Katatonia
Last Fair Deal Gone Down


4.0
excellent

Review

by Xenorazr CONTRIBUTOR (117 Reviews)
January 19th, 2017 | 31 replies


Release Date: 2001 | Tracklist

Review Summary: “If you cry about a nickel, you’ll die ‘bout a dime.”

Ever since they abandoned their death roots, Katatonia have had a lingering sense of melodic progression from album to album. We first saw this with Brave Murder Day’s simplistic refinement after Dance of December Souls, while Tonight’s Decision was an effective attempt at breaking Discouraged Ones’ overarching monotony. Of course, this is without accounting for the negative nature of their music. To simply call a Katatonia album sad and depressing is, at this point, about as refreshing as a half-empty bottle of flat soda. Pitching the band to outsiders isn’t always a simple feat; after all, just how appealing can a band be when they build their identity around abject themes" This is a question that feels especially appropriate for Katatonia’s fifth studio album, Last Fair Deal Gone Down, which derives its name from a song by late blues artist Robert Johnson. The reference, though small, is appropriate, since many trace the etymology of “the blues” back to the notion of “blue devils,” a 17th century expression for low spirits and, at times, “delirium tremens,” or the symptoms one encounters during alcohol withdrawal. Likewise, the song “Clean Today,” as the title suggests, offers us a glimpse into the struggles of sobriety. This struggle is but one of many that Last Fair Deal Gone Down elects to put on display, but unlike the accessible heights of its predecessor, it does so with a grimy, muddled atmosphere.

Last Fair Deal Gone Down feels unique in both its objective presence and relative role. The alluring qualities that Katatonia are often known for, though still present, aren’t quite on full blast here. Where hooks and distinct choruses dominated Tonight’s Decision, thick and vague rhythms take their place here. If one word could encapsulate the sheer sound of Last Fair Deal Gone Down, it would be “numb.” Everything from the seeming lack of instrumental direction to themes of betrayal, heartbreak, conformity and lost innocence combine to create an album that, without listening, would seem angry were it not so poignant. Any aggression that does exist is kept at bay due to the album’s overall repressed nature. Even heavier moments such as the lead guitars on “Clean Today” and “Don’t Tell a Soul” exude a sense of despair, effectively desensitizing their borderline-grunge traces. That numb quality isn’t just for stylistic purposes, it also feels like a filter of sorts for those that may not identify with the album. Katatonia do hit the listener with beats throughout, but again, they’re often indistinct, similar to how a powerful pain med can dizzy your body to the sharp spikes of pain after surgery.

Instead, Last Fair Deal Gone Down doles its complete strength out when the listener dives beneath its murky surface. Key to this submerging is the relevance of lyrics and, more importantly, how they impact their respective songs. The aforementioned themes, though offering an idea of what to expect, don’t do any of the songs justice. Even with some awkwardly written lines, Katatonia managed to convey a permeating level of helplessness that was only hinted at on previous albums. One of the many striking passages comes from “Tonight’s Music,” where Jonas Renkse laments:

how could this go so very wrong
that I must depend on darkness
would anyone follow me further down
how could this go so very far
that I need someone to say
what is wrong
not with the world, but me


Reading the lyrics as the album goes on turns a mere listening session into a suffocating exercise; once you dive in you’re trapped, left to descend deeper and deeper until you finish or stop midway through the album. Either way, the coming darkness that Katatonia alluded to on Tonight’s Decision is fully realized for those who choose to brave the waters.

Transitioning from Tonight’s Decision to Last Fair Deal Gone Down is definitely a bizarre experience. Where the 1999 release bordered on being an attention-grabber with its catchy nature, this feels uninviting, like a young, troubled individual who wants to be heard, understood and accepted, but struggles to make and keep connections. It also seems to be looking for a sense of direction or guidance, hoping to develop in a world that seems so odd and, at times, cruel. There may be lights ahead, but they’re falling, and if there’s anything to share with anyone, it will be in the strengthening darkness.



Recent reviews by this author
Seventh Wonder TiaraShylmagoghnar Transience
Amorphis Queen of TimeDimmu Borgir Eonian
Kamelot The Shadow TheorySonata Arctica The Ninth Hour
user ratings (787)
Chart.
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
Kage (4.5)
Katatonia's most accomplished album up until this point is a captivating and gloomy excercise in str...

Brendan Schroer (5)
"In this dead hour, here with you, seconds are worthless..."...

Altmer (4.5)
Splendidly bleak....



Comments:Add a Comment 
Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
January 18th 2017


1388 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

To me, this album is a mess. A beautiful mess, but a mess nonetheless.

pollastrerostit
January 19th 2017


46 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice review, posd... more like a 3.5 for me, aside from some great songs here (Tonight's Music, We must bury you, ..) I don't find the album has any more really memorable moments.

Even though this is better than Tonight's Decision, I find it to be far inferior to DO's (I totally disagree that this album is monotonous) and VE.

Ocean of Noise
January 19th 2017


10414 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Transitioning from Tonight’s Decision to Last Fair Deal Gone Down is definitely a bizarre experience. Where the 1999 release bordered on being an attention-grabber with its catchy nature, this feels uninviting, like a young, troubled individual who wants to be heard, understood and accepted, but struggles to make and keep connections.




