26 September 2023

City Burials

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Reviewed by Ian Phillips.

By Katatonia, Peaceville 2020.

Katatonia formed in 1991 as early exponents of the death metal movement and have spent the best part of the ensuing 30 years on a journey of transformation to the progressive melodic metal genre.

Their new album, the aptly named City Burials, couldn’t be further from the toneless death metal genre of their early days which, gives some indication of just how far the band has travelled.

This album has the soaring melodies and an epic scope that has characterized the band’s last few albums but taken a step further.

The artistic bond between the two founding members of the band, Jonas Renske and Anders Nystrom, is as strong as ever and recent changes to band’s line-up with the injection of the wonderfully creative guitarist Roger Ojersson has pushed Jonas and Anders song writing to new levels.

Katatonia’s heavy roots are still evident but there is now a tendency toward subtly that, although it was evident in their last album, The Fall Of Hearts (2016), has taken on an increased significance.

City Burials is a meticulously crafted musical journey into melancholy, a human emotion that Renske and Nystrom seem to constantly inhabit.

Is it the climate of part of the Scandinavian psyche?

Not that the album is incessantly bleak, the songs range in vibrancy and emotion from the power of the opening track, Heart Set To Divide, through to the simmering menace of Lacquer to the delicate soundscapes of Vanishers and City Glaciers.

City Burials has seen a small departure from Katatonia’s usual practice of albums being jointly written by Anders and Jonas.

For this album Jonas came up with all of the lyrics and melodies, however Jonas is quick to point out that Anders was beside him all the way helping to flesh out the ideas.

There are elements of the ‘concept album’ about City Burials.

The lyrics explore themes of melancholy and despair and listened to in its full 58 minute length there is a unity to the overall feel.

Although the album was mostly written and produced in 2019, considering the images that we’ve all seen on TV the album title is somewhat prophetic.

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