Album Review: Katatonia – Dead End Kings
Posted by Reggie
For Katatonia fans, the wait is over. You know what I am talking about. The new CD is probably in your hands and you are reading the liner notes or perhaps you have 12 digital files in your library and you are squinting at PDF liner notes on a screen. You are probably thinking the same thing as me; damn this is some fine Katatonia! Since the band announced they were recording new material in January 2012, it’s been a long eight months, but Dead End Kings is now upon us. I, for one, have been anxiously awaiting the follow-up to Night Is The New Day released three damn long years ago – forgive my impatience. As I breathe a sigh of relief I can safely say Dead End Kings hit the nail with the hammer. But, this is Katatonia we are talking about; should there have ever been any doubt?
Almost immediately, the first thing I noticed about the album was the infusion of slightly more progressive elements with a few odd time signatures. At the beginning of The Parting, the drum-work is what really gives me that impression. It’s less melodic than say something you would hear on Last Fair Deal Gone Down which was melodic and groovy. The drum-work that electrifies Dead End Kings seems more progressive than rock. I think this is a fresh change. The one thing that impresses me so much about Katatonia is that they have a core sound or a core genre and formula that stick to, but each album is still unique. As I mentioned with the first track, this particular style carries on through The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here and Hypnone – three promising opening tracks.
At this point, I am thinking that touring with Opeth, who was supporting their very 70’s prog album Heritage, rubbed off on Katatonia a little bit. Though Dead End Kings is far from sounding 70’s, the prog-infusion is evident. By the fourth song, The Racing Heart, you hear a song that is signature Katatonia; instantly recognizable, melancholy, beautiful, atmospheric, and somewhat reminiscent of their earlier works. Buildings elevates the level of metal up a notch from the somber The Racing Heart to something that is similar to Forsaker or Evidence – though very much its own beast.
Ambitions is a song that starts off on the subdued side before it intensifies in such a way that makes for a powerful and dark dose of Katatonia. From what I can decipher from the lyrics, the song is centered on a happier time before a bad breakup (possibly) which resulted in faded ambitions, confusion, and indecision. Undo You is a very haunting song where Jonas’ vocals shine and send chills down your spine. Because this song is a bit toned-down musically, your ear focuses much more on the lyrics and vocals. It’s one of my top 3 songs on the album so far.
Lethean is a great rock song that could be in the same ballpark as Teargas from Last Fair Deal Gone Down – again only using other Katatonia songs for reference. First Prayer and Dead Letters retain a higher level of intensity for a truly strong finish. The Act of Darkening is the bonus track you get on the deluxe copy and pretty much an acoustic song with some percussion. It is unlike anything I have heard Katatonia do before. It’s a wonderfully arranged song and worth owning the deluxe edition just for this one extra song. Overall, this is a remarkably solid 9th studio album. In true Katatonia fashion, they stuck to their distinctive style and still managed to create an album with its own uniqueness. I am not sure this tops my favorite Katatonia album Last Fair Deal Gone Down, but that sure as hell doesn’t mean Dead End Kings is lacking anything.