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Sunday Old School: Katatonia

Photo of Katatonia

Band Photo: Katatonia (?)

Catatonia are one the biggest successes in the history of Welsh pop rock, having forever entered the annals of British music with such classics as "Road Rage" and "Mulder and Scully." No, sorry, I got mixed up. This week, Sunday Old School will not be looking at a female fronted pop rock group, but rather a band with a similar name who created some of the darkest and most atmospheric music of their time, and continue to push boundaries, Katatonia. Katatonia were formed in the Swedish capital city of Stockholm in 1991 by guitarist Anders Nyström and singing drummer Jonas Renkse, and soon recruited keyboardist and singer, Dan Swanö, which would be released in 1992 as an EP entitled, "Jhva Elohim Meth... The Revival." They followed this with the release of their first full length album, "Dance of December Souls" the next year, which featured a new member in bassist Guillaume Le Huche, but saw Swanö appear only as a guest musician. These early releases proved to be landmark entries into the emerging hybrid of death and doom metal, a crossover also launched by such British bands as Anathema and My Dying Bride, and they followed this direction for their next release, a four track EP named, "For Funerals to Come" in 1994, which would prove to be the last recording with Le Huche, who left the band soon afterwards. His departure was quite a blow for the band, and they took over a year to find a new lineup they were satisfied with.

Katatonia eventually returned in 1995, after Renkse decided that Fredrik Norrman, a bandmate in his new group, October Tide, would fit in well. Soon after bringing the band back, Renkse discovered that he could no longer perform harsh vocals and focused on clean singing instead. So that the style wasn’t missing from their new material however, the band invited Opeth frontman, Mikael Åkerfeldt to perform death growls on their new album, "Brave Murder Day," which was released in November of 1996 through Avantgarde Music. The album was notable for going to pressing unmastered, something which wasn’t rectified until it was re-released in 2004 through Peaceville Records, along with their next EP, "Sounds of Decay," which also featured Mikael Åkerfeldt, who claims that two versions of the EP were recorded and that he preferred the unreleased edition. More EPs were released during this time, including, "Scarlet Heavens," (a split with Irish black metal band, Primordial,) which the group did not want released owing to it’s noticeably different sound from their previous work and "Saw You Drown" in 1997, which marked the start of Katatonia’s complete shedding of harsh vocals.

Eventually, a new full length album named, "Discouraged Ones" was released in 1998 to critical acclaim. The album introduced a more gothic rock sound to their brand of doom metal, and was the last Katatonia record to feature Renkse on drums, as he decided to focus solely on vocals afterwards, leading the band to ask Opeth drummer Anders Nordin to join the band, who accepted, only to pull out just before a planned tour. Instead of rescheduling, the band decided to record another album, for which they asked Dan Swanö to return as a session musician, this time playing drums. The result was 1999’s, "Tonight’s Decision," which like it’s predecessor, was well received by critics and fans alike and interestingly featured a cover of the Jeff Buckley song, "Nightmares by the Sea," who was one of many strong non-metal influences on the band along with The Cure and Joy Division. The album also shed the doom metal sound even more for a straight up gothic metal tone.

After the release of, "Tonight’s Decision," the band decided they were fed up of using session musicians and wanted a full lineup of permanent members, leading guitarist Fredrik Norrman to recruit his brother Mattias on bass, as well as hiring drummer Daniel Liljekvist. This new incarnation of Katatonia recorded a three song EP entitled, "Teargas" before recording a new full length named, "Last Fair Deal Gone Down," both of which were released in 2001. "Last Fair Deal Gone Down" would once again earn the band near universal praise and mixed their recent gothic and alternative metal sounds with their old doom metal style. They wasted no time in getting to work on new material, which surfaced in 2003, first with the single, "Ghost of the Sun," then with another full length album entitled, "Viva Emptiness," which featured a slightly more progressive sound than previous releases. They then released a compilation album, "Brave Yester Days," which contained songs from all their previous EPs, before another two CD compilation, "The Black Sessions," which featured later material, as well as a bonus live DVD.

Following these compilations, Katatonia released their seventh album, "The Great Cold Distance" in 2006, which notably featured the singles, "My Twin" and "July" and saw them performing at some of the biggest festivals in Europe, including the Summer Breeze Festival, at which their performance was recorded and released as a live CD/DVD package named, "Live Consternation" the next year. Their next album, "Night is the New Day" proved to be a turning point for the group. Released in 2009, it once again was the recipient of strong praise but soon after, the Norrman brothers decided to leave the band, resulting in Per Eriksson and Niklas Sandin to join the group for a period which focused mostly on touring, while re-releasing previous material. 2012 marks the start of a new chapter for Katatonia, who will be releasing their ninth studio album, "Dead End Kings" through Peaceville Records on August 27th before embarking on the "Epic Kings and Idols" tour of North America with The Devin Townsend Project and Paradise Lost. Wherever the band goes from here, they’ve certainly cemented their place in metal history with their entwining of different genres and a catalogue with a quality the like of which most bands can only dream about attaining.

Katatonia - "Without God"

Katatonia - "Cold Ways"

Katatonia - "A Darkness Coming"

Katatonia - "Dispossession"

Katatonia - "My Twin"

Katatonia - "Dead Letters"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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6 Comments on "Sunday Old School: Katatonia"

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Anonymous Reader
1. Rob writes:

Its The Great Cold Distance. Not Disaster as mentioned.

# Aug 19, 2012 @ 9:29 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

2. Diamond Oz writes:

Corrected now. Apologies for the mistake.

# Aug 19, 2012 @ 9:35 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
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3. TheIronMan writes:

I love this band so much.

# Aug 19, 2012 @ 2:03 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
R10's avatar


4. R10 writes:

Good write up as usual Oz. Hard to believe that a band i started listening to 5-6 years ago is considered old school,but i guess they've been around for quite a while,and i was late catching on. Finances permitting,i hope to see them a little over a month from now with Devin Townsend. Saw Katatonia 11 months ago open for Opeth,hope to catch them again. They blew Opeth off the stage btw,Opeth decided to play a super mellow,sleep inducing set.

# Aug 20, 2012 @ 8:02 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

5. Diamond Oz writes:

Cheers R10. I've only just got into Katatonia myself but I figured with the new album out soon, now was the perfect time to cover them. I'd be very jealous of you if you did get to go to that show, mostly because I still haven't seen Paradise Lost yet! Interesting to hear about them overshadowing Opeth, it sounds like the kind of Opeth set I'd enjoy to be honest, but with a back catalogue like theirs, I can imagine alot of people went to rock out and came home disappointed.

# Aug 20, 2012 @ 8:31 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
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Senior Reviewer

6. Cynic writes:

It's funny - at first when I heard "Dance of December Souls" I thought it was the typical "rough but important for it's time" albums where you might have to take the praise with a grain of salt. But that album is legitimately more than a landmark, it's a classic. Never ceases to impress me.

# Aug 20, 2012 @ 9:24 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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