This extensive 8-part interview consists of various Katatonia features, written by Paul Kearns, Frank Bøkseth, Sauli Vuoti and Roy Kristensen. Enjoy!
A run through each album by Mr. Paul Kearns (Solstice, x-Arcane Sun)
"Dance of December Souls" (1993)
After one demo, released as a mini CD by Vic Records prior to the album's delivery, whose ripple affect managed to reach far and wide in the day's tape trading underground scene Kataonia were poised to take the throne for a sound that was pretty much of their own making. Paying tribute as much to the Gothic tones of Paradise Lost as to Bathory. «Dance Of December Souls» pretty much introduced us to a band coming from the coastal regions of Black Metal boasting a heavy melancholia dialect. 5/6
"Brave Murder Day" (1996)
Avant Garde Records announced their acquisition of Katatonia with the release of the «For Funerals To Come» mini. Stripped down in both visuals and sound by comparison to their debut, I found the release lacking the vision and achievement their two previous releases boasted. However, few were prepared for what was to come in «Brave Murder Day». Though I might not necessarily call it my favourite Katatonia album I am still, to this day, mesmerised by the almost naive hypnotic pull of it's almost flawless, fluid riff construction. Opener «Brave» is over 10 minutes long and hangs essentially around one pulse like riff, with every subtle twist and turn seeming to come at the perfect moment. Combined with Opeth's Åkerfeldt and his right on the spot vocal delivery with lyrics that are truly wonderful in their bleakness I find this album aesthetically difficult to fault. 6/6
"Discouraged Ones" (1998)
If «Brave Murder Day» was the soundtrack to shutting the door on the world and giving yourself to darkness then «Discouraged Ones» was almost the opposite. Although it was far from intentional, dropping the harsh vocal approach in favour of Renkse's frail, fragile but very genuine clean voice rendered Katatonia's bleakness palatable to others. Specifically Peaceville Records who picked up the band shortly after the release of «Discouraged Ones». Compared to their previous masterpiece this album was radio friendly, songs that had obvious verse\chorus structures, hooks and the likes all delivered in corporate friendly four minute packages. Naturally, a band like this was getting no radio play to speak of but the radio friendly description is nonetheless fitting (if misleading). That they were able to hone their sound of desperation inside these parameters and make it as effective as «Brave....» is true testament to how pure their genius was at this time. 6/6
"Tonight's Decision" (1999)
«Tonight's Decision» saw an actual buzz about Katatonia outside of their small following for the first time. The loudened word was due largely to this being their first effort on a 'big' label (Peaceville Records), it also marked the beginning of Katatonia as a proper live band in that they actually became active and continued active. Sadly I found the album slightly disappointing, lacking the despair that seeped through parts of «Discouraged...», also feeling they had not yet managing to blend their new burgeoning melancholy Pop influences as naturally as they would on their follow up. Still a great album and surely a great discovery for those who made their introduction to the band here. 4/6
"Last Fair Deal Gone Down" (2001)
I recall booking tickets (plane and gig) for the the London show that was, I think, one of their first gigs after the «Last Fair Deal Gone Down» album came out. I do know I had not heard the album when I booked nor did I have any idea what was in store but I would not soon forget. Almost as a statement, you could say, of a band redefining their sound without spitting on their legacy (even then it was becoming formidable) their transition was seamless and what presented itself to the public at large was an album and indeed a band that showed maturity few could have expected. When the lights went out the darkness on «Last Fair Deal...» eclipsed that of «Tonight's Decision» without question and where they embraced dynamics, taking things to lighter waters, then dense Sunlight Studio production ensured there would be no fear of a sugary coating. A masterpiece then and a masterpiece now.
«Viva Emptiness» marked a change – the hum around the band was hard to ignore, this seemed an album sure to be welcomed from just about all quarters – as it most certainly was. Critically and commercially all roads now led to Katatonia. Seemed the mountain had come to Mohammed. Few bands were as deserving. 6/6
"Viva Emptiness" (2003)
Despite all of this, despite the fact I had been so vocal a supporter of these former underdogs for nigh on a decade I was unable to jump aboard and enjoy the ride – The world was finally waking up to these guys yet the album left me cold, more or less, and the irony gave little consolation. Certainly «Viva Emptiness» revealed moments of the brilliance I had come to associate with the Swedes but overall the album sounded less fluid and natural than before. If pressed I would admit to considering it a let down following «Last Fair Deal....», which in itself is really far from critical such was my opinion of that album. 4/6
"The Great Cold Distance" (2006)
«The Great Cold Distance», for me, marked Katatonia becoming a proper grown up band and doubtless their turning professional around the time of «Viva Emptiness» played it's part. Much fuss was made about lead single and it's video that found release prior to the album. «My Twin» instantly became a 'Katatonia classic' and with it came a real deal, spit and polish music video that was shown to and accepted by people who few would have expected, once upon a time, to fall into Katatatonia's demographic. Yet there they were. Even more progress you say? And you'd be right. In my opinion the album was overall a finer aesthetic statement than «Viva Emptiness» yet still some way from the glory of «Last Fair Deal....». 4/6
"Night Is the New Day" (2009)
Having read or heard that the writing team of Anders and Jonas had gone though a pretty heavy period of creative block leading up to the album's recording, I had strong fears that panic may have led to the closure of the band's quality control centre, with deadlines possibly forcing the album's release before it was ready. Not so. «Night.....» features in «Day and Then the Shade», «The Promise Of Deceit» and «Liberation» tracks I feel are the strongest since «Last Fair Deal....». However, the gem hidden silently as the album's ending «Departer» - itself a departure sound wise whilst at the same time a track that, succeeds beautiful and completely in conveying the darker side of what Katatonia has always been about.
Not many would agree with my assessment that Katatonia's two discs prior to «Night...» had slightly sidestepped, been a little less fluent in delivery than we may have felt accustomed to but regardless of whether or not it need be pushed, that point feels nullified when the band manage to remain so strong in vision so far into their creative cycle. 5/6
Composed by Paul Kearns