Katatonia
City Burials

By the time you read this, the latest album from Katatonia will have already been on the streets for a couple weeks. I’m sure you’ve read some reviews by now and those are most likely from fan boys or former fan boys. I must give you a fair warning I am no such person. If you’re a Katatonia loyalist and are looking for the perspective of the same, you’re gonna have a bad time. Never “French fry” when you should have “pizza’d.”

Being that I am not a loyalist, I am going to do my best to be objective and not compare new and old Katatonia. This should be easy since I haven’t heard their entire discography. In fact, my only real experience with them is from their previous album The Fall of Hearts. It seems there are many fans who love the newer direction the band have taken, then of course, there are the many who despise it and love the earlier works (we metalheads are frequently not fond of change). Neither of those approaches will cloud my judgment.

Let’s be clear right from the start. If you weren’t already aware, the metal here is in the attitude, not the execution. I mentioned The Fall of Hearts in my last paragraph. If you’ve heard that record, I must say you basically already know what to expect. The first track, “Heart Set To Divide,” doesn’t take long to get going, nor to let you know where it’s going. It takes about five seconds for the remarkable vocals of Jonas Renkse to kick in. Once the rest of the instrumentals really kick in, we’re treated to what can be very easily compared to latter day Opeth, except this track has a main hook, doesn’t meander for 10 minutes, and actually goes somewhere (yeah, I said it).

Track 2, “Behind The Blood,” kicks off with a solo that has a lot of swagger before the main verse. After that, another solo takes over, then back into the verse. There’s an incredible hook, which really shows off Jonas’ pipes again. This is my favorite track on the album by far and is dangerously close to “song of the year” territory. After hearing it a couple times, it got lodged in my brain.

“The Winter Of Our Passing” is the next track I wish to mention as it has a seemingly out of nowhere “fuck” and is a standout because of it. When I heard it the first time, I said out loud to myself; “What the…?” Well, you know. I had to rewind to make sure I heard it correctly because it seemed so out of place. The more I listened, though, I feel it’s impactful. Of course, there are a great number of bands (some even in their names) who liberally throw out the old “f bomb,” but if used frequently, it seems to just attempt to make up for a lack of variety in the lyricist’s vocabulary. That is not the case here.

I want to finally make mention of the closing number on the album, “Untrodden.” The intro is about 15 seconds of piano, then into the verse. The chorus is stellar and so is the guitar solo. When listening, I imagine myself taking a drive at night during the summer with the moonroof open. It’s a fitting end to the proceedings.

When it comes to this album, reviews seem to be on the side of a grand proclamation of a “masterpiece” or that it’s lackluster. As with most grand proclamations, the truth lies much closer to the center. There are fantastic moments and this is a definitely a mood album. It doesn’t work for me in the gym. I hesitate to call it “low energy,” but it’s also not going to make you want to punch walls or move mountains. I do enjoy individual tracks throughout, but they sound quite similar. City Burials is the sound of a confident band doing what they choose. It has been described in the metal circle as “progressive rock” or “post rock.” I think it tends to fall a little closer to the “goth rock” category. Before reading this review, I’m sure you already had a stance on Katatonia, likely knew whether you would like this album or not, and my words have probably not swayed you. I do recommend giving this album a chance to grow on you. After the first few listens, I was ready to bash it, then never return. However, I grew fond of it after repeated listens, letting it work its way into my brain.

However, I’m still not sold on every single track, together as an album, despite multiple standouts. Those standouts don’t make up for the rest of the songs that just blend into the scenery. While City Burials certainly has merit, the most value, in my mind, is adding the songs to your playlist and enjoying them when they inevitably come up in your shuffle.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by J Mays
May 11th, 2020

Comments

  1. Commented by: Allred

    Nice review!I agree with ya on a lot of this,even the Opeth barb rings true..haha…Katatonia is hit or miss with me and I’m not sure where I stand with this one..IMO they’ll never top Tonight’s Decision.


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