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Katatonia - Sky Void Of Stars review



Reviewer:
6.0

172 users:
7.96
Band: Katatonia
Album: Sky Void Of Stars
Release date: January 2023


01. Austerity
02. Colossal Shade
03. Opaline
04. Birds
05. Drab Moon
06. Author
07. Impermanence [feat. Joel Ekelöf]
08. Sclera
09. Atrium
10. No Beacon To Illuminate Our Fall
11. Absconder [bonus]


I have a sort of on-off relationship to Katatonia. You know, the one where you break up for half a year and then against all odds decide to try again, and again, and again. After Dead End Kings... something happened. They lost me. And they still have. It had been a long time coming, but gone were the glorious doom riffs and so-catchy-it’s-not-even-funny choruses, and instead Katatonia entered yet another experimental phase. A more laid-back, electronic, mellow-proggy phase that simply did not click with me. A thinner, too alternative-sounding production that failed to bring forth the majestic gloom and doom of previous albums. “Alright,” I said to myself, “perhaps The Fall Of Hearts and City Burials are the Discouraged Ones and Tonight’s Decision of this new Katatonian phase, and third time’s the charm?” It’s just that, it took them yet another uneven album, Last Fair Deal Gone Down, to finally reach that sweet, sweet spot that Viva Emptiness hit - like a shotgun pellet rain of poisoned absinthe straight through the chest, with the band surfing on a wave of blood all the way to Dead End Kings.

I know, I know, I haven’t even started talking about the actual album in question yet, but there was a point to that entire history lesson. If you don’t get the point, read it again. If you don’t see the same pattern as I do, think again. I fully respect Katatonia as musicians, and I respect that they are willing to try something new, but what I don’t respect is an album that sounds so flat, hollow, and static that the music on it, that’s supposed to be lush, melancholic, and heavy (even if not in the traditional “heavy metal” sense), just floats by without making an impression at all. Listen, I have no qualms at all about Katatonia having changed their style, I have no qualms at all about them not being particularly metal anymore, and I have no qualms at all about the sort of moods they are going for here, but songs are supposed to have hooks. Katatonia used to have verses and choruses that you simply couldn’t get out of your head even with a nuclear-powered screwdriver turned up to eleven. Not even the singles, "Birds" and "Atrium", have anything particularly memorable about them. Sky Void Of Stars has a few standout moments, such as the brassy synth hook on “Opaline” and the gorgeous chord progressions and anthemic guitar solo on “Impermanence”, and the Viva Emptiness-worthy “Atrium”, but even on "Atrium", the vocal lines just float in the void, supported by… not much at all, I’m afraid, because here comes the next big problem: the god damn sound, man.

There is no dynamic range to anything, and even when the songs manage to carve out an identity of their own with a cool part here or there, it all just blends together into a slow-to-mid-paced caricature of something that could have been good, but simply isn’t fun to listen to at all. Take “Author”, for instance, which contains just the sort of excellent metalli-melancholic riff I used to love this band for. I’m not supposed to have to imagine a theoretically good riff actually sounding good! Take the last song, “No Beacon To Illuminate Our Fall”, and try to remember it 10 minutes after the album is over. In fact, put on a random section of the album and try to guess which song it is. See? You can’t. Now, bring to mind a few of the actually good riffs I’ve mentioned, and imagine that the music actually sounded good as well. Then we’d have one half of a mostly decent album, at least. Why couldn’t they just have opted for a production job like the expansive, crushing sound on Night Is The New Day? Why do they have to ruin music like this? I can barely hear the guitar! Is this a joke?

Hence the history lesson in the beginning. I am for the love of all that is unholy hoping that the pattern repeats and that this will be their final tryout album before they realise what they need to do to get their shit together again: write songs with parts you can actually remember, and buy the biggest boot you can find, put it on, and then aim it straight at whoever decided “this is the lame production we want” and kick him or her straight out the nearest fire exit. Then write one of your sad songs about it and do it right the next time.

The performances and the originality cannot be denied on Sky Void Of Stars. Every musician does their job flawlessly and no other band sounds quite like this, but the songwriting won’t go down in any history books and the production makes everything simply dull. I’ve opted for using only integer ratings from 2023 onwards, so on account of aforementioned historical pattern I will give Katatonia the benefit of the doubt and round upwards to “average”.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 5
Originality: 8
Production: 4





Written on 15.01.2023 by 100% objective opinions. Integer ratings only. 7.0 means it's a good album.


Comments page 2 / 2

Comments: 46   Visited by: 246 users
24.01.2023 - 01:13
Rating: 8
Rage10000

I discovered this band on the Dead End Kings release and they rapidly became one of my favourite bands.
Parting remains my favourite song by them. I really like the new album, definitely better than City Burials. Impermanence is excellent, but so are a number of other tracks. I'll play this album a lot in 2023.
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24.01.2023 - 13:35
Netzach
Planewalker
Written by thisempty on 23.01.2023 at 01:31

I don't have to think again because there's no pattern to see. You see it, others don't.

