Katatonia - Dance Of December Souls review
|Album:||Dance Of December Souls|
|Release date:||December 1993|
01. Seven Dreaming Souls
02. Gateways Of Bereavement
03. In Silence Enshrined
04. Without God
05. Elohim Meth
06. Velvet Thorns (Of Drynwhyl)
07. Tomb Of Insomnia
08. Dancing December
09. Midwinter Gates (Prologue) [2007 Re-Release bonus]
10. Without God [2007 Re-Release bonus]
11. Palace Of Frost [2007 Re-Release bonus]
12. The Northern Silence [2007 Re-Release bonus]
13. Crimson Tears (Epilogue) [2007 Re-Release bonus]
Sorrow. Despair. Darkness. The essence of Katatonia and the inspiration behind their debut album, Dance Of December Souls. An album so dark, so morose, that no smiling face or joyful soul could hope to escape its effects. It's here where Jonas Renkse (aka Lord J.Renkse) and Anders Nystrom (aka Blackheim) took the foundation of Paradise Lost's classic Gothic album and injected it with even more darkness and misery.
Indeed, it was in fact that album that Anders has stated was the main inspiration for the direction of Katatonia's music. He also makes no secret of the fact that Gregor Mackintosh has made the biggest impact on his playing, something very evident with just one listen to Dance Of December Souls, as the mournful guitar harmonies that characterized early Paradise Lost is utilized here by Blackheim to its' fullest extent.
But Katatonia are not a carbon copy of the UK doomsters, as they are more concerned with enveloping the listener in total hopelessness and bleak misery, making for songs that at times reach and exceed the fifteen minute mark. The intro, "Seven Dreaming Souls," should have been titled "Seven Screaming Souls" as that is what you hear. Anguished souls agonizing for salvation from the endless pits of darkness soon crashing into "Gateways Of Bereavement" and its sorrowful strings and despondent spirit. Lyrics of emotional decay and mournful longing screamed out in agony by Renkse in a manner that leaves none in doubt as to this man's sincerity. You know he feels this. Never has there been a vocal performance this tortured, this agonizing. The man is basically pleading for deliverance, desperately longing for some sense of hope in a world all too bleak to withstand.
"In Silence Enshrined" is a lovelorn cry of sadness picking up in tempo half way through aided by some nice atmospheric guitar work and Renkse's unpredictable drumming. Admittedly not a very accomplished drummer, his playing is at times a bit awkward, yet he never attempts something that is beyond his capabilities and does manage to make things interesting at certain times. "Without God," a song that seems to be a fan favorite from this album, sees Renkse screaming forth blasphemies such as "Your fucking God is dead, and shall forever be!" and "A dawn without your fucking God!", playing into the black metal tag that is applied to this period of the band. Now I must say that I have never considered Katatonia to be a black metal band, but one cannot deny the influence that this genre has had on the band's sound. When they were still in their demo days, they often were seen wearing corpse-paint and bullet belts and though that image was scaled down considerably by the time they released this album, its traces can still be heard mainly in the vocals, which at times are pure black metal screams. This is what set Katatonia apart from other early 90's doom/death bands like Anathema, Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride. Where those bands had roots in death metal, Katatonia were more rooted in black metal, making for an album that was far bleaker than any of the doom albums of that time. "Elohim Meth" is a clean guitar instrumental accompanied by the sound of rain showing that the band could be just as effective with a mellower approach, if not more so than their standard fare.
My personal favorite from this disc is "Velvet Thorns (Of Drynwhyl)," where Blackheim's sorrowful harmonies along with the tortured cries of Renkse make for a hypnotizing combination. This lengthy journey into despair features every aspect of Katatonia's presentation, from the harsh black metal screaming to the acoustic moments, and stands as the most impressive track here. No lyrics are printed for "Tomb Of Insomnia" for some reason, but the song is another lengthy expression of misery, beginning with a more traditional doom approach and ending in total anguish with Jonas screaming desperately "Sorrow embrace my heart, so I can sleep." The ending instrumental "Dancing December" hints at the darkwave influence the band have always been vocal about, Blackheim's harmonies in this piece reminding of The Cure's more ethereal moments.
Along with bassist Israphel Wing, Renkse and Nystrom released one of the darkest albums to ever be recorded. Produced by Dan Swano at Unisound studios, this is an absolute must for any fan of dark atmospheric music, even if Jonas recently described this album as an "hour of shit". For people who have just gotten into Katatonia and have not heard this album, proceed with caution, for this hardly resembles the Katatonia of today, yet it's interesting to see how they have evolved from this stage to their current incarnation. Unforgiving bleakness.
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