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Album Review: Katatonia ;Sky Void of Stars

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Review by Sheri Bicheno for MPM

Melancholic, haunting and beautifully ambient… these have always been phrases that I associate with Katatonia over the years.

Though the Swedish maelstrom have evolved through the few decades that they have been delivering their unique twist on Doom metal, leaving no stone unturned in the genres that they play with, there is always a sense of nostalgia lacing through their works.

Although I was a little late to the party, with 2009’s Night Is The New Day being my first (and first love) to Katatonia when it landed, I soon caught up with their entire catalogue and fell deeper in love. 

Yet, even though the new release of 13th (if you count Dethroned & Uncrowned) studio album Sky Void of Stars is no exception, there is a definite futuristic, modern vibe running through it.

Now, starting with introduction track Austerity, we’re immediately pulled straight into the lyrical journey that kickstarts this new album.

The lowing tone of bass and ethereal strings that are so familiar to the progressive side of Katatonia listeners, are present from the outset of Austerity. A choppy and melting groove riff bodes with the many layers of mood that Daniel Moilanen drums delivers.

Colossal Shade returns that familiar sound that you’d find on Dead End Kings in many places – the groove and doom notes with echoes of harmonious vocals from Jonas Renkse, which display different ranges in this track. Jonas uses his voice in this album to display a plethora of wailing, clean and beautiful tones with melodic vocals to reflect the power of the magic crafted from the whole band.

Opaline beaks through next with a slight electronica style trumpet intro, rhythming into the track that unwinds into a darkened light, recalling a vision of flowing and travelling through time and substance, like describing the melancholy life as living liquid… or an equal element able to travel so freely.

… Which. If you interpret this track as I do, fits for next song Birds.

Birds introduces a bit more emphasis on the power guitaring on Sky Void of Stars – the uplifting yet doomy riffs and bass create a height of landscape for this track to really breathe some beautiful solo melodies and some atmospheric vibes into the album. We hit three quarters of the way into this track and those futuristic and melodic echoes really shine through and show us that Katatonia are introducing even more diversity with their sound.

The beautifully dark Drab Moon is undoubtedly one of my favourites of Sky Void of Stars.

This track has an exploring into the depth of a depressive but melodic mood able to touch upon your own minds’ eye and absorb the resonation of the lyrics and the melodies that masterfully encapsulate the high and low feelings laying within this track. 

The drumming on Drab Moon doesn’t stray too far out of the flow with the riffs and rhythms. The backbone of much of the melancholy feelings within this track, often offering the powerful net beneath the huge layers of bass and rhythms.

Author demonstrates the higher pitch range that Jonas delivers in the early stages of this track that shifts into a fantastically groove filled riff solo and the huge bassy notes that melt into an ending of choral fading. Listen out for the album title!

Impermanence – another huge favourite of mine, also delivers a very beautiful dark tone to the album. The instrumental and atmospheric shines to the album are here accompanied by ambient induced lyrics, especially in the chorus where the track has some breath-taking vocals from Jonas and doomy melodies thrown higher into skies of Impermanence.

The solo here that slightly sits over the rhythm guitaring is absolutely stunning. Full of empowering notes and creating colours of emotion before melting back into those melodic vocals and the keys that provide a slightly synth tone to this track – I cannot love this enough.

Sciera whispers through before we’re taken into a melting flow of Roger and Jonas guitars and booming drum beats that carve a pathway of hard guitar riffs and gentle keys. Atrium is one of the catchy – esque tracks on Sky Void of Stars.

The drumming gives the uplifting beats with the cleaner cut vocals on this track – it almost feels as if the centre hearing is for Daniel’s skills behind the kit and the keys of Anders – which give this track a more futuristic vibe and a range for the listener to explore newer elements with Katatonia.

Last tracks to close the new offering from Katatonia are No Beacon to Illuminate Our Fall and Absconder – the first to last being beautifully melody ridden, the riffs are melodic and powerful, almost intimidatingly haunting and the double pedals at one point really come into their own to create a flirtatious partnership with Death Metal elements.

Absconder” (Bonus Track) ends the album as a bonus track on a colossal sound, the riffs and synths burn through and create a lightning introduction to the track. Jonas delivers his vocals again in such diversity and talks in ways of heartbreak and the struggles of surrendering to the after thoughts.

Let me be clear – as expected from any Katatonia offering, Sky Void of Stars is mesmerizingly beautiful, dark and takes you to spheres of feelings that cannot go unexplored… yet, although sometimes nostalgic, I dare to say that Katatonia have experimented a lot more on the depths and realms of the style they are known for.

Easily already an album of the year for me.

Katatonia are:

Jonas Renkse – Lead vocals, Guitars
Anders Nyström Keyboards
Niklas Sandin – Bass
Daniel Moilanen – Drums
Roger Öjersson – Guitars





New album, Sky Void of Stars, out January 20, 2023! Listen here: https://lnk.to/KAT-SkyVoidOfStars

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