Katatonia
City Burials


4.0
excellent

Review

by Jom STAFF
April 21st, 2020 | 540 replies


Release Date: 04/24/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A persuasive evolution in Katatonia's storied discography without sacrificing their emblematic melancholy.

My colleagues recently had an intriguing conversation when it comes to reviewing metal: can a writer critically analyze an album without referencing specific decades, name-dropping similar artists and subgenres, or comparing-and-contrasting records in the band's discography?

For Katatonia, whose lifespan is closing in on thirty years, the answer isn't so unambiguous.

While some compartmentalize the Swedes' discography into different eras, there's greater nuance between album-to-album rather than epoch-to-epoch. The common denominator throughout their records is authenticity: no album sounds precisely like a previous one, with logical, calculated components flawlessly integrated into Katatonia's consistent penchant for melodies and melancholy. City Burials -- the band's eleventh LP -- is indisputably a reaction to 2016's The Fall of Hearts, whose multi-layered and ethereal soundscapes were a brilliant evolution that expanded upon 2012's progressive-leaning Dead End Kings. Continue this reverse-chronological rewind even further, and it's astonishing how Katatonia's metamorphosed since their early death/doom beginnings without ever sacrificing their cardinal ethos and musical vision.

City Burials is introspective and mournful; founding members Jonas Renkse and Anders Nyström masterfully cultivate scenes of loss and ruin as they pertain to memories. While Stockholm is their primary setting throughout the record, their wistful nostalgia of growing up in Sweden can easily be extrapolated to our lives regardless of geography. The corner market, the independent bookstore, and the Mom-and-Pop shops' owners have retired or their buildings have been absorbed by the highest bidder, and Renkse elaborated on this sentimentality: "[I've] had so many memories from certain streets or even specific houses in this particular part of [Stockholm], and I thought that everything that's a memory now feels somehow buried. Every memory is a loss, in a way, because it's something you can't grab anymore." While much can be made about the capriciousness of memory, I can visualize some of my favorite childhood haunts and how they've been laid to waste by faceless office buildings; in short, Katatonia excel in vividly crafting this 'vulnerability of memory' motif into tangible sensations throughout City Burials.

There's an appreciable gamut of stylistic splashes and spell-binding splendor in the album's first half. Second single "Behind the Blood" is an unequivocal rocker reminiscent of Judas Priest, with a soaring opening solo complemented by a thick, distorted main riff and Niklas Sandin's robust bass lines. After debuting on The Fall of Hearts for a mere three solos, guitarist Roger Öjersson's influence is increasingly evident, seamlessly working in tandem with Nyström throughout the record with pinch harmonics, sweep-picking, and reverb-heavy, shredding leads that bolster, rather than detract from, the quintet's hallmark sound (closer "Untrodden"'s second half is a pristine example). Despite its electric passion and urgency, though, "Behind the Blood" is the album's red herring -- especially when bookended by the slow-burning opener "Heart Set to Divide" and the brooding, string-laden "Lacquer". What's particularly impressive about this opening set of songs is how the electronic flourishes (courtesy of longtime collaborator Frank Default) are effortlessly embedded into the orchestration, immediately bringing to mind Ulver's recent efforts and especially Renkse's collaborations with The Pineapple Thief's Bruce Soord (the opening minutes to "Heart Set to Divide", with his sublime vocal resonating as the instrumentation builds to a crescendo, is one definitive highlight). Renkse's lyricism continuously reinforces City Burials' pensive framework: "The house we lived in / Riddled with disease / Scrape the lacquer / Can't you see it's all tarnished?" he laments during the lead single's zenith, before matter-of-factly remarking, "The road to the grave is straight as an arrow." It's a sobering jolt back to reality when temporarily lost in plaintive daydreaming.

Öjersson's heightened presence is not the only welcome addition to Katatonia's dynamic; drummer Daniel Moilanen (who also debuted on The Fall of Hearts, albeit in a more omnipresent capacity) showcases shrewd savvy and technical skill in his sophomore effort. Moilanen shines brightest with emphatic grooves in second-half highlights "City Glaciers", "Flicker", and "Neon Epitaph", yet his dexterity on "Rein" and restraint on "The Winter of Our Passing" unveil impeccable control behind the kit. As aforementioned, multi-instrumentalist Frank Default is no stranger to Katatonia, and as spotlighted in the palate-cleansing "Lachesis", his keyboards, synths, and other electronic infusions amplify the emotional magnitude that permeates throughout City Burials. The record, originally slated to be a Renkse solo album during the band's short hiatus before he changed his mind, is imbued with warm, inviting textures that serve as profound contrast to the somber, funereal settings Renkse invokes in his lyrics. There's still plenty of aplomb, though; his climbing vocal in "City Glaciers" ("Read my lips, love / Fill your lungs with words / Lest we forget to explore") is a resplendent counterpunch to the crestfallen songs. For instance, the harrowing "Vanishers", which features Anni Bernhard (Full of Keys, also of Stockholm) in a duet with Renkse, establishes how Katatonia juxtapose these seemingly-contrasting feelings in cogent, coherent fashion, and the vocalists' forlorn inquiry ("Who will remain and wake up to the sound of sorrow? / We're dead now / Affinity has been found below the ground") remains steadfastly congruent with City Burials' heartrending imagery.