Funny, I completely disagree with this. I find this album to be much more catchy than Tonight's Decision (and better in pretty much every other way). Good review, though.

Digging: Modest Mouse - Interstate 8

Sabrutin
January 19th 2017


5886 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I see you tried your best to describe this album's sound and atmosphere. It's definitely hard to put it into words when writing about this one. Pos



Katatonia at their most effectively depressive, the peak of the gloomy trio of DO-TD-LFDGD, and one of their strongest works in general. It's quite a creative album for old Katatonia. You have the atmospheric jazzy-ish-kinda intro of Don't Tell a Soul, the symphonic landscapes of The Future of Speech, the doom riffs in the last third of Passing Bird that sound diseased and filthy, or the lengthy Dispossession that varies through its progression. They were growing as musicians (every instrument does its fair share of goodness), and Jonas was really getting the hang on how to put his voice to an emotional (Teargas) or succesfully unemotional (Passing Bird) effect. It's a distant ancestor of the progressive tendencies of today's Katatonia. Well I'll just make this a sound off at this point.



I don't really have a favorite song in here (Chrome is my least fave though), everything has distinct identity and offers different ideas. That said, the lead guitar at about 1:50 into Teargas is possibly my favorite moment of the album, it hits me like a truck. I also love Help Me Disappear from the bonuses, by now I just consider it to be a 15 tracks album.



I'm curious to read every review from here onwards

72haha72
January 19th 2017


485 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I really liked that last paragraph. This is my second favorite Katatonia album, IMO this (and probably Viva Emptiness) boasts Katatonia's best guitar work ever. Their newer efforts aren't as guitar-driven as their older stuff. This is a very tense album harmony-wise, that's probably why it sounds so 'troubled'.

MarsKid
January 19th 2017


8160 Comments


Loving the descriptions, pos

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
January 19th 2017


1388 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

@polla: I juggled between 3.5 and 4 so much with this album. If I'm simply listening to it and not paying attention to the lyrics, it's a 3.5. But if I'm paying more attention to the words, it quickly hits me like a sledgehammer in the worst slow motion possible, which bumps it up to a 4. My favorites are probably "Chrome," "I Transpire," "Tonight's Music," "Passing Bird" and "Don't Tell a Soul."



@Ocean: Interesting. I had to give this album more listens to start getting behind the melodies, whereas TD made me feel like I'd gotten the gist of things after the first listen.



@Sab: Especially since I'm not the most familiar person when it comes to musical terminology. I try to pick up on things, but I often feel like an interviewee who really wants a specific job, but knows he's under-qualified. I will say I'm looking forward to reviewing the remaining half of their full-length albums, even though they'll probably be just as difficult to review as the first half. Pretty good timing too, since TGCD's gets that re-release tomorrow, need to snag myself a copy. And I'll be seeing them live in March, so I imagine I'll have this wrapped up right in time for that too.

Ocean of Noise
January 19th 2017


10414 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album has such an incredible atmosphere. It's a mix of warm nostalgia and pure, dark bitterness.

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
January 19th 2017


1388 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

@72: Thanks, I thought it'd be nice to make a reference to one of the lyrics in the album for my closing paragraph. I'd say VE is definitely the most guitar-driven Katatonia album. I think another reason this sounds troubled is because a lot of Jonas' vocals come off as distorted. It's bizarre at first, but I actually came to accept it as an integral part of the music, to reinforce a sound that seems to call to those who are troubled. But it calls in a way that feels more like a statement, thought or reflection, rather than crying out. At least, that's how I interpret it.

pollastrerostit
January 20th 2017


46 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Honestly after the review I went back to the album and wondered if it really was not a 4 U^^.. but yeah inbetween sounds about right



And I agree with Ocean about this being catchier and better than TD

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
January 20th 2017


1388 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

If I didn't have to rate albums on a .5 scale, this would be either a 3.7 or 3.8.



It is definitely better than TD, but the only song that I find to be outright catchy is "We Must Bury You," which seems to split most people. I actually enjoy it, but definitely see why people find it one of the worst songs here.

72haha72
January 21st 2017


485 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I love every single song in this album... except for 'We Must Bury You'.

Hawks
January 21st 2017


66348 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is honestly one of their weaker albums imo, still really good though.

Digging: Pumpkin Witch - Hovel of the Pumpkin Witch

MarsKid
January 21st 2017


8160 Comments


Mid-discog Katatonia is pre fire

Tho some of the lyrics are a bit ehhhhh

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
January 21st 2017


1388 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Especially VE's lyrics.

MarsKid
January 21st 2017


8160 Comments


Just quote anything from "Criminals" tbh

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
January 21st 2017


1388 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Listening to Criminals is like drinking a cup of hot cocoa that turns into orange juice for 2 seconds before turning into chocolate milk.

MarsKid
January 21st 2017


8160 Comments


That's one of the more unique comparisons I think I've ever heard

72haha72
January 21st 2017


485 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

That's a pretty hilarious comparison, I see what you mean. Renkse's lyrics are pretty generic tbh. His delivery, however, is one of the things that make Katatonia so special.

MarsKid
January 21st 2017


8160 Comments


He's got a great voice

One of my favorite performances of his is his guest spot on Long Distance Calling's album



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2017 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy