Friday, 12 March 2010

Katatonia - Highbury Garage - Thursday 11th March 2010

Katatonia are something of a unique act in the incredibly diverse hard rock/metal scene of today. These Swedish titans began their career as standard doom merchants but nowadays incorporate Cure like electronics with their melancholic atmosphere and earth shaking riffs. Tonight they arrive in London to a sold out Garage, around 500 people apparently, which is undeniably impressive for a band that receive barely even a mention on radio in Britain. They bring with them two more highly rated European bands, fellow doomsters from Finland in Swallow The Sun and, opening the bill, German post-rockers Long Distance Calling.

The aforementioned openers are a better than average post-rock act for certain featuring songs driven by Jan Hoffman's thunderous basslines and accentuated by Reimut Van Bonn's synths and ambient effects. While not doing anything especially unique they are subtle enough not to rely on the same formula song after song with gradual build ups to heaviness being just as common as a sudden switch from melodic picking to crushing bursts of sonic destruction. An impressive half hour set that also is their first peformance in London. Hopefully Long Distance Calling will come again to the UK soon.

Swallow The Sun troop onstage to an intro tape that, although atmospheric, goes on for at least a minute longer than it needs to. When Mikko Kotamaki's vocals first cut in they are sadly barely audible but eventually are upped in the mix enough for his talent to come through. This sextet may lack onstage charisma but make up for it with their suitably heavy riffs that get the crowd headbanging along. The melodeath aspects to their music add a different slant to their music from most bands of a similar ilk and the tightness of their live act is undeniably impressive. A band that is worth seeing and listening to.

The crowd are fully prepared for Katatonia by the time they hit the stage at 9.30pm, opening their set with new album "Night Is The New Day" standout "Forsaker". Despite recently losing brothers Mattias and Fredrik Norrman from their outfit this is a band on top form. Every riff echoes with the same power as on record and Jonas Renkse's aching vocals are almost perfect throughout. Anders Nystrom's solos meanwhile are more understated than flashy but perfectly suited to the songs the band create. The crowd sing along to the likes of live rarities "Omerta" and "Saw You Drown" and have a jolly good headbang to all the band's impressive hits and new songs. This isn't a band for going totally crazy to by any stretch of the imagination and one crowd surf attempts fails in all but succeeding to knock my glasses off (first time for everything). Meanwhile temporary guitarist Per 'Sodomizer' Eriksson and bassit Niklas 'Nile' Sundin fit in as if they've been in the band for years. Although the set contains perhaps a little too much from the "Viva Emptiness" and "Great Cold Distance" albums a gig cannot be in any way bad if it finishes with a double whammy of "Dispossession" and "Leaders", seeing Katatonia depart to raucous applause and thus concluding a great evening.

Long Distance Calling - 7/10
Swallow The Sun - 7/10
Katatonia - 8/10

Katatonia setlist

My Twin
Onward Into Battle
The Longest Year
Saw You Drown
Idle Blood
Ghost Of The Sun
Day And Then The Shade
In The White
For My Demons

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