A masterly live performance…
Review by Paul Castles
Release date: 30 March 2015
Katatonia have been one of Scandinavia’s most consistent executors of melancholic gloom for a quarter of a century. Although perhaps initially in the shadows of Opeth, that is not a charge anyone has been able to throw at the Swedes for some time now. Album after album – and there have now been 10 studio recordings in all – have delivered a mixture of haunting harmonic music occasionally coated with penetrating darker elements.
The music on their latest all encompassing release will be familiar to Katatonia’s army of fans. Large parts of the 80-minute set are taken from their 2013 album Dethtroned & Uncrowned but this is supplemented by some of their atmospheric classics such as ‘One Year’ from the 2003 Viva Emptiness release. All the songs are performed without ceremony, ‘Unplugged & Reworked’ before a live audience. Sanctitude is a specially packaged set any fan would be pleased to have in their collection. It features a CD of the performance which was recorded last May at the Union Chapel in London. A supporting DVD captures the whole visual experience of the same show with the further bonus of the ‘Beyond The Chapel’ documentary which offers a further insight into the band via new interviews with Anders Nyström and Jonas Renkse.
These unplugged events offer fans the chance to get up close and personal, experiencing the performance in a more intimate venue. The Union Chapel certainly plays its part, with the stage adorned with more candles than your average house during a 1970s power cut. The gothic arches and peering gargoyles help bring a further dark decorum to proceedings. The jagged edge that Katatonia are known to employ as deftly as a highly skilled surgeon to carve some of their heavier harmonies into your heart is almost entirely absent. The material on Sanctitude is resolutely warm while in no sense detracting from the quality and depth of this release.
From the opening number ‘In The White’, the titanium loaded ‘Teargas’ through to climactic closer ‘The One You Are Looking For is Not Here’ Katatonia deliver a crushed velvet experience. The song ‘Day’ stretches back to the band’s formative years, when not unlike compatriots Opeth, they established their reputation around a death metal platform. The track featured on their 1996 release Brave Murder Day and while that’s essentially a full on DM album, ‘Day’ offered a glimpse even then of the direction in which Katatonia would ultimately journey down. The inclusion then of an acoustic rendition of that particular song is far from lost on Anders Nystrom:
“We have always felt that if there’s a need, we’re entitled to the freedom to give our old songs a makeover in the now rather than the never. So, in the making of Sanctitude there was one song in particular that meant a great deal to us. In fact, it was our first song ever to feature entirely clean vocals accompanied by clean guitars and it was written and released right in the peak of our death metal years.
“The song stood out, but isolated itself into oblivion in the climate of heavier music. Therefore we wanted this song to get a second chance, to be re-discovered. Even 20 years later when performing it live for the first time, it appears the parks are still grey and look the same…”
These unplugged shows often carry a different dynamic to your everyday gig and Katatonia’s Union Chapel appearance (joined on guitar and vocals by The Pineapple Thief frontman Bruce Soord) was no different. The final song sees the Stockholm band joined on stage by Norwegian vocalist Silje Wergeland, from Dutch legends The Gathering, and she plays her part to the full in the set closer. Katatonia followers will not tire of this masterly live performance.
8 out of 10
- In The White
- A Darkness Coming
- One Year From Now
- The Racing Heart
- Tonight`s Music
- Undo You
- Idle Blood
- The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here