«The plans you make for the perpetual tomorrow
Will be collapsing still»
Katatonia have been translating in music that great cold distance filled with darkness and discomfort that keeps us separated from each other and makes us see our ambitions fade out, and no line-up change or long/short term hiatus prevented them to evolve and keep on aiming to their goal. One could, then, try to perceive City Burials as just a proof of the well-being of a long-lived band that still watches the world through the infinite shades of black, though that would be reductive if not even really sad.
The eleventh studio album by Katatoia is melancholic, dark and romantic, closer to those monoliths called Last Fair Deal Gone Down and The Great Cold Distance that it is to its younger relative, The Fall Of Hearts, from which it differs in running time (a little less than 60 minutes, bonus tracks included, whereas TFOA lasts over 70) as well as in style. Evolving from black metal to depressive rock and then from gothic metal to prog, Jonas Renkse and Anders Nyström’s creature has changed many times its obscure shape only to appear as different on the outside as unaltered on the inside. That’s how we got City Burials, an album that crosses the most strict genre’s boundaries to present itself as the nebulous starlit sky of a large city, giving us at the same time both the stars to watch in the middle of the night and the perfect soundtrack to do that.
A track-by-track analysis, although tremendously thorough, would seriously undermine its integrity. Stripping “Lacquer”, “Untrodden” or even “The Winter Of Our Passing” from the complex entirety of the album would mean penalising them, because each track harmoniously cooperates to create a richer atmospheric texture as beautiful as intricate. As a single, «”Lacquer” […] eased people with what they can’t expect [without] giving them the whole picture», Niklas Sandin told me as I interviewed him, and that’s actually true: forcing such song out of the whole album perfectly hid (maybe even too much, one could argue) Katatonia‘s traces; something its successor, “Behind The Blood”, managed to accomplish as well — a song Jonas described in another interview as «something like a Judas Priest or Accept song, but in a Katatonia way».
Listening the whole thing together, on the other hand, really proves how Katatonia haven’t still lost their touch, even after three decades of activity. There’s still something to headbang to, within City Burials, whereas calmer moments devoted to building depressing atmospheres prevail. As it happened when I listened to Night Is The New Day or Dead End Kings, once again the middle section of the tracklist did really blow me away: “Vanishers” (which features the sweet voice of Anni Bernhard from Full Of Keys), “City Glaciers” and “Flicker” are going to give the band’s fans a hard time. Some of them will be crying their tears out of joy, some are going to complain desiring the band didn’t move from its first demo’s style: what’s certain is that a lot of tears will be shed.
A crystal clear production, vivid and yet always meticulous, adds the icing on this 50-minutes long ode to melancholy cake named City Burials, together with the adds by Anders Eriksson (aka Frank Default), whose synths we’ve already heard on both Night Is The New Day and Dead End Kings. Listening to this album once, though, won’t be sufficient, I’ll be honest. When I first played it I was puzzled, as much as I was when I did play the first singles over the last months; that’s because City Burials is a really complex, dense record, almost impossible to digest at first. That said, once you’ve found your own, personal key, the same old Katatonia-magic will prevail over any scepticism.
«The road to the grave is straight as an arrow» and Katatonia are pointing us in the right direction, with self-confidence. The end is defined from the beginning and, during this dark voyage called life, City Burials will be our soundtrack, accompanying us with its syncopated mid-tempos and unexpected double bass drum blasts through the partially dimmed alleys of Stockholm’s outskirts, where neon epitaphs are covered by snow during the winter of our passing. It’s indisputable: the dead end kings are back.