Katatonia - Night is the New Day 2-LP
My initial reaction to the previous few Katatonia albums was subdued at first; but while Viva Emptiness has grown on me, into their (previous) best work of the 21st century, The Great Cold Distance remains to me a mild dullard of an album, with no tracks of note that Katatonia had not already done far better years before it. I expected little from their new, 8th album Night is the New Day, but am happy to report that it's a great improvement over its predecessor, and even exceeds Viva Emptiness in quality. It's the best thing they've done since Tonight's Decision, a decade past.
The lineup remains the same, as does much of the style here, but where Night is the New Day succeeds is in the atmosphere, immediately catchy, vibrant but depressing. "Forsaker" rings out of the starting gate with melancholic guitars that trail over its bludgeoning low end. "The Longest Year" toys with some electronic percussion and swelling synth work, almost mesmerizing the listener until the guitars and acoustic drums rage forward below the scintillating keys. "Idle Blood" is a gentle sway of an autumn breeze, a more folksy, prog rock approach for the band that I am accustomed to (Porcupine Tree has written in a similar vein before), but great nonetheless. "Onward Into Battle" fuses submersive, grooving bass with spacial guitars to illicit more sheer atmosphere, while "Liberation" makes work of some uncanny chugging before it calms into beauty, with Renske truly shining in his performance.
"The Promise of Deceit" opens with some warpish synth and ringing guitars, before the bass again plods it into a forward momentum. "Nephilim" is ghostlike, and "New Night" trudges below its delightful pallette of sounds. If the album has a single highlight amidsts its constant flow of excellence, it is the gloomy but melodic "Inheritance", which can make any overcast day that much more profound. "Day and the Shade" is the heaviest track on the album, and "Departer" offers more of the bass groove and haunting atmospheres through its shrill synth lines and Nyström's irresistable guitar work.
Night is the New Day rules, and may or may not be Katatonia's finest hour. It is certainly their most mature, and while they do sacrifice some of the heavier crunch of their past, it in no way hinders the quality of the songwriting or the depth of its intentions. It's 'emo', but in the right way. The album sounds huge, technically and profesionally on par with anything else being produced this year. If the band hasn't already pushed out beyond their metal fanbase of yet, this is the album that certainly will accomplish it. Katatonia could tour with Radiohead or Coldplay for this album...and I'm not saying that like it's a bad thing.