I’ve never listened to Katatonia before, but I didn’t let that stop me from seeking out their newly released 11th album City Burials. The gothic Swedish band currently consisting of vocalist Jonas Renkse, guitarist Anders Nystrom, guitarist Roger Ojersson, bassist Niklas Sandin, and drummer Daniel Moilanen are regularly compared to Paradise Lost, one of my favorite bands. After numerous recommendations, I figured now was the time to see what Katatonia was all about, and I was overall impressed. Here is a track-by-track review of Katatonia’s City Burials.
Track 1 – “Heart Set To Divide”
“Heart Set To Divide” opens on a somber note. Renkse’s clean vocals contain intonations of melancholy and are prominently placed in front of slowly building instrumentals. After a 100 second buildup, the instrumentals drop some infectiously heavy riffs and a groovy baseline before Renkse bellows out some beautiful verses. Admittedly, the chorus line isn’t that strong on “Heart Set To Divide,” but the sonic metallic force of the instrumentals and Renkse’s alluring voice ensure that “Heart Set To Divide” is a good opener for City Burials.
Track 2 – “Behind The Blood”
“Behind The Blood” starts with a bang. Opening on an infectious guitar solo and loud percussive instrumentals, “Behind The Blood” demands attention. The vocal delivery, despite being clean and morbid, brings wondrous melody to the track, and the chorus is really damn good. Another aspect of this track that I love is the toe-tappingly good baseline in the song’s back half. Excellent stuff.
Track 3 – “Lacquer”
I’m unsure of what I exactly think about “Lacquer.” While the song definitely establishes a slow brooding mood and Renkse’s vocals bring down the house, “Lacquer” is too electronic pop for my taste and too close to being a depressed version of Imagine Dragons. Even though I think electronic elements can give metal bands dimension, they should rarely replace guitars, drums, and base in the forefront. Just a confusing track that is unrepresentative of the rest of the album, especially for City Burials first single.
Track 4 – “Rein”
“Rein” reestablishes Katatonia’s metal sound. Opening on bluesy guitar riffs, the song eventually breaks away into some heavy guitar play. Sure, “Rein” still features some moody vocals and a wailing guitar solo reminiscent of a good cry, but the thunderous guitars, bass, and drums are the standout here.
Track 5 – “The Winter Of Our Passing”
This track has a terrific build. Whether it’s the heightened pace, the faster vocal delivery, the excellent chorus hook, or the blasting guitar riffs, “The Winter Of Our Passing” rules. My only complaint is that the song feels too short at 3 minutes, but with that, “The Winter Of Our Passing” is exemplary.
Track 6 – “Vanishers”
“Vanishers” is a better version of “Lacquer.” This song sets a tone of morbidity and does so with slow moving noir style instrumental play. Matching the mood, Renske and guest vocalist Anni Bernhard harmonize beautifully with sad intonations. Don’t listen to this one when you’re in a happy mood.
Track 7 – “City Glaciers”
“City Glaciers” is imbued with some therapeutic vibes. The soothing guitar notes, the beautiful clean singing, and the rhythmic drumming inspire me to find my inner peace. Additionally, the chorus hook is very good and the bluesy guitar play is exemplary. All in all, a damn fine track.
Track 8 – “Flicker”
Renkse’s vocals are the star of “Flicker.” While the song opens with some beautiful noir style guitar play and there is a nifty bridge towards the end, Renkse brings down the house with his clean vocals. The chorus line is seductively catchy, and I can’t help but to sing along to “Flicker” every time I hear it. “Flicker” is easily among the best tracks on City Burials.
Track 9 – “Lachesis”
“Lachesis” is a bit more morbid. As a long interlude, the track starts with somber piano play and Renkse’s vocals eventually layer over those piano intonations. “Lachesis” is overall a solid track and teases what’s next on City Burials. My only issue with “Lachesis” is that it’s towards the end of the album, and I’m not necessarily sure what it’s purpose is beyond reestablishing a mood.
Track 10 – “Neon Epitaph”
“Neon Epitaph” is similar to “City Glaciers” in many regards. While “Neon Epitaph” has its own unquities and stands up as a good track in its own right, the song is like “City Glaciers” in that it contains zen like qualities. Like “City Glaciers,” it’s easy to find yourself being swept away by “Neon Epitaph,” and the track’s buildup is among the best on City Burials. Quality stuff.
Track 11 – “Untrodden”
“Untrodden” concludes the album with a bang. Even though the doom and gloom musicianship is still on full display, “Untrodden” features a terrific instrumental buildup that explodes into a wondrous guitar solo. “Untrodden” isn’t necessarily the best song on City Burials, but it’s a strong finale to a strong album.
Overall Impressions of City Burials
City Burials firmly plants a grim gothic picture in the listener’s mind through great musicianship. While not every song lands, the LP conveys a specific gloomy mood and excels at it. City Burials is sonically macabre, befitting our current sad reality. It’s definitely more than worth your time.