Katatonia are a band which have been quite close to me from almost the beginning of my metal adventure. I remember going through my brother’s and sister’s cassettes when I was still under the age of ten. Among the usual Metallica or Black Sabbath there were also darker gems like Vader and the band we’re focusing on now: Katatonia. To the present day I keep that very Jhva Elohim Meth… The Revival tape close to my stereo in my room and from time to time sit back and immerse myself in the rawness of the Swedes’ mystical sounds. Nine years after the release of one of the grimmest doom EPs (released via Vic Records), I sat down with the front man, Jonas Renkse, a few hours before their sold out show in London and talked about their old days compared to now, their different style of music, the current state of the metal scene and… of course, a bit about anti-religious lyrics and themes. Hope you enjoy the video interview and gig review below.
The first act to go on stage was Junius. They delivered an interesting mix of atmospheric, “arty” and progressive music coupled with some heavier riffs and drum beats. At times they sounded like a heavy indie act – especially with the vocals Joseph E. Martinez delivered. Their tight performance and confidence on stage suitably warmed up the audience for what started out to be an evening of atmospheric and mystical sounds. Their 2011 full-length, Reports from the Threshold of Death, is out via Prosthetic Records.
It was the next act, however, which raised the atmosphere level even higher. Alcest are called a shoegaze/post-black metal act and I have no idea what that means but what I experienced during their set was magical, beautiful and atmospheric music. The black metal elements in their music are the faster paced moments which at times even consisted of some blast beating from drummer, Winterhalter, and growling from guitarist/vocalist, Neige. Although the clean vocals and the mellow music were perfectly performed by Alcest and everyone present there was immersed in the magic of their music, I will have to check out Neige’s side-projects as his growling vocals are exceptional! Get their new album Les Voyages de L’âme via Prophecy Productions.
After a short break for the band crews to prepare the stage for the headliner of the night – to the music of Skunk Anansie -, the lights go off and an intro tape goes on. The Islington Academy hall is booming with excitement and once the band members appear one by one on stage, the crowd screams and cheers their “dead end kings”. The vocalist, Jonas, starts singing the first lines of “The Parting” off the new album and immediately the lights go on while the heavy riffs kick in and all start headbanging – both audience and band members, of course.
Katatonia was in top form; all songs were performed exceptionally well, exactly as you would expect from a band which has been out there for so long and influenced many bands over the years and made the life of the average metalhead a little bit more interesting. They performed a variety of songs from their catalogue since 1998’s Discouraged Ones until this year’s Dead End Kings. The London crowd heard fan-favourites like “My Twin”, “Ghost of the Sun” or “Teargas” but also even mellower tracks like “Omerta”. The finale of the show consisted of the new “Dead Letters” but then ended on a heavy note with “Forsaker” and “Leaders”. It is also worth noting that Jonas did some growling during the track “July” whenever he sang the word “death” while Anders kept delivering backing death growls for many of the songs. The contrast was amazing when during the track “Leaders” Anders provided the background growling and Jonas the cleans.
I could go on and praise Katatonia and their performance through a million words but what added to the music apart from the musicians’ performance was the lighting. During the headliner’s set the lights were very representitive of their new release – the dominance of white and black coupled with some brighter colours like red (The Great Cold Distance?). Nevertheless, it was also during Alcest and Junius that the lights added to the atmosphere.
Taking all of that into consideration it’s not hard to understand why the show in London was sold out. All three bands put out their best to what was an evening full of atmosphere and great music. Make sure to check out Katatonia’s new album Dead End Kings which is out via Peaceville Records.