Katatonia Thrills Vancouver With Their Trademark Doom N' Gloom
Band Photo: Katatonia (?)
Although being located in the least favourable part of Vancouver, the Rickshaw Theater has quickly become one of the city’s top venues for all things metal. Countless bands from all genres and areas of the underground have been congregating at the small theater on Vancouver’s famed “Downtown Eastside,” treating the city to a wide range of different metal sounds. On Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 the Rickshaw played home to one of Europe’s top dark metal acts in Katatonia along with other international metallers Swallow the Sun (Finland) and Orphaned Land (Israel). The crowd, while not sold out, was highly anticipating Katatonia’s first ever appearance in the city and once the lengthy show came to an end they surely left satisfied.
The first band up on stage were local dark rockers Winter of Freedom. Similar in sound to that of Tool or Anathema, Winter of Freedom played to a small audience that seemed to be uninterested at first. As their short set continued on the crowd warmed up and grew in size, while also beginning to show their appreciation for the band’s atmospheric take on dark rock, with just enough heaviness to please the mainly doom metal crowd. While the songs were good it was hard to tell them apart from one another and the extensive use of backing tracks and pre-recorded instrument loops really took away from Winter of Freedom’s performance. Granted, the band were down a member so its unclear if the use of backing tracks are a regular thing with the band or just a matter of circumstance.
Middle Eastern progressive metallers Orphaned Land took to the stage next, in ritualistic fashion with vocalist Kobi Farhi slowly walking out wearing an outfit either mimicking or paying tribute to the portrayed image of Jesus. Although Kobi claims he looks more like Elvis Presley. Their set took full advantage of the band’s cultural background; infusing their progressive metal with endless amounts of eastern instrument flourishes and unique vocal accents. Again, backing tracks played an integral part in this band’s performance, used to cover the many complex aspects of the Orphaned Land sound. Female vocals, telephone noise, every middle eastern instrument and chants were all deployed using pre-recorded sections. For a band as adventurous as Orphaned Land it would be difficult to bring all of the extra equipment needed to cover all of it’s musical territories but it got to a point when you didn't know if you were hearing actual music being played live or something coming from a computer. The band was highly energetic though and got the crowd moving with the “wave your hands in the air like you just don't care” and “jump...jump...jump” techniques. It was an interesting set and enjoyable to catch a band coming from so far away to play a gig but they're a band best suited to check out once.
Up next was Finnish melodic doom metal act Swallow the Sun. The entire Swallow the Sun set was centered around the building of atmosphere. From the opening segment of eerily staring out into the crowd without blinking, constant use of dark lighting and of course the band’s overall gloomy sound, this Finnish doom-death act delivered a fantastic set. All of the crowd favourites were served up here with extra aggression and with even more abundant keyboard passages. Vocalist Mikko Kotamaki has the best death growl around for any live act and he carried each song with passion and conviction. One area where the band fell short on was the inclusion of it’s clean vocals, which were nearly inaudible and it looked as if Mikko was struggling to get through the short, mellow moments. With that being the band’s only setback Swallow The Sun delivered a great set and made perfect use of the 50 minute set time. If you haven't had a chance to catch these guys live then you need to make an effort to check them out next time they roll through your town.
After an unusually long set up time the lights went dim and the crowd roared in anticipation for one of Sweden’s finest metal exports. The band slowly walked out to an extremely eager audience, an audience begging to witness the city’s first ever performance from Katatonia; and did they ever make up for such a long wait. The Katatonia setlist was 17 songs deep and included a large chunk of material from the band’s two critically acclaimed releases “Night is the New Day” and “The Great Cold Distance.” Starting off with “Day and Then the Shade” Katatonia got the crowd into a frenzy, with a huge mosh pit opening up oddly close to the front barrier. The sight of a moshpit at a Katatonia show seemed weird at first but as the band tore through it’s long set it became apparent that the band had added an extra bit of heaviness to each and every song they performed. Pretty much every Katatonia classic was given to the Vancouver crowd and they ate up the almost near two hours of it, without showing any signs of letting down. The new interpretations of “Soil’s Song,” “Liberation,” “Omerta” and “Saw You Drown” were incredible, especially the extra added minute of “Soil’s Song” that sounded fit for inclusion on a Bloodbath track. Once the two song encore had come and gone (“Forsaker” and “Leaders”) the two hour, 17 song set gave Vancouver the well needed and deserved dose of Katatonia it had been begging for. Hopefully it wont be as long until the band return, simply put Katatonia were phenomenal.
Overall, the show was great. While having a few minor problems it was fantastic being able to experience Katatonia's first ever show in Vancouver. The crowd made it even better, soaking up this potential once in a lifetime event and giving everything they got to make sure Katatonia will want to come back, and with how everything went down on Wednesday night it is a good guess that Katatonia will return.
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