Both OPETH and KATATONIA are flaunting their softer, progressive measures these days, and with good reason. While both of these contemporaries are widely-acknowledged masters of death metal, doom and goth, they have both proven to be fearlessly dynamic, even more so the past few years. KATATONIA restructured their 2012 album "Dead End Kings" with supple acoustic treatments and released it as "Dethroned & Uncrowned" a year later. Obviously feeling like they were onto something, KATATONIA next issued the largely stripped live package "Last Fair Day Gone Night" last year.
One year following, we get the frequently gorgeous concert film "Sanctitude", KATATONIA's all-acoustic set performed at Union Chapel in London. As with "Last Fair Day Gone Night", KATATONIA performs to an appreciative English audience, who really turn up the noise during the band's three song encore in this set (as they do early on for "Teargas"), culminating in a guest appearance by current THE GATHERING vocalist Silje Wergeland.
Having toured for "Dethroned & Uncrowned" in 2014 under the banner "Unplugged and Reworked", KATATONIA's presentation here is, of course, all-acoustic. Eighty minutes of lush, metal-based melancholia canvassing the band's catalog, including "Viva Emptiness", "Brave Murder Day", "Discouraged Ones", "Night is the New Day", "Last Fair Deal Gone Down" and, of course, "Dead End Kings" (or, for the purposes of this set, "Dethroned & Uncrowned").
Performing a candlelit set stationed beneath a medieval cross and massive pipe organs with varying textures of stage lighting just might be one of the all-time great stage settings—and with minimum financial outlay. Jonas Renske leads KATATONIA persuasively through placid disassembles and reconfigurations of fan favorites such as "Teargas" and "Tonight's Music" from "Last Fair Day Gone Night", "Day" from "Brave Murder Day", plus a sizable batch of "Viva Emptiness" standouts, including "Sleeper", "Omerta", "Evidence" and "One Year From Now".
As Renske tells his audience the band has a case of the nerves performing these goth and doom metal odes in acoustic form, such modesty is readily opposed. "Last Fair Day Gone Night" was solid enough, but "Sanctitude" finds KATATONIA organically transmuting their heavier, doom-based material along with the "Dethroned & Uncrowned" tracks. With the ambient candles at their feet, calming percussion and splashes of red, blue, pink, purple, orange and yellow cast about the band, there's a dazzling essence of Rococo to "Sanctitude".
Metal music turned Baroque, and climaxed by the curtain call selections "Omerta", "Evidence" and "The One You are Looking for is Not Here", joined on the latter by Silje Wergeland, who helps send the set off with further grace. Bruce Soord of THE PINEAPPLE THIEF and JP Asplund sat in with KATATONIA on the "Unplugged and Reworked" tour for the departing Per Eriksson and Daniel Liljekvist respectively, and they do a very admirable job. As it appears uncertain where KATATONIA is heading next musically given the loss of Eriksson and Liljekvist, one thing's for certain; they've made some lovely magic within this stripped milieu and they're capitalizing upon it while licking their wounds.