Katatonia
Dance of December Souls


3.5
great

Review

by Xenorazr CONTRIBUTOR (116 Reviews)
December 27th, 2016 | 60 replies


Release Date: 1993 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Clenching desperation

Katatonia albums are often demanding affairs. Even if the music instantly “clicks,” there’s a lingering sense of far more to discover. In a way, picking a Katatonia album is like choosing a drink for the long evening ahead. The initial taste may be harsh, particularly to first-timers, but there’s always a pull at the end of each sip. Some affect you differently than others, but the desire to savor and indulge just one more time is ever-present. To that end, the band’s debut, Dance of December Souls, is effectively a dark spirit with an initially cringe-inducing profile that yields a distinct flavor, enticing you to partake and appreciate the product you previously scowled upon.

What makes Dance of December Souls so distinct is its overall approach to doom metal. The long-standing subgenre was already associated with slow, down-tuned music well before Katatonia’s inception, but the once-small Swedish outfit took the formula and crafted a much darker concoction than their peers. Not only is the overall soundscape full of cold, faint echoes and desolation, but each member feels like they’re carrying an insurmountable weight from track to track. Anders Nystrom dances around the guitar with strained precision, offset by deliberately slouched notes, further matched by fleeting moments of mark from the bass. As the album title implies, each track feels like a dance through multiple sections, each noticeably different from the last; “Tomb of Insomnia” stands out with a seamless melody of contrasting guitar notes, going from relaxed and dream-like to grisly and wounded and back again. And yet, Dance of December Souls also employs an approach of simplicity with regards to each instrument’s role. The amount of overlap is only occasionally present, resulting in a collection of songs that less committed listeners will easily lose interest in. This ambience can easily be confused for emptiness, however, which may have been intentional on the band’s part, what with Jonas Renkse proclaiming “Vast are fields I walk/Where sorrow never dies” and “to the North I rode, on the coldest of winds” throughout the album. However, these lyrics are also ripe with exclamations of death, dying and sorrow, verging so much on self-parody that they can readily disenchant the listener.

While we’re on the topic of lyrics, a particular case must be made for frontman Jonas Renkse, who entered Katatonia as both drummer and singer. Dance of December Souls is dominated by harsh elements, with Renkse’s seemingly untrained vocals being at the forefront. Despite some passages being difficult to look past (the end of “In Silenced Enshrined”), Renkse feels like he’s viciously tearing his throat and mouth open to share with us his ultimate sense of pain and suffering. The crescendo four minutes into “Velvet Thorns (of Drynwhyl)” leaves an especially strong impression, serving blood-pumping guitars up as a proper backdrop for the shivering shrieks at-hand. While cleans later became a defining quality of post-Brave Murder Day albums, here they’re seldom and subdued, lending Dance of December Souls even further claim to its dismal doom metal nature.

Katatonia’s hour of introduction (actually 53 minutes) is quite possibly their most challenging, not just due to how it compares to its successors, but also due to its slow-burning animosity. Catchy moments do reside throughout the album’s handful of lengthy tracks, but they’re hardly up-front and certainly do not represent the entire product. Instead, the entire affair preys upon those seeking the bleakest of experiences, whether to understand or be understood. Is it the best representation of what would become Stockholm’s gloomy poster child" No, but it accomplishes what any worthwhile Katatonia release should do: provide a listening experience that only gets better over time.



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user ratings (448)
Chart.
3.7
great
other reviews of this album
Ocean of Noise (4.5)
Katatonia’s often-overlooked debut is a unique doom metal masterpiece and one of their best albums...

rasputin (3.5)
An above-average beginning to one of the leading doom metal bands of today....



Comments:Add a Comment 
Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
December 27th 2016


1340 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Hello darkness, my old friend...we have a journey ahead of us.



I'm glad this album did ultimately grow on me after a good dozen and a half listens. Velvet Thorns and Tomb of Insomnia are great with some moments from the other tracks standing out, but I'd say most of what's left a strong impression on me are selection moments and passages rather than entire tracks.

parksungjoon
December 27th 2016


7863 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

nah this is the 2nd best katatonia, prob a 4.5 in truth

Artuma
December 27th 2016


29576 Comments


"this is the 2nd best katatonia"

totally agreed. nice write-up though, have a well-earned pos

parksungjoon
December 27th 2016


7863 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

actually feel like spinning it again so thanks for that m/

EvoHavok
December 27th 2016


7573 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It could still grow more, heh. Sweet review, though.

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
December 27th 2016


1340 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I have no doubt it could still grow on me, but I'm doubtful about whether it'll reach 'favorite' status.

Crysis
Emeritus
December 27th 2016


17348 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this record is severely underrated here

parksungjoon
December 27th 2016


7863 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

completely agreed



still think bmd takes the cake but this is very close

parksungjoon
December 27th 2016


7863 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

rating bumped accordingly after listening again

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
December 27th 2016


1340 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I don't know, Crysis. Sure feels like I'm in the minority right now.

parksungjoon
December 27th 2016


7863 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

count the # of individuals posting in this thread



then look at the # of ppl who have rated this album and the avg rating



id say ur not, but i hope u will find more enjoyment in this at a later time

pollastrerostit
December 27th 2016


46 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I've always liked this more than BMD

Tomb of Insomnia kills

Thalassic
December 27th 2016


1412 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Solid review. To me this album still ranks among Katatonia's best. No band ever did quite something like this again.

parksungjoon
December 27th 2016


7863 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

m/

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
December 27th 2016


1340 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

The way I see it, reviews invite a discussion about how the site's current, active users feel about said album. In that sense, I feel like I'm in the minority. If we look at the average rating, yes, my thoughts on the album fall right in line, but since it seems the only users who have been engaged in discussing this album for the past two reviews have almost unanimously said it's the band's second best release, I'd say I'm in the minority.

parksungjoon
December 27th 2016


7863 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

cuz we're the only ones who still give a shit about this band's early works sadly

parksungjoon
December 27th 2016


7863 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

everyone else is either like ugh fuck that death doom shit its not twee enough for my post hardcore sensibilities, or straight up think theyre too smart for this band



it is sputnik after all

Hovse
December 27th 2016


2650 Comments


This is kinda boring idk its kinda forgettable.

parksungjoon
December 27th 2016


7863 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

speaking of bad users, looks like dr house schludiner is back



ugh

Hovse
December 27th 2016


2650 Comments


Its alright..I dig brave murder day



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