So then it's a fact to me and not to others, and I don't expect everyone to agree with my reviews. There's a big difference between disagreeing and being upset, however...

I don't think I've once stated an opinion as a fact (actually, I even make fun of this in my personal text). I don't believe in fact, everything is subjective and interpretable. I'm just trying to tell things how I see them and argue for my point of view, that's how reviewing works.
----
"I swore I would scratch and crawl my way back into the world of the living, and I have DONE IT!"
- Sarevok Anchev
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24.01.2023 - 13:36
Netzach
Planewalker
Written by Redel on 23.01.2023 at 08:43

But he says in his personal text "100% objective opinions".

Yes, and if someone doesn't get the irony behind this statement, I'm not sure what to tell them.
----
"I swore I would scratch and crawl my way back into the world of the living, and I have DONE IT!"
- Sarevok Anchev
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24.01.2023 - 13:44
Gladius

Nice review. I'm listening to the album for a few days now and I can completely agree with your words.
I hope their show in Spain in two weeks will at least be worthwhile.
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24.01.2023 - 18:54
bguardian12

I´m not sure if someone who basically starts the review stating that he dislikes the band, or at least most of the band´s work, is the more appropriate person to write the review. It is imposible to be completely objective. If you dislike the band, or the style, you are never going to give the album a high rate, basically because you won´t be able to tell a good from a bad album because it is not your thing. That happens to me with grindcore, for instance. To me it all sounds as the same sh*t. You could make hear the best grindcore masterpiece or the worst crap, and I would not be able to tell which is which. I think the same happens here. If you think "The fall of hearts" is "meh", there is absolutely no chance you will like a recent Katatonia album. I would like to read a review from someone who has a better general opinion on the band. I´m stating this respectfully, of course.
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24.01.2023 - 22:09
faiding

I can't find my old MS account, but anyway... I get taste is subjective. I realize it's as pointless to criticize a critic as it is for a critic to criticize an artist. Taste is even less subjective than expression. But I feel there's an overstep in this review that's trying to make objective points, namely...

Quote:
I am for the love of all that is unholy hoping that the pattern repeats and that this will be their final tryout album before they realise what they need to do to get their shit together again:


Get their shit together? They have more listeners per day for their newer albums than ever before for every album since Brave Murder Day. A lot of this thread implies BMD was part of their glory days. Look at Spotify and do the math:

City Burials: 15,600,000 listens (2020)
Brave Murder Day: 3,700, 200 listens (1996)

Are you honestly implying that a metric for success is less people liking their music? So that they could please the 5 people on Metalstorm that think BMD (or thereabouts) is what the world is pining for? The numbers quite literally indicate they are, and have been almost linearly, been getting their shit together.

Their listeners and greater fandom has evolved. Teenagers yelling into tin-can-quality mics about things we thought were important in our puberty days just doesn't hit the mark. Regardless, I appreciate that for what it was and the seed it sowed for their evolution.

I also disagree with "can't hear the guitars" and "can't name a song", but that's subjective of and to your memory and hearing.
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25.01.2023 - 10:11
Rating: 7
Daniell
_爱情_
I've known Katatonia since Last Fair Deal Gone Down, specifically "Teargas". I liked the album well enough to follow the band through their long career. Quite recently I gave a thorough listen to their whole back catalogue - we have this game with friends where we rate the whole discographies of bands in an online excel table. My ratings and opinions may be quite controversial to quite a few fans.

Katatonia started off heavily inspired by the British death doom scene, as heard on the very clumsy and chaotic debut. This album doesn’t really contain songs per se. These are conglomerates of riffs and ideas that don’t really form cohesive compositions. Terrible growling doesn’t help at all either. And the cherry on top is the completely baffling quote from the movie “Love Story”. I wonder how many fans realize that the most prominent fragment of music on this album is borrowed from someone else.

Then came “Brave Murder Day”. The first album where they tried actually composing songs, with a clear goal of making them monotonous, depressing and morose. They succeeded at least at that. But re-listening to the album a few times was a chore.

“Discouraged Ones” is simply terrible. The whole album is basically The Cure worship. Or, to be exact, a very pale and sloppy attempt at The Cure worship. And boring as fuck.

I’m not going to review all the albums here, don’t worry. I don’t have enough time to do that. In my opinion worthwhile Katatonia starts on Last Fair Deal Gone Down, and stays worthwhile until today. “Viva Emptiness”, “The Great Cold Distance”, “The Fall of Hearts” – these are probably my favourite albums, in no specific order. But all the albums since LFDGD are very good, minus “Dead End Kings”.

