Katatonia is another of those bands that is blessed with a large following overseas, but just has never really hit a solid chord with Western audiences. I get the feeling that their newest studio album, “Night is the New Day” will do little to change that.
We see Katatonia traveling down the same path they’ve occupied for much of the past decade, continually trying to make their sound more flowing and progressive. They are a band that asks the audience to read between the lines into the sheer artfulness of the music. Their creativity and variety of sound, from the most visceral riff of “Forsaker” into the softest, restrained melody of “Idle Blood” is admirable if a bit of a difficult pill to digest. This is not for casual metal fans, people looking to break into the genre, or metal fans who enjoy videos of car crashes.
Katatonia, while well versed in the intricacies of musical theory, also possess some of the more overt qualities of their Scandinavian metal brethren. The same type of basic constructions used in the album’s more typical metal fare can also be heard in the more recent albums of Soilwork. The wild, loud guitar strains on “The Longest Year” and “Nephilim” are evidence of this. Still, the similarity between the two bands ends with that shade of comparison, as they then diverge onto wholly different paths. While Soilwork is content to be display brute force, Katatonia moves onto a higher artistic level, but with a much less powerful affect. The band’s name is ironically apropos to the consistency of “Night is the New Day.”
“Night is the New Day” is an atmospheric album that revels in its self-imposed restraint. Katatonia is practically asking the listener to take a journey with them, and at the same time, hear the notes they’re not playing. The entire album balances on the precipice of heavy metal convention, but the threatening promise never materializes. A song like “Liberation,” flashes initial teeth, but then does not deliver a substantial, satiating heavy metal edge. Instead, the album crafts a number of dirges that attempt to convey a heavy emotional context, as opposed to a heavy beat. The comparisons that “Night is the New Day” will draw to Opeth are, for better or worse depending on your taste, not without merit.
As a progressive ambient metal album attempting to create a gloomy, downcast atmosphere, “Night is the New Day” can be judged at least a solid success. The musicianship on every instrument is undeniable, and each song is measured and calculated to exacting specifications. I am not a man who pretends to be at all educated in musical theory or construction, but the evident ability of the band to weave melodies and harmonies into and out of each other is impressive.
The issue is that if the listener has no inclination toward that type of metal, nothing about this will appeal whatsoever. Critical acclaim from those looking for this type of experience will rain heavy, and well it should; “Night is the New Day” accomplishes a lot of its goals, and maintains a thoroughly artistic sound that should not be ignored. Personally, I look for more punch in my metal. Fair or not, I had hoped to see Katatonia follow the recent trend of veteran metal bands to draw inspiration from their earlier works. While there is some of that, I think it could have used more of the band’s old-school flair to create better hooks that would have made for a more memorable experience, but still not asked them to appeal to the lowest common denominator.