It’s hard for me to believe that the band’s older fans couldn’t find it in their hearts to forgive Katatonia. They’ve been far away from their black metal roots for a long time, have reached personal best levels with Last Fair Deal Gone Down and The Great Cold Distance, and have done it again with their latest, Night Is the New Day. The word from the studio sessions was that this would be an extension of The Great Cold Distance — that the band was no longer going to worry about being slavishly loyal to their genre, but focused on delivering what they felt was their best work, and this latest offering delivers on that promise.
Guitarists Frederik Norrman and Anders Nystrom can still hit that hard, satisfying crunch when they need to, as on the opening assault “Forsaker,” yet that is something of a red herring. From folky acoustic passages in the unabashedly melodic “Idle Blood” to all manner of pedal manipulations, the album verges at times on art rock; at heart, it’s still “heavy,” but it’s more about using the arsenal when most effective instead of blasting all the guns at once.
Vocalist Jonas Renske is the key to making it all work, his voice measured and subtle, and he is one of the best “clean” singers in metal. On first listen, he reminds me of David Gilmour, where he maintains a strong sense of calm and melody even when the parts get loud. On the slow dirge “Nephilim,” the lyrics are menacing, and in lesser hands would be articulated with growls, screams and other indicators of evil. Renske keeps his delivery measured — almost monotone — which actually comes across something a bit scarier when he sings, “Loving mother, he has come to take your son.”
The buzzwords of the metal genre deal in “punishing riffs,” “killing the audience” and the like, and while Night Is the New Day is hardly the stuff of church jamborees, it ranks for me as one of the best albums of the year, and one of the best examples that there’s still life in the rock section of the music store. This ain’t a sell-out, it’s a stand-out.
Night Is the New Day is available from Amazon.com.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/9j4rsUpxGlg" width="600" height="344" allowfullscreen="true" fvars="fs=1" /]