KATATONIA
"Live Consternation"

(Peaceville)

01. Leaders
02. Wealth
03. Soil's Song
04. Had To (Leave)
05. Cold Ways
06. Right Into the Bliss
07. Ghost of the Sun
08. Criminals
09. Deliberation
10. July
11. Evidence

RATING: 8/10

Not a lot of surprises on this live set from the masters of dark, depressive heavy rock — unless you count the missing songs. It's understood that KATATONIA uses a lot of effects and production wizardry to create their mournful, massive melodies in the studio, and that some of those songs won't translate well to a the stage. But not one track from "Last Fair Deal Gone Down"? I know it's a festival slot and time is short, but that still seems a little bit bogus. And we won't even delve into the inevitable "play old shit!" contingent who will undoubtedly be lighting up message boards with their oft-repeated rant that the band died for them in 1998 or so…

Song selection aside, "Live Consternation" delivers pretty much what you expect — an obsidian slab of modern-day KATATONIA, not much the worse for wear without its layers of studio gloss, arguably a little more punchy and urgent in the live setting. Recorded at last year's Summerbreeze Open Air in Germany before a rapt audience, "Live Consternation" gives you the band's by-now-trademark cloistered, slightly oppressive nighttime feeling of morose, sodden resignation and wistful longing. Heavy on tracks from last year's "The Great Cold Distance", and deservedly so, this album (right down to its striking and thematically similar artwork) might well be considered a companion piece to that masterwork.

Soundwise, everything seems about where it should be — some have griped about the relative lack of oomph in Jonas Renske's voice, but he sounds fine to these ears, especially given that it sounds like a real and unadulterated live show, without the studio doctoring that's almost a given on live metal records in these digital days. Taped effects are kept to a minimum, proving that the band can hold their own outside the studio, and the guitars are forceful and upfront (perhaps even a little too much so). Anders Nyström does deserve props for some well-done and tastefully brief backing vocals, both harmonic and deathly (see "Wealth").

As I said when "The Great Cold Distance" came out — why isn't KATATONIA being discussed in the same breath as THE CURE, or TOOL, or THE MARS VOLTA? This is a band that metalheads should embrace, yes, but their dark art transcends genres and should be swirling through a lot more craniums (crania?) than is presently the case. With live albums largely being a case of preaching to the condemned — uh, I mean, converted — it seems unlikely that "Live Consternation" will do much more for KATATONIA than solidify their already-Godlike status among their faithful fans. But hey, what's so bad about that? We can let the rest of the world catch on to the underground's best-kept secret next year.

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