KATATONIA - Dead End Kings
September 13, 2012, 8 years ago
“Could KATATONIA have anticipated writing Dead End Kings during the Brave Murder Day sessions?” one asks themselves, before immediately sharp-shooting that thought out of the thin air of the mind and then watching it slowly crash into the deep recesses of the psyche where all such reverie goes to lay dormant. Asking whether a band could anticipate its future work is a useless endeavour, one fraught with the intangibles and unknowns of human evolution, a process everyone engages in, whether they’ll admit it or not. Could Katatonia have foreseen Dead End Kings upon Brave Murder Day’s release in November, 1996? Probably not. Could you, during that very same winter of ’96, have conceived of what you’re doing now at this very moment? It’s a doubtful proposition. And yet, the thought gnaws, because Katatonia has very clearly continued in the airspace it’s been populating since The Great Cold Distance generally, and 2009’s Night Is The New Day specifically. And though that space is far, far removed from the dark dirges of November, '96, one gets the distinct feeling that Katatonia is trying to methodically craft the same type of intensity and essential-record status that comes effortlessly on albums that actually attain those distinctions. Though at first familiar in the vein of the classic triumvirate of Tonight’s Decision, Last Fair Deal Gone Down and Viva Emptiness, it turns out that Dead End Kings is only peripherally in that sphere, Katatonia having opted to take that sound to an endpoint that is neither logical nor conclusive: like Night Is The New Day, Dead End Kings feels like a middle-catalogue record, even if its gives off a more refined aura than Night Is The New Day. And, yes, one realises that the band might dismiss this type of critique as pining for the past and all the nostalgia that it brings; I did commit the presumed-guilty offense of mentioning Brave Murder Day, after all. That said, there are moments of melancholic glory on Dead End Kings, including the impressive (and appropriately titled) ‘Ambitions’ and the hazy, rain-soaked ‘Undo You’, both of which merit inclusion in the rank of Katatonia’s most storied work. The parting trio of ‘Lethean’, ‘First Prayer’ and ‘Dead Letter’ are also notable, these tracks displaying much of the verve and dynamism that both Last Fair Deal or Viva Emptiness were perfect at communicating. This is the facet of its identity Katatonia should be exploring fully, rather than much of the middle-catalogue material of Dead End Kings’ first half: if Katatonia is as influenced by JOY DIVISION and THE CURE as the band claims it is, then Katatonia should intrinsically realise that though those groups reflected and revealed the morose, they still created dynamic works that framed melancholy in an active, rather than passive, way. And that might just be the story within the story of Katatonia’s work since 2009... there’s too much passivity while trying to create a sense of the sombre. Katatonia’s best has always come when that sombre has had a bit of salt-on-winter-ice traction to it.