LIVE REVIEW: Katatonia @ Islington Assembly Hall, London

Whenever a record reaches a certain vintage, there’s always a tendency to gauge its respective merits in terms of landmarks and milestones; of musical legacy, status and influence. Of a body of work whose value and significance only grows and appreciates with the passage of time. And while there’s certainly no disputing Katatonia’s momentous influence as one of the most distinctive and hauntingly emotive acts ever to grace the globe, 2009’s ‘Night Is The New Day’ is as much a work forged in the crackling immediacy of the moment as it is steeped in immersive reflection and nostalgia. And, like all works of creative greatness, there’s a certain timelessness about it that, many more years from now, will no doubt continue to resonate with listeners every bit as powerfully as it did on the fateful day of its first release almost a full decade ago. Now, with fans about to experience the rare, thoroughly absorbing pleasure of savouring every moment of this melancholic masterpiece from start to finish, it’s with practised ease and dusky magnetism that the influential Swedes set about weaving ‘Night’s…’ very particular strain of stirringly evocative magic. 

 

With ‘Forsaker’s’ pounding, blackly turbulent throes sending us hurtling headlong into this iconic, frantically energised opener, we’ve barely drawn breath before the ornate, whirling melody lines of ‘The Longest Year’ seize instantaneous hold of the senses. Beneath restlessly roving beams of blood red light that spill across the stage in an inky profusion of shadows, frontman Jonas Renkse’s sumptuously rich, dulcet vocals abound with a pitch-black plethora of feeling. Quavering expressively above sultry layer upon layer of elegantly unravelling synths before promptly being engulfed in a darkly enveloping deluge of guitars, it’s with impeccably engineered pacing that these respective dynamics are manipulated to breathlessly exhilarating effect.

 

With its grandly expansive blasts of bass-laden aggression displaying bone-shattering intensity at every jarring, viciously abrasive turn, ‘Liberation’ witnesses particularly deft and explosive handling of the record’s metallic elements. Meanwhile, self-described “proper doom metal song” ‘Nephilim’s’ snaking, tombstone-heavy contortions take ample time to work their eerily hypnotic magic on the crowd, with a full lightshow of eerily flickering scarlet completing this deliciously mind-altering assault on the senses. Pausing only to humbly enquire of the ferociously applauding crowd, “Are we doing okay so far?” Renkse and co. proceed through every coldly atmospheric and intensely visceral inch of this classic opus with seamless, darkly electrifying panache. 

 

Shifting focus now to the more atmospheric dynamics of this immense, genre-transcending body of work, it’s mere moments before the spiralling, gilded acoustics of ‘Idle Blood’ ensnare the unsuspecting listener, flooding the synapses with deathly, intricately crafted beauty. Elsewhere, ‘New Night’ deftly intersperses glimmering, tenderly fragile melodic details in amongst crushing slabs of doom-laden bass, with Renkse’s haunting, audibly anguished verses elevating this uniquely penned track to the stuff of heartrending compositional brilliance. Capturing the iconic essence of ‘Night…’ in all its eerily evocative, frequently nightmarish glory, tonight marks another outstanding artistic triumph for these uniquely evocative performers. And though the capital may already be teetering on the brink of many hot and balmy summer days to come, there’s a distinctly wintry chill lingering here in the air tonight as Katatonia bid a fond and heartfelt farewell to the joyously euphoric hordes of fans gathered here this evening. 

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