Darkness has always been at the heart of Katatonia. Even when they, like contemporaries Anathema, began to move away from their more extreme elements early on, the shadows remained.
Katatonia never quite shifted as far from their metal origins as Anathema, even when they began to adopt electronics and shoegaze into their darkened oeuvre, and on City Burials those metallic elements return with surprising effect, even more than on 2016’s The Fall of Hearts.
The shift is almost immediate, as their usual brooding melancholia gives way to heavy riffing and squealing harmonics before opener Heart Set to Divide is less than halfway through; Behind the Blood combines moody atmospherics and Jonas Renkse’s gloomy vocals with a chugging metal riff and melo-death style guitar harmonies. But just as we are dealing with the shock of this strange new/old Katatonia, they drop the bait-and-switch with the dark, shoegazey menace of Lacquer and Rein‘s simmering yearning. It’s barely halfway through, and City Burials is already Katatonia’s most diverse album in quite a long time, the creative wellspring of Renkse and Anders Nyström further stretching themselves with recent recruit Roger Öjersson stamping his authority onto proceedings with some slinky guitar solos. Öjersson has really breathed new life into Katatonia’s layered oeuvre since his introduction on the previous album, and he does it once again here. Underneath it all is the dark current of melancholy and gloom that is Katatonia’s trademark.
With its creeping electronics and the addition of Anni Bernhard’s fragile vocals, Vanisher almost sounds like a lost moment from the last Anathema album, a delicate midway point before the expansive and immersive City Glaciers rolls its way slowly across the soundscape. Flicker builds to a crescendo of heavy guitar clashing with swirling electronics, Renkse’s croon holding steady among the chaos like a glimmer of hope.
City Burials closes on two of the heaviest songs Katatonia has done for close to two decades, crowning this album as both a continuation of and superior to The Fall of Hearts. The alchemy of heavy and gloom and shade with the faintest sense of light makes City Burials a near-perfect soundtrack to our current existence, an affirmation of this band’s incredible creative power.
- Heart Set to Divide
- Behind the Blood
- The Winter of Our Passing
- City Glaciers
- Neon Epitaph