Incorporating The Music Fix
24th August 2012 06:00:00
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Katatonia - Dead End Kings

Over the past few albums, it has been all but impossible to find anyone with a bad word to say about Katatonia and their distinctive brand of utterly gloomy progressive metal. And with good reason, as these Swedes have risen to the very top of the genre purely by merit, hard work and a dash of exceptional ability. So somewhat inevitably, the hype and expectation surrounding Dead End Kings has been approaching fever pitch for months.

The only possible source of discontent has been the decreasing leaps of faith the band have made between albums; there hasn't been anything like the jumps between Brave Murder Day and Discouraged Ones, or Last Fair Deal Gone Down and Viva Emptiness. With Dead End Kings the band are very much continuing down the path started by the last of those with tracks combining a pop sensibility for melody and structure married with some cracking riffs and a spirit-breaking sense of doom. That is not to say this is merely a reworking of any past record, for once again Katatonia have produced something new with its own, unique voice.

Turning the heaviness down yet another notch, Dead End Kings sees Katatonia play with light and shade to a far greater extent than they've ever done. Almost without fail, every song slides easily between the two on multiple occasions, dragging the listener through the emotional wrangler that leaves us all mentally battered and bruised in a way only the best albums can. Whilst a similar blueprint is used to an extent throughout, it does not get tired during the fifty minutes of sombre reflection.

The album as a whole creates an oppressive, depressive atmosphere that works as a complete piece, each brick building upon the last to pile on the misery. This leaves little room for particularly distinctive or stand-out tracks, but the duet with The Gathering singer Silje Wergeland, 'The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here', is the most beautiful, heart-wrenching - and tear-jerking! - four minutes in Katatonia's history. The likes of opener 'The Parting' and 'Buildings' also display the band's knack of producing some great biting yet melodious moments that others can only dream of.

As the finale of 'Dead Letters' fades into a deathly silence, the memory of the crushing despair remains, mixed with the joy of sharing in some truly magical music. Dead End Kings is not the best work Katatonia have delivered, but that shouldn't detract from the fact that this is one of the finest and emotive albums of the year, a testament to the band's enduring quality and the vast range and subtlety in this much-maligned genre.

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Track List
1. The Parting
2. The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here
3. Hypnone
4. The Racing Heart
5. Buildings
6. Leech
7. Ambitions
8. Undo You
9. Lethean
10. First Prayer
11. Dead Letters
-- more --
About Dominic Hemy
The team's resident oddball (he takes offence to the term "village idiot", favouring "geek"), Dominic has a healthy love of the weird and wonderful end of the musical spectrum - and an intense dislike of copycats. Dabbles in psychedelic and folk musics for relaxing times, but prefers it loud, strange, and preferably with an average song length in the twenties.