Album Review: KATATONIA – City Burials


Katatonia – City Burials

Label: Peaceville Records

Release Date: April 24, 2020

When was the last time you listened to a whole album, in one sitting, with all your focus and attention? When was the last time you felt the music and lyrics running through your veins and felt completely wrapped up in it? When was the last time an album gave you goosebumps and filled your whole musical being? If you haven’t done any of this in a while, City Burials is your album to invest your soul into. It is a beautiful composition of some of the best Katatonia has to offer, and also, in my opinion, music as a whole. As a long time fan, I was more than pleased with the direction they went.

Katatonia began in Stockholm, Sweden in 1991 with vocalist Jonas Renkse and guitarist  Anders Nystrom. While the rest of the line-up changed over the years, these two remained a constant. Now, members; Niklas Sandin (bass), Daniel Moilanen (drums), and more recently Roger Ojersson (guitars), have been the extra minds and musicians behind City Burials. In 1993 the original lineup released Dance of December Souls which got the musical genre title of a death doom type of band. Over the years they have evolved into more of a progressive rock/metal band but continue holding a unique and beautifully haunting ambiance. Katatonia had announced they were going on hiatus in 2018, then pleasantly surprised their fans with a notice of releasing a new record. City Burials is their 11th studio album.

I must start by saying this entire album hit my emotions extremely hard. As soon as I hit play, I became entranced and stayed that way until the music stopped. I took deep breaths, I sighed, I felt goosebumps and gut-wrenching twists. I listened, with all that I had. While I normally want to take a week or two listening to an album before I review it, I did not get a chance with this album due to recently receiving it close to release date. That being said, I don’t think I needed that extra time with it.

“Heart Set to Divide” begins the album with Renkse’s phenomenal haunting vocals. Nystrom comes in harmonizing in the most breathtaking way. They remind me of Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell with their complimentary and brilliant tones. “In times of surrender, I am shedding my scars. I was sick, but I was set for the stars”. These lyrics are very relatable, especially now as we all try to get through this pandemic and quarantine. About 1:45 in, the drums and guitars flip this song into another realm and bring on the heavy riffs. You even get a few pinch harmonics in this one. I usually pick a favorite song on reviews, but this is only one of many on this album.

“Behind the Blood” starts out heavy, with chugging guitars and thunderous rhythms. You can feel the bass reverberate in your chest. The thing I dig most, are the guitar solos. Öjersson just cuts loose. It is a riff-driven track which makes my guitar loving heart ecstatic. Compared to Katatonia‘s usual melancholy aesthetic, this track is notably upbeat comparatively.

“Lacquer.” I am surprised how much I love this song. It vaguely reminds me of A Perfect Circle’s “Hourglass”. Seems a bit different for their style with the focus on electronics, yet it fits and it is damn delightful and heartfelt. Renkse’s voice is so emotive and distinctive.

“Rein” where do I begin with this one? It is as close to perfection as it gets. I felt as if I was at a sinister carnival, but I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to become part of its darkness. The drums are beyond impressive and the musical shifts are passionate. Take the time to really get lost in this one, it is not difficult to do. “You drink my words in the wake of your sorrow”.  Another favorite. It is greatness.

“City Glaciers” begins with a catchy drum beat and continues to be catchy throughout the track. It was soothing to the soul but in a somber way. The piano comes in and out, making the sound complex and agonizing at times. Renkse’s vocals drive through the heart.

“Flicker” once again Moilanen brings an interesting drum dynamic alongside Sandin’s strong bass lines. About two and a half minutes in is a thrilling bluesy guitar solo. This is followed by “Neon Epitaph” which has a very unique composition and progressive style. Dare I say another favorite? This song is extremely well done and by far the most progressive on this album. Every instrument is detailed and massive and precise. “A promise can never be undone”. There is a sense of desolation here.

“Untrodden” has a dramatic slow piano intro. There is a notable bass line along with an admirable guitar solo. It is a fantastic end to an exceptional album. “Love will protect you always”.

City Burials is one of Katatonia‘s best in my opinion, and that is a bold statement. Their catalog is almost flawless. Take the time to dig into this album, really feel it. There is so much to uncover and dissect. A compelling and powerful composition of musicianship and lyrical content. Renkse is a dominant voice in today’s metal.

Please continue to support artists through buying their albums and merchandise during this troubling time. We need music, and we need to financially support the bands we love. We are all in this together.

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