I guess that since I’ve just been listening to Katatonia and other similar bands like Opeth, Before the Dawn, Porcupine Tree, and Sirenia, that it’s time that I shared my opinion on one of my all-time favorite albums. I initially intended on writing this review after I saw Katatonia live in October when they opened for Opeth, but I guess I forgot to follow through. Katatonia and Opeth (my favorite band) are “brothers” (from the same country, best friends since the early years, probably even went to school together). There are very few other examples of bands with relationships like this; the only others that I know about are After Forever and Epica, Bring me the Horizon and Architects, and INSERT. Mikael Akerfeldt was the original vocalist for Kataklysm until his (at that time his side project) Opeth started taking off and he decided to leave Kataklysm to focus on Opeth. But obviously there were no hard feelings at all between the two bands because they still tour together and even have had some members work together in Bloodbath.
Here’s a disclaimer that I need to throw out there before you assume that Katatonia is one of my favorite bands. I actually like this album more than the band. It’s because Katatonia has only released two albums that have truly blown me away (this one and the one preceding it). I’m not sure what clicked in the band’s head that caused them to jump from slightly above average music to releasing two of the best albums I’ve ever heard. That’s why I’m glad that this album was my first impression (although The Great Cold Distance would have done just as well). If Katatonia can continue on to consistently release albums like their past two, my opinion on the BAND will soar.
As simple as their music seems, I’ve had a nearly impossible time categorizing this band and feeling that it’s accurate. I currently have them under gothic metal because the other bands I have there sound more similar to Katatonia than any other bands. But then again, when I have trouble deciding where to put a band, I just put it under one of my progressive genres (progressive metal/black/death/rock). But not that it actually matters at all, I just like to keep my music organized so that when I’m in the mood for a certain kind of music (like something really heavy and bombarding but with a black metal feel) I can just click on that genre (black death) and have it shuffle all of the songs I have categorized there.
But enough about that stuff, I’m here to talk about the album, am I not? If someone were to ask me what musician stands out the most as being the absolute best, I would quickly respond with THEIR SINGER! Their singer has one of the most paralyzing and beautiful voices I’ve ever heard in my life. Just listen to any of the damn songs off this album and you will understand (and most likely agree with) what I say the instant his voice makes contact with your eardrums. The vocal harmonizations leave me speechless and have brought me (literally) to tears and always cause a huge smile to form on my face. I know it may seem like I’m over exaggerating and “gushing” over this album, but remember, everyone has music out there that stir emotions of that much strength; it’s almost always different for everyone, this just happens to be one of the few bands out there that make that emotional connection with me.
The overall sound of everything on the record couldn’t be any more perfect. There is tons of bass, the guitar distortions are extremely heavy and thick, the drums work as the skeleton of the music without overpowering anything, and the guitar solos rise above everything with extreme precision to be heard by all. The guitar distortion is very meaty and even has a bit of a mushy sound although you can tell there is a lot of crunch. I guess a mostly accurate description of the distortion that the guitars have is if you have a very crunchy distortion and slice off the high end/treble. The drummer uses a bass boom that I didn’t know about until I played Forsaker with my subwoofer hooked up to my computer. Thankfully the band doesn’t overuse this bass tone like other bands tend to do (i.e. Emmure, BMTH, Element, etc.)
The song that got me completely hooked was the first track. I was expecting something extremely mellow and controlled; kind of like Damnation by Opeth. But obviously I was wrong when I was crushed by the extremely heavy breakdown used as the intro. But it then instantly transitions into more of what I was expecting, but so much better that I can’t even begin to accurately describe. As their singer’s voice pierces the air I realized that I wasn’t prepared for something this good, but I didn’t have the motivation to press the stop button on my keyboard. The chorus was the thing that leaped out of my computer speakers and spherically encircled me with an atmospheric and depressive wall of sound that I will never forget. That was the only song from that album that I listened to for almost a whole month because I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to handle the rest of the album. The guitar solo in that song left me completely dumbfounded and utterly confused that I hadn’t been shown this band before. I forgot to mention that I’ve known the name Katatonia for years, but I’ve only known their music for a little over half a year.
Like I had predicted before, the paralyzing melodic beauty doesn’t stop until the record is finished. Literally every mood I can think of is covered at least once for the duration of the album. Some of those moods that stand out to me the most are anger, depression, grief, happiness, peace, relaxation, confusion, pain, and numbness. This is a record that should not be passed up by ANYONE whether they like music or not. When they played Idle Blood, July, and Forsaker live (all the songs I wished for) when I saw them last October, I was hooked and have been since then. I would give this a perfect score and would recommend this to anyone and everyone whether I know them or not.