenty of sparseness. (In fact, the backdrops for the set was a picture of the gatefold from latter album, instead of advertising Dethroned and Uncrowned onstage.) The quintet well knows its (dour) place in the world: a niche of throbbing pain that runs so deep it’s practically soothing.
Check out the song “The One You Are Looking For is Not Here”
The night’s roster – opener “Ashen,” followed by “Hypnone,” “In the White,” “Ambitions” and so on – could have been one flowing song that ricocheted between thumping beats and tranquilizing pathways. Its only drawback is that such a repetitive style becomes linear, making it hard for the uninitiated to discern one song from the next, even though the sound quality was excellent and every guitar ripple and flicker was distinct.
Renkse’s voice never deviated as he sang, holding to the soft baritone that helps carry Katatonia’s remorseful tone. Guitarists Per Eriksson and Anders Nystrom, along with bassist Niklas Sandin, also held down their end, providing the most visual stimulation of the band. Yet the closer Katatonia got to the encore phase, the faster its tempos became. By the time it reached “Ghost of the Sun,” “July” and “Forsaker” it was like a whole new band had taken over the stage.
Drummer Daniel Liljekvist finally had plenty more to keep himself occupied and the crowd that had stuck it out through Intronaut, Tesseract and Cult of Luna had more reason to flail in time with the music (but that hadn’t kept a mini-mosh pit from breaking out during “Onward Into Battle”). If those tracks and ones like “Dissolving Bonds” and “Black Session” had been mixed throughout the show instead of being tagged at the end of it, it would have turned the solid performance into a much more dynamic one. No real complaints though: Katatonia was time well spent, and warrants a return visit to town.
Check out the song “Lethean”