KATATONIA - Night Is The New Day
December 7, 2009, 10 years ago
With time it's become clear that Katatonia will never top the impact of its latter-day watershed Viva Emptiness (an album that saw Katatonia's impact explode into previously inconceivable territory) and that's not necessarily as negative as it sounds: Viva Emptiness is a pinnacle of a record, one that is in the top 1 percent of efforts released during this decade. 2006's The Great Cold Distance tried hard (too hard?) to be a capable successor to Viva Emptiness and though that album is strong, its longevity is in question now that several (cold) years have passed. Night Is The New Day finally sees Katatonia rise out of the shadow - and subsequent pressure, no doubt - of Viva Emptiness' massive acclaim and has the band morphing once again, this time increasing the despondent elements (one wonders how that's even possible) and setting the heavy aspects of its sound as an almost secondary, complementary conceptual element: it's difficult to even call Katatonia a metal band anymore, but don't let that scare you off from a record that is, at parts, truly adventurous and far-reaching. Take, for instance, fantastic highlights 'Departer' and 'The Longest Year': these are songs Katatonia would have never been able to write even three years ago, and both tracks take a massive leap into tightly controlled, but masterfully executed, catharsis. These songs might, with hindsight, be considered the very moment Katatonia shed all layers of previous skin and fully embraced its non-metal influences which, at Joy Division, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Sisters Of Mercy and Boards Of Canada (the non-'80s odd man out), are more clear than ever. First single 'Day And Then The Shade' is a fantastic choice for initial impression, as it both re-assures fans of the band's heavy material that the distortion is still around despite the over-arching experimentation and it possesses a memorable chorus; in short, it's a new Katatonia classic. All that said, Night Is The New Day is also Katatonia's least engaging effort aside from the aforementioned songs, these Swedes either meandering un-interesting or, at worst, retreating back to previous conceptions (but at half the amount of heaviness) and then very strangely tarting them up with Meshuggah-like staggered rhythm. There are many, many ideas on Night Is The New Day and though some work without question, others feel uninformed and only partly finished: Night Is The New Day might just be Katatonia's transition record, one where the end goal is clearly in sight but the hard left turn hasn't been entirely taken just yet. Remember the cover of Spock's Beard's '02 album, Snow? Katatonia in 2009 is the very pained man on that cover.