SPRINGTIME FOR SWEDEN: It’s difficult to discuss Katatonia if you’re a fan, as their music possesses such personal connection with those who have fallen in love with it over the years. This Swedish band’s work resonates with so many people from all walks of life, from their atmospheric black/doom beginnings to the level they work at now as harbingers of evolved musical darkness.
If Brave Murder Day and the split with Primordial was their first baby steps into incorporating goth and rock influences into the mix, Last Fair Deal Gone Down and The Great Cold Distance were crystalline examples of that approach reaching its apex. City Burials looks backwards a little, but not in the way you might assume, like some sort of nostalgia trip. There are no screaming dirges or corpse paint to be heard, but Anders Nystrom’s guitar work is certainly more riff focused on songs like “Behind the Blood” or “Untrodden.”
Meanwhile, the album’s first single, “Lacquer,” is perhaps the most experimental moment, a beautiful, stripped-down moment that hinges on Jonas Renske’s voice and a very sparse, electronic arrangement. Truthfully, the song works best when enjoying the album as a whole, a moment of reflection within an album that, for the most part, is pretty heavy. A song like “The Winter of Our Passing” takes great care in balancing melodic moments with a chorus that leans on Nystrom’s guitar and the lock tight rhythm section of Niklas Sandin and Daniel Moilanen.
“Vanishers” is absolutely gorgeous, thanks to the duet between Renske and Anni Bernhard, from the Swedish band Full of Keys, and falls back into “Lacquer” territory, albeit with more of a traditional arrangement, complete with epic chorus. Meanwhile, the aforementioned “Untrodden” ends things with a soaring guitar solo that’s easily one of the most memorable licks Blakkheim/Nystrom has come up with in years, a fittingly emotional sendoff for an album that easily ranks as one of Katatonia’s best. Then again, when we’re talking about a career that consists of so many high points, a great Katatonia album is almost as reliable as spring showers, mayflowers, or winter depression, a heavy metal certainty upon which nearly all of us can rely. ~ George Pacheco