Thursday, April 28, 2011

Katatonia - Night Is The New Day (2009)


Everyone is entitled to a bad day here and there. Sometimes things just don't turn out the way you wanted. In the case of Katatonia, it was a bad day that lasted the better part of three years. Following the success of their acclaimed 2006 album, "The Great Cold Distance," the band suffered through periods of writers block that had fans wondering if a new album would ever be completed. When things appeared to be at their darkest,  "Night Is The New Day" was released.

Equal parts inspired and somber, "Forsaker" leaps off the page with a taste of the trademark sound that Katatonia is known for. Singer Jonas Renkse is at his bleak best, with a voice that is emotional and vibrant. A well oiled rhythm section and layered guitars set the tone for the tracks to come. Dialing back the aggression, if only temporarily, "The Longest Year" begins gently. Before long, the track is at a boil, a perfect balance of emotion and fury.

Strings and acoustic guitar greet you at the doorstep of "Idle Blood," allowing a smooth bass line to take the lead. Renkse finds the opportunity to provide a stirring vocal accompaniment. "Onward Into Battle" isn't the iron clad fight song you might expect, but rather a call to action as life fades away. The distortion of chugging guitars open "Liberation," which boasts a chorus that you will not forget. The high pitch cry of a guitar and synthesizers open "The Promise Of Deceit," a bass heavy song with precisely timed snare hits and cymbal crashes.

Dark and ominous, "Nephilim" promises that he will come for your son, in the darkest of night. Soft, padded verses give way to chunky refrains, laid out in a doom style. "New Night" has the air of a song of victory, with Renske's vocals having an edge not detected throughout the album. But it remains lyrically dim and depressing.

The heavier moments of the album fall in "Day And Then The Shade." Well executed in its arrangement and delivery, it brings things to a head. "And every waking hour is part of the lie." Uptempo and flowing, it is the perfect contrast to the album's closing track, "Departer." Soft, slow, bleak and emotionally charged, this collaboration with electronic artist and singer Krister Linder is pure beauty in so many shades of gray. The vocal melodies achieved are breathtaking.

Described by Opeth mainman Mikael Akerfeldt as "possibly the greatest 'heavy' record I've heard in the last 10 years," the album has become the crown jewel in the extensive Katatonia catalog. They have, once again, raised the bar for all others. In the darkest night sky, this star always burns brightest.


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