Thursday, September 6, 2012

Katatonia's unique style has not reached a "Dead End"

Katatonia have never really been one of my favorite bands. While they do crank out the occasional awesome tune, their albums, especially the ones recorded since their infamous change in direction, tend to be inconsistent and full of uneventful  melancholic dirges. That was what kept me from really enjoying their last effort, Night is the New Day, which I thought had a killer opening track before disintegrating into an indistinguishable swathe of gray. But all that aside, Dead End Kings is a real surprise and it's one of my favorite metal offerings so far this year.

One of the first things that stuck out when listening to Dead End Kings is how diverse the album is, especially by Katatonia standards. There are heavy and energetic songs, and even the occasional up-tempo song like "Undo". There are also the pensive slower-paced standards, like "The Racing Heart", which are more melodically heart-wrenching here than ever before. 

This diversity works so well partly because of how awesomely the album is sequenced. After a few listens, I noticed that the odd-numbered songs tend to be the faster-paced and more energetic ones, while Kataonia's usual slow-and-depressing stuff is reserved for the even numbers. This trade-off works well for a band like Katatonia. At no point while listening to Dead End Kings does one get the impression that the same song is being listened to on repeat. Honestly, I can't say I felt that way after listening to Night is the New Day. The energy level is consistently high, and the balance between light and dark has never been better... uh... balanced. 

While Dead End Kings is both consistently awesome and awesome in terms of its consistency, it's not really that surprising. This is Katatonia, playing music not unlike what they've played on their last couple of records.  It's moody and depressing; it's progressive insofar as it adheres to Kataonia's unique style; it's sung, and not growled, with those auto-tuned vocals that remind one of Cynic; and, rhythmically, the driving force is still the same triggered drums and Tool-inspired guitars that palm-mute more often than not. But Dead End Kings is a winner not because it switches up the typical Katatonia formula, but because it succeeds in realizing that formula in ways that previous albums have not. 

Download it here for the very generous price of $6.99.    

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