I’m not one to make bold statements when talking about brand new albums that I’ve only listened to a few times. I like to let the album grow on me, or off me in some cases, and give it time to really get across as I feel like it should be doing. That said, I can honestly say after a half dozen listens through now that my opinion of Katatonia’s latest album City Burials has not changed since the first listen. This is almost definitely going to be one of the albums of the year for me, and it is the best thing I’ve heard the band do since ‘Night Is The New Day’ was released way back in 2009 and possibly an even better effort.
Katatonia, after their initial beginnings as pioneers of the doom and death genre, have moulded themselves into one of the best melodic, progressive, emotive rock bands in existence. Their releases very rarely disappoint, and they tend to have a sound that sticks within an almost formulaic template purely because they have honed their art so perfectly that you might as well not fix what isn’t broken.
City Burials has delivered more than you would expect from Katatonia on a typical release. The production is absolutely exquisite, the mix is perfect and the sounds on the album are crystal clear, huge to the ear and the (as expected) vast array of tracks sit so perfectly together to deliver the emotive masterpiece that City Burials is. You find yourself sucked into the emotional vortex they create within their composition before the first track ‘Heart Set To Divide’ is even 2 minutes gone. And good luck thinking you will break the trance any time in the first half of the album.
By the time you get to ‘Vanishers’ you’re well and truly trapped in their sights, and this track is the emotional knockout blow of the album for mine. Amazingly deep and brooding track with a dark and beautiful duet by Jonas and Anni Bernhard. This wraps the first half and allows a bit of a cry for the more emotive listener before we jump back on the post-rock guitar flow of ‘City Glaciers’ which is a bit of a heavier rock and synth pick me up after being floored by ‘Vanishers’.
The second half of the record takes us through a progressive rock journey of almost Tool and Opeth-esque stylings, for those of you unfamiliar with Katatonia’s work and looking for a door in. The music is driven by everything from pianos and basslines to the pulsing drums and synth of ‘Flicker’ to the almost middle-eastern influenced ‘Neon Epitaph’. The consistency is Jonas Renske holding the songs together with his unmistakable voice carrying the songs from start to end. Coupled with the ever-creative approach from guitarist and co-founding member Anders Nyström, rounding things out with the heaviest riff of the album on ‘Fighters’, which I did think was a strange song to finish an album like this on. After such a to and fro path leading to this point in the album, the almost could have even left this track off the record altogether.
I will be super impressed if there is another album of this production calibre released this year. The peaks and troughs in the structure of the album are somewhat of a new approach in comparison to previous releases, but this allows the listener to ride the wave I think. They have tried to experiment a bit with the approach on City Burials and I can honestly say that this is the closest I’ve heard to a musical projection of real human emotion in some time.
Check it out below.
Reviewed by Chris McEwin