November is the month that most music journalists either start compiling or begin contemplating what is to become their 'best of' lists for yet another year that is gradually drawing to an end. I recently received such an e-mail from our webmaster and, even though I pretty much know which are the strongest 'candidates' on my list, I deliberately decided to leave a couple of spaces open. Why? Past experience has proven to me that this period of the year can be quite surprising and 2009 was no exception. Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, let me introduce you to "Night Is The New Day" - Katatonia's eighth full-length release and one of the best Rock/Metal albums of the year!
We music journalists are, believe it or not, ordinary human beings just like you, so any evaluation we make of a release is bound to carry a certain level of bias. Now, I have never tried to hide the fact that I am a huge fan of Katatonia's music so you could automatically assume that I would be somewhat lenient to the bands releases, right? Wrong!
When you really like a band, you tend to be much more critical towards everything they do and when this band happens to have previously released an album of immense quality and value such as 2006's "The Great Cold Distance", then both the stakes and the levels of expectation reach dramatically high levels. Let's find out how the members of this Stockholm-based outfit managed to come up with what some people already consider to be the best album of their career thus far.
Well, apart from the fact that the eleven compositions (twelve if you get your hands on the limited edition) on offer are quite varied in nature, this is the first album in the band's career where keyboards are given a prominent role. Now, don't start getting all panicky - Katatonia has not become one of these annoying Power Metal sounding bands that base their whole music on fast keyboard themes and melodies.
The trademark sound of the band is still the product of the great collaboration between Jonas Renkse's vocals and Anders Nystrom's guitars, however it is the inclusion of numerous dark/atmospheric keyboard melodies that give every single composition that is featured in "Night Is The New Day" not only a boost of energy but also an extra dimension that was somewhat lacking from their previous albums - a dimension that both old-school and new fans of the band will equally appreciate.
The 'all-guns-blazing' riff of the four minute opus "Forsaker" provides a dynamic start for the album, before Nystrom's harmonic guitars and Jonas Renkse's soothing vocals present us with their first prog melancholic offering, "The Longest Year". You always feel it deep inside you when you're in the presence of a Katatonia classic - a title that the four and a half minute opus "Idle Blood" most certainly deserves!
The acoustic guitar and keyboard-based opening theme may indeed be quite influenced by the style of their friends and compatriots Opeth, however, when the first few notes of its breathtakingly emotional chorus/refrain hits the air, you get to realise how this one composition stands as a testimony to the uniqueness of this great quintet.
There are two more compositions in this album which will come across as being influenced by the music of other 'giants' of this genre, namely "Onward Into Battle" (Dream Theater) and "Nephilim" (My Dying Bride), however both these compositions are based on the same musical formulae that are responsible for making Katatonia one of the most unique bands of Atmospheric Metal. Another sublime example of the band's unique ability to use simple but mind-blowing melodies is the four minute "Liberation" - a composition whose refrain and guitar work are amongst the most impressive of the whole album.
More doom and gloom can be found in "The Promise Of Deceit", "New Night" and "Day and Then The Shade", all of which certainly deserve your love and attention, however, it is the simplistic and quite melancholic "Inheritance" together with the equally bleak melodies and sublime orchestrations of "Departer" that stand out as fine examples of what Katatonia's craftsmanship is capable of creating in the year 2009!
The day that I was finally going to hold "The Night And They New Day" in my hands was a day that I awaited and dreaded in equal terms. Would Katatonia manage to bring out an album that would at least manage to reach the same heights that their 2006 effort "The Great Cold Distance" reached with unnerving ease?
Well, in my humble opinion, "The Night And The New Day" is not only the best album that Katatonia have released thus far, but also an effort that ought to one day be treated as one of the best offerings of atmospheric Rock/Metal music! It really is that simple!
Review by John Stefanis
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