Katatonia - Dead End Kings review
|Album:||Dead End Kings|
|Release date:||August 2012|
01. The Parting
02. The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here [feat. Silje Wergeland]
04. The Racing Heart
08. Undo You
10. First Prayer
11. Dead Letters
12. Second [limited edition bonus]
13. The Act Of Darkening [deluxe edition bonus]
With Katatonia's follow-up to 2009's Night Is The New Day, Dead End Kings continues the trend starting with that album, or arguably even The Great Cold Distance, and focuses on a mellow, atmospheric sound that encompasses the overall feel of the record. This direction for the band may have perhaps stemmed from lead singer Jonas Renkse having to take control over a bulk of the songwriting after guitarist Anders Nyström suffered a case of writer's block during the previous album's recording sessions; Nyström was nevertheless able to contribute to this album. While Night Is The New Day indeed succeeded with this initial goal of emphasizing atmosphere over aggression, Katatonia continued to improve upon this style for their next record, and the result is a much more united and consolidated effort.
As with every album up to this point, the production on Dead End Kings has only become more resolute, allowing every instrument in the bunch to clearly resonate every refined note and melody through the speakers. Each member of the band has also become tighter and more confident with their respective instruments, most particularly Renkse, who by this point has gained a firm hold on the sound of his clean vocals, more so than on any of the albums prior to Viva Emptiness, and that leaves for a more focused and concise listening experience overall.
The title of the album itself is an essential juxtaposition in understanding the theme and sound that Dead End Kings presents to its audience. With "Dead End", here are two words that reveal this album will primarily dwell in a dark mood of course, and the fact that the sole positive word of the three, "Kings", appears at the end, could perhaps mean that there is a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak, which is definitely present within the music as well. The chorus of "The Racing Heart", the bright, swelling keyboards of "Undo You", and the shining acoustics of the bonus track "The Act of Darkening" have an almost positive, hopeful edge to them, as more morose, gloomy songs as "Buildings", "Ambitions", and "Dead Letters" are shadowing over them.
Upon first listen, long-time fans may feel somewhat disappointed or discouraged (no pun intended) that the album doesn't immediately "hook" them, for lack of a better word, primarily because of the more laid-back and mellow direction present in almost every song (exceptions including the harder-hitting "Buildings" and "Dead Letters"). Others might complain that some of the songs sound extremely similar to one another, and there is not much diversity between them, causing a sort of "blur" effect through the flow of the record. However with repeated listens, and perhaps better headphones, one may notice various subtleties and surprises that haven't been heard quite as clearly in previous hearings, such as a vocal harmony, an echo, or a resounding keyboard riff being played over the guitars, just to name some examples, that will allow each song to reveal its true colors and become far more diverse and enjoyable with successive hearings.
Over time, this release has the potential to become one of Katatonia's slow burning classics, one that with each return down its dark, meandering road only becomes more powerful and meaningful, the more it is taken in and absorbed.
A highly enjoyable release from these melancholic Swedes.
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