As Katatonia's existence approaches three decades' worth of music, their proclivity to evolve their sound across the sonic spectrum and stave off stagnation from record to record is peerless. While the death/doom days of yore are far removed from the Swedes' current palette, City Burials is filled to the brim with vibrant textures and an expansive array of emotive sounds and stories. For straightforward numbers that are nevertheless unabashedly Katatonia, "Behind the Blood" and "The Winter of Our Passing" will whet the appetite; those who savor Katatonia's progressive grandeur will marvel at "Heart Set to Divide" and cinematic "Lacquer" found on the record's Side A and the "City Glaciers"-"Flicker" pairing in the latter half. Each track, whether it's elegiac or frenetic in pace, is intensified by Jonas Renkse's strongest vocal performance in the band's storied and perpetually-evolving discography. Steeped in striking colors but never losing sight of the gloom and grey continuum Katatonia have mastered throughout their discography, City Burials is emotionally arresting, ceaselessly atmospheric, and a milestone release that serenely ebbs and flows across a myriad of intricate, stratified soundscapes.



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user ratings (313)
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Nocte
Contributing Reviewer
April 21st 2020


12928 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I do love a Jom review. Got this to stream yesterday but I'm yet to give it a spin.

OmairSh
April 21st 2020


16974 Comments


Marked for later

Digging: London Grammar - Truth is a Beautiful Thing

SrpskiCekic
April 21st 2020


47 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good review & album. Gonna need more listens to solidify what this album wants to be tho.

Pikazilla
April 21st 2020


12770 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Siiiiiiiiiiiiiick





Cannot wait to listen to this baby

Darius The Imposter
April 21st 2020


22559 Comments


hey joms alive !!

Nocte
Contributing Reviewer
April 21st 2020


12928 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

--hey joms alive !!--



This is what happens when the Sput[userbase] stops breaking album pages and artwork for a while. Jom actually makes it off the forum every so often.

Darius The Imposter
April 21st 2020


22559 Comments


good review btw jommy uwu notice me senpai

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
April 22nd 2020


21844 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

A Jom review!! A Katatonia Jom review!!!



Aaahhh today is a good day, can't wait to get my ears on this.



"The record, originally slated to be a Renkse solo album during the band's short hiatus"



Happened the same with NITND lol, the man can't stay put, and the others won't let him go solo.





Digging: Crippled Black Phoenix - Ellengaest

Itwasthatwas
April 22nd 2020


2937 Comments


Stoked to hear this

Source
April 22nd 2020


18491 Comments


oh yeah forgot this was coming out

Observer
Emeritus
April 22nd 2020


8558 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Cant wait to check

Digging: ISIS - Panopticon

R4zor3dge
April 22nd 2020


1128 Comments


This should be interesting

bigguytoo9
April 22nd 2020


841 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I think its their best in 10 years.

Gyromania
April 22nd 2020


30749 Comments


Ah damn, just .1 shy of a full letter upgrade. You hate to see it

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
April 22nd 2020


31804 Comments


well hello colleague

Jom
Staff Reviewer
April 22nd 2020


3211 Comments


>> Ah damn, just .1 shy of a full letter upgrade. You hate to see it

Fine, then. Here I go thinking that I overinflate my subjective scoring and knock off a tenth of a point for kicks and people want the pendulum to swing the other way. I can't win!

Darius The Imposter
April 22nd 2020


22559 Comments


we love you jom

Gyromania
April 22nd 2020


30749 Comments


Haha yes! A 4! Lol I was just busting your ball, Jom. I think .1 increments are silly :P

Good rev tho, I look forward to hearing it

wildinferno2010
April 22nd 2020


1057 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Haven't been able to get into much of Katatonia's stuff after Night is the New Day. This sounds promising, though.

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
April 22nd 2020


16628 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Awesome review jom

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