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Katatonia - The Longest Year (7/10) - Sweden - 2010

Genre: Gothic Metal / Alternative Metal
Label: Peaceville Records
Playing time: 18:19
Band homepage: Katatonia

Tracklist:

  1. The Longest Year
  2. Sold Heart
  3. Day And Then The Shade (Frank Default Remix)
  4. Idle Blood (Linje 14)

KATATONIA have always been a hard beast to fully nail down, as they’ve had this abstract aesthetic to their sound that is characteristically depressing by nature, yet not 100% restrained by the existing dogmas of Metal. Their work has a strong Gothic tilt to it, due in large part to the ambient keyboard usage and reverberating, from the pulpit oriented vocal production. It can be summed up as a religious experience of sorts, their lyrical content not withstanding, and will often transcend the borders between BLACK SABBATH and DEPECHE MODE. Their latest EP essentially leaves the nebulous border between rock and metal completely, and manifests almost entirely as an ambient, gravely slow take on Gothic Rock.

 

“The Longest Year” could be described as an 18 minute dream sequence, and a largely stationary one at that. The ideas come forth gradually and linger for a time, paving the way for slightly varied ideas, not all that different from the way many ambient songs put out by more esoteric members of the 2nd wave of Black Metal tend to. The obvious character of the sound is sorrowful, yet oddly solemn, not all that different from what one might feel walking through the ruins of a medieval cathedral at midnight. But as this image unfolds, it doesn’t take long to realize that this album is content to remain statically fixated on solitude and sorrow in a quiet and consonant way, avoiding the garbled shouts associated with the band’s classic offerings and largely scaling back the pounding guitars.

 

Amidst all of the processed percussion sounds, sequenced keyboard themes, and clean guitar lines, the mind is left to ponder the definition of grief without the tinge of anger that most of the Metal faithful expect from such an outfit. The duration of the title song alone makes such an expectation unrealistic, as it would result in a very disjointed album to have something along the lines of “Without God” following after what is essentially a woeful marriage of THE NEW ORDER and LACUNA COIL. Things do get harder edged at key points, but Renkse’s vocals remain largely restrained and depressed. This mode pretty much dominates the entire album, though the accompanying songs lack the occasional climactic points heard in the opening song.

 

This is the typical format of a single oriented EP, a lone representation of a band’s characteristic sound accompanied by a group of experiments. It’s not an all out offensive offering, and is actually a fitting interlude for the somewhat eclectic tastes of Doom/Death consumers, but it is definitely exclusive in its audience. Those who lean towards the newer, lighter side of what was the transitional sound of this band’s genre and Gothic Metal, and are steady fans of KATATONIA will gravitate towards this the most, while most casual listeners of this fatalistic art should probably skip it.

(Online October 7, 2010)

Jonathan Smith



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