KATATONIA were at the forefront of that interesting meeting point between the doom, death and black metal styles that exploded at the beginning of the nineties, and have been delivering their unique dark metal music now for three decades. The Swedes were never purists, though. They morphed from a death doom entity into a gloomy and heavy prog rock outfit. Four years have passed since 2016's "The Fall of Hearts", and the wait has been worth it as the new long player, "City Burials", offers everything that longtime followers would want with a vibrant collection of songs that secures their ongoing relevance.
"City Burials" encompasses that eloquent and distinct celestial quality that has been staple to KATATONIA's essence for years. The melodies remain jaw-droppingly evocative, and yet KATATONIA doesn't ever seem likely to be able to rid themselves of that heavy element that is bound to their bones. The album is a winner because it is quintessentially KATATONIA. The band was formed by vocalist Jonas Renkse and guitarist Anders Nyström in 1991 who have together guided the band's course. Here, on "City Burials", Renkse ended up writing the majority of the album. But while the release sounds in line with the essence of the act's core duo, it sounds like it's truly the product of a full band because it relies upon the full membership's talents, including bassist Niklas Sandin, drummer Daniel Moilanen and second guitarist Roger Öjersson.
"The Winter of Our Passing", for instance, is properly steered by Moilanen's crafty percussive abilities much like a skilled rider who knows when to hold a racehorse back and when to set it loose. Elsewhere, "Behind the Blood" poignantly showcases Sandin's punchy and powerful basslines on what is one of the most metal sounding songs on the album. Anders Nyström and Roger Öjersson's lush and layered guitar work builds walls of shimmering sound throughout "City Burials", and their parts playfully bounce off one another on the radio-friendly number "Flicker". And reliably as ever, Renkse's soothing vocals are instantly captivating, whether he's softly signing over the brief piano driven track "Lachesis" with harmonized mid- and high-ranged vocals, or when he's soulfully belting out vocal lines and bending notes on the groovy and infectious "Rein".
KATATONIA version 2020 is virtually unrecognizable from the entity's earliest form thirty years ago. The Swedes are hardly a metal band at all these days, in fact, but they are most certainly metallic in their delivery of unique, exciting, dark prog rock. The act has just awoken from a brief hiatus, and it seems that they are ready to take on the world since "City Burials" showcases them in the best shape of their career.