How about the new one? Five listens in, I hate the production and struggle with differentiating between songs. I’ll keep going, because I know that Katatonia is not an easy band to appreciate. But right now it’s one of their less spectacular albums in the last 20 years. The reviewer’s rating of 6 seems quite accurate, as much as it saddens me to say so.
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25.01.2023 - 10:16
Rating: 7
Daniell
_爱情_
Written by faiding on 24.01.2023 at 22:09

Are you honestly implying that a metric for success is less people liking their music? So that they could please the 5 people on Metalstorm that think BMD (or thereabouts) is what the world is pining for? The numbers quite literally indicate they are, and have been almost linearly, been getting their shit together.

Their listeners and greater fandom has evolved. Teenagers yelling into tin-can-quality mics about things we thought were important in our puberty days just doesn't hit the mark. Regardless, I appreciate that for what it was and the seed it sowed for their evolution.

I love the way you phrased that! Expect some angry reactions
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25.01.2023 - 11:31
Rating: 7
musclassia

Written by Daniell on 25.01.2023 at 10:16

Written by faiding on 24.01.2023 at 22:09

Are you honestly implying that a metric for success is less people liking their music? So that they could please the 5 people on Metalstorm that think BMD (or thereabouts) is what the world is pining for? The numbers quite literally indicate they are, and have been almost linearly, been getting their shit together.

Their listeners and greater fandom has evolved. Teenagers yelling into tin-can-quality mics about things we thought were important in our puberty days just doesn't hit the mark. Regardless, I appreciate that for what it was and the seed it sowed for their evolution.

I love the way you phrased that! Expect some angry reactions


I mean, it's not like he's made a particularly good point; he's spent most of his comment comparing the new record to BMD and implying that Netzach's review and opinion over their recent trajectory is misguided due to him judging it against that album, but Netzach doesn't mention BMD once in his review. It's pretty clear to me from reading the review that Netzach's 'golden period' of Katatonia is Last Fair Deal Gone Down through to The Great Cold Distance, and if we're relying purely on popularity metrics, The Great Cold Distance has comfortably their most song plays on Spotify, so it's not like the new direction they've gone in has clearly expanded their listener base in a way that any personal opinions on the instrinsic qualities of a record beyond the amount of listens it gets should be discarded. Furthermore, you even agree pretty much exactly with the contents of the review based on your previous comment, so I don't really see what's to appreciate in the comment you're quoting, which seems to pretty much be targeted at Bad English and one of two other users in this thread at most. It seems rather akin to someone coming onto your ponderer meltdown-inducing Poetry For The Poisoned review and claiming that PFTP having more streams per song than The Fourth Legacy shows that Kamelot had got their shit together.
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25.01.2023 - 12:05
Rating: 7
Daniell
_爱情_
Written by musclassia on 25.01.2023 at 11:31

I mean, it's not like he's made a particularly good point; he's spent most of his comment comparing the new record to BMD and implying that Netzach's review and opinion over their recent trajectory is misguided due to him judging it against that album, but Netzach doesn't mention BMD once in his review. It's pretty clear to me from reading the review that Netzach's 'golden period' of Katatonia is Last Fair Deal Gone Down through to The Great Cold Distance, and if we're relying purely on popularity metrics, The Great Cold Distance has comfortably their most song plays on Spotify, so it's not like the new direction they've gone in has clearly expanded their listener base in a way that any personal opinions on the instrinsic qualities of a record beyond the amount of listens it gets should be discarded. Furthermore, you even agree pretty much exactly with the contents of the review based on your previous comment, so I don't really see what's to appreciate in the comment you're quoting, which seems to pretty much be targeted at Bad English and one of two other users in this thread at most. It seems rather akin to someone coming onto your ponderer meltdown-inducing Poetry For The Poisoned review and claiming that PFTP having more streams per song than The Fourth Legacy shows that Kamelot had got their shit together.

You misunderstood me to an extent, but this is not your fault, but mine. My positive reaction to faiding's post was not in any way connected with Netzach's review. I understand why you made that connection, so please let me explain:
1. Faiding very neatly summarised what I also think about a big chunk of Katatonia's fanbase, who seem to worship early releases, while simultaneously failing to notice how bad they are. I found the way he worded that part of his post to be cool.
2. Faiding most likely misunderstood Netzach's opening paragraph. In my opinion this paragraph doesn't display Netzach's lack of appreciation for later Katatonia, but it seems faiding read it like that.
3. You correctly indentified the target audience for what faiding said about "5 people on Metalstorm". Expecting some angry reactions from these people was what I meant. (By the way, I won't ever read what Bad English says, because I put him on ignore many years ago and have been enjoying his blissful absence ever since.)
4. I hope that we can agree that "getting their shit together" can mean different things to different people. (In my opinion Katatonia got their shit together on LFDGD and haven't dropped the ball ever since.)
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26.01.2023 - 20:30
Netzach
Planewalker
Written by bguardian12 on 24.01.2023 at 18:54

It is imposible to be completely objective. If you dislike the band, or the style, you are never going to give the album a high rate, basically because you won´t be able to tell a good from a bad album because it is not your thing.

