Released: 2012, Peaceville Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
NIGHT IS THE NEW DAY was my favorite album of 2009, and my favorite album to date from Katatonia. It was the perfect culmination of the band’s heavier roots and their more recent gothic tendencies for an album that was, for me at least, masterful. In that scenario, there’s only three ways a band can follow up such a disc – 1) break up, a la At the Gates, 2) go all left field and record a ST. ANGER, or 3) stay the course and hope for the best. It’s scenario 3 that the Swedes have opted for with DEAD END KINGS. Closer in DNA to NITND than any other disc in their catalog, it’s a tried and true Katatonia disc (a good thing), but a tried and true Katatonia disc that suffers a bit from self plagiarism.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the album. And if you liked the last few releases from the band, chances are you’ll find something to dig about DEAD END KINGS as well. But save for a few standout cuts, it frequently gets lost in its own melodrama. Let’s start with the good stuff first, eh? Album opener “The Parting” starts soft but pounces unexpectedly (think “Forsaker”), while current single “Buildings” is the most openly aggressive track on the disc and stands out for that reason alone. I’d toss up “The One You are Looking for is Not Here” and “Dead Letters” into this category as well. The former because it’s the first of many, dreamy tracks on the disc and thus has the best opportunity to create a first impression, and the latter because it manages to fire up the engines one last time before a big closing crescendo. Now for the not as good stuff: everything else. It’s not bad, but there are so many piano interludes and passages of reflection that at times they all seem interchangeable. It all sounds like what you think Katatonia should sound like, and it makes for decent background music, but it doesn’t do much for the album’s identity.
DEAD END KINGS still brings the heavy across the album, but it’s certainly the least “metal” in the band’s repertoire, which should come as no surprise to those of you following the band’s career. Lots and lots of ambient layers, but they don’t sound nearly as crisp and defined as on NITND. The whole album sounds a bit “grayer”, which may well have been the intent, but l ponder what a brighter mix could have done for the album. But it’s still a good listen. Not a great listen, and not Katatonia’s best by a long shot, but there’s certainly worse ways to spend your money. DEAD END KINGS is available now through Peaceville Records.