KatatoniaI have followed Sweden’s Katatonia religiously for over two decades and they have given me some of the most brilliant memories within music during that time either with landmark releases or just awe inspiring live performances whether electric or acoustic.

Each album Katatonia has released has been different as they improved their song writing and playing to venture out from the doom death early era to the sombre and atramentous recent offerings that sees the band release their tenth studio album. Noticeably there has been an embellishment to the band’s logo as I am sure that you, like me, have a nervous anticipation about new albums by your favourite bands to the point of anxiety which is what I felt before playing this so in true narrative form I inhaled deeply and pressed play.

Bravely and with consummate sonic artistry the album begins with the seven minute “Takeover” as Jonas Renske blankets you with his inimitable velvet lined vocals. Arguably this has a more weighty guitar sound but peppering the opener and the album are subtle keyboard melodies that typify Katatonia’s ability to pull at your heartstrings. “Serein” is a gorgeous and sumptuous melancholic rock tune; its brooding mysticism is chained to an upbeat tempo and lavish sonic structure. Katatonia’s ability to propel you into nadiral mournful bliss is counterpointed with apical heaviness. “Decima” provides that mournfulness as acoustic guitar melodies tip toe around subtle and poignant vocals and percussive elements that had me thinking of Rush in the 70s! The weightiness I hinted at early is demonstrated by “Sanction” which has a crunching guitar riff and thumping tempo that elevates the style towards a rock base which isn’t to say that the tune lacks sadness as the percussive aspects are given more focus.

The album is about ten minutes longer than previous efforts allowing a more progressive song writing style to be adopted as on “Residual” which transitions from dolorous sweetness to a heavier more augmented delivery when the metal aspects of Katatonia take the reins. “Last Song Before The Fade” is beauteous with its delicate melodies dancing amongst apparitional drums and piano but still harnessing the bands metallic prowess. Weirdly and curiously “Shifts” has a repeating air raid siren and a phantom like female vocal addition that materialises unpredictably within a track that links nicely into “The Night Subscriber” with the keyboard playing that glides silkily into the sudden metal facet of the song. Out of the blue and closing the album is “Passer” which contrasts sharply with everything prior to it by adopting a fervent metallic position that is flamboyant and dare I say upbeat opening sequence before the abrupt sonic teleportation into familiar wistful realms with the pensive vocals linking the fluxes in heaviness supremely.

Few bands leave a mark in the course of anyone’s musical journey but Katatonia is one such act for me and many others as they once again release an album that is sonically intricate and captivating.

(9.5 /10 Martin Harris)