It is impossible to be completely objective regardless of my potential preconceptions of a band, be they good or negative, there is no such thing as an unbiased review or "100% objective opinions" (which of course is an ironical jab at the very notion).

As for your opinion that I shouldn't be reviewing albums whose musical progression aren't to my tastes is ridiculous for a number of reasons:
1) I'm the reviewer and I can review whatever I please, thank you.
2) I have a very good background knowledge of the band which makes me highly suitable to analyse the band in a broader contest.
3) I can tell good music from bad music even if it's not "my thing". This album is "my thing", it's just not a very good thing.

The music isn't even my main gripe with the album, it's the terrible production job. I hope they sound less lame when I'm seeing them in Stockholm in February.
----
"I swore I would scratch and crawl my way back into the world of the living, and I have DONE IT!"
- Sarevok Anchev
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26.01.2023 - 21:24
Enissa

Little late to the party I guess, but another meticulously-written review. I really enjoyed the read!
I haven't paid much attention to Katatonia since Night Is The New Day (which was great btw), so I'm not sure about Dead End Kings and Fall Of Hearts. However, City Burials was okay I guess. Although I agree with some points you made about Katatonia going in an upward trajectory since LFDGD (I always thought Discouraged Ones and Tonight's Decision are kind of boring).
Now to the album at hand - it's like it's THERE, nothing much happening. The songs seem to blend into each other after Birds, which is not great. I also get your point about the production: I think it's overproduced, which I'm noticing with a lot of album these days, even affecting Jonas' vocals.
Anyways, I'll keep listening and maybe something will change (I can't say much has with City Burials!).
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28.01.2023 - 05:04
Rating: 8
SoUnDs LiKe PoP

Album starts to meander after Birds. The only real highlight after track 4 is Atrium, although Author and No Beacon To Illuminate Our Fall are decent. I'd say this is an improvement from City Burials and The Fall of Hearts, but still a decline in quality from everything from Viva Emptiness through Dead End Kings. Drab Moon had potential, but the chorus is just too lackluster.

With that said, the strongest tracks (Austerity, Opaline, BIrds, Atrium) are very good, amongst their best.
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I lift weights and listen to metal
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28.01.2023 - 12:00
Netzach
Planewalker
Written by Enissa on 26.01.2023 at 21:24

Now to the album at hand - it's like it's THERE, nothing much happening.

Exactly this. Couldn't have said it better myself.
----
"I swore I would scratch and crawl my way back into the world of the living, and I have DONE IT!"
- Sarevok Anchev
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Today - 12:14
Rating: 8
DarkWingedSoul

Written by prnzokoshiroltra on 15.01.2023 at 20:02

Written by DarkWingedSoul on 15.01.2023 at 19:51

Ehhh, there goes my hopes again, after ahab and obituary....


Katatonia & Ahab I get... but what's wrong with new Obituary? you're not one of them 'The End Complete should've been the complete end!' types are you?



just was downed by all the meeehish reviews on obituary actually, but like the new album quite a lot, probably havent like album that much sonce world demise
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Today - 12:16
Rating: 8
DarkWingedSoul

Written by Netzach on 15.01.2023 at 20:13

Written by prnzokoshiroltra on 15.01.2023 at 19:44

another great, esoterically evocative, intelligence-drenched review from Netzach, regardless. doesn't matter whether I agree or not - as I said at the start of this comment: I see validity in all 3 or 4 arguments. and the acidity of humidity within this entity's vicinity. the epitome of my idiocy. times infinity. turn on your anti-rhyme filter. you rock, MS. not my own MS. it's not like Netzach owes me money - this is different. and I shall surely cry.

last 3 records spun
--------------------------
Venuvian - Lost
Necrodeath - Singin' in the Pain
Turmion Kätilöt - Omen X

Thank you. I'm glad I don't owe you any money! You might like this one more than I did. The songwriting is just part of the problem, it's really the production that bothers me. Glad you checked out Omen X, that was a fun one, eh?

Written by DarkWingedSoul on 15.01.2023 at 19:51

Ehhh, there goes my hopes again, after ahab and obituary....

Well, give it a shot anyway, you might see it differently than me, but the singles released so far are by far the best songs and even they don't cut it for me.


took the advice Netzach sire, and actually i grow to like the album, not back to form, but still clicked better than their latest albums...
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