Katatonia have been prominent figures in the gothic rock scene, if you so wish to brand them as such, and their latest album City Burials is a continuation of their gloomy, prog sound. The album starts out strong with Jonas Renske’s haunting vocals as ‘Heart Set to Divide’ begins and establishes the bleak tone that continues throughout the runtime of the record.
The album continues on with ‘Behind the Blood’ a song that feels reminiscent of In Flames, particularly the Sounds of a Playground Fading era.
Upon first listening ‘Lacquer’ seems like a bizarre choice for the first single but in retrospect, it is tonaly consistent and is different enough from the rest of the album to have older fans curious about just where the record could go. The record occasionally introduces industrial elements on songs like ‘Vanishers’ and ‘Untrodden’ but they are always used to build atmosphere and never overpower the songwriting or feel included to seem different. Tracks like ‘City Glaciers’ sound vaguely reminiscent of Deadwing era Porcupine Tree, complete with maudlin lyrics and aggressive musicianship that juxtaposes the more mellow tracks on the record.
Katatonia have never been a band known for their instrumental proficiency, instead relying on atmosphere and lyrics. This album doesn’t feature many guitar solos or instances of instrumental technicality but whenever they are featured; it gives the song a more grandiose feeling and this is best demonstrated on the closing track ‘Untrodden’, an undeniable high point of the record and a worthy final track.
City Burials is a more accessible record than previous Katatonia albums, mainly due to the fact that none of the songs are excessively long, but the oppressively dark tone and sombre lyrics may take some getting used to for new listeners.
Katatonia have been an eclectic band throughout their years and City Burials feels like the band further cementing their reputation as a mainstay of progressive goth rock, if you so wish to label them as such.
City Burials is out now via Peaceville Records.