Release DetailsLABEL Peaceville
RELEASED ON 11/10/2009
Night Is The New Day
posted on 11/2009 By:
There are winning streaks in all walks of life, whether it’s being productive at your very unglamorous job, excelling at whatever glamorous sport you’re overpaid to play, or creating music. Everyone is capable of hot streaks, and it’s been proven consistently that there are some people who are simply unsurpassable for a given period of time, totally untouchable, when even a mediocre performance is far above average. We’ve heard and used the line before about how a certain band is producing uneventful music (for them) that’s “still eighty-five percent better that the rest of the stuff out there,” but nobody is bulletproof, not even Katatonia. Although it sure looked like they were well on their way to being unstoppable after belting out a smokin’ string of releases that spanned from Tonight’s Decision, all the way through to The Great Cold Distance, it now resembles an incredible championship run where the titleholder actually gets better after winning his belt and is never truly given a sound thrashing, but instead falters by getting in his own way. Katatonia is now that dazed fighter who is still deadly as hell, but has ended up getting knocked a little silly after accidentally tripping over his own feet, and falling right into a punch that normally should have been a harmlessly glancing blow.
There needn’t be any worry that these guys have pushed their more accessible stylings beyond the point of salvation, as evidenced right from the beginning when the members claimed that some of the heaviest, darkest material we’ve heard from them for quite some time would be unearthed here. As a first single “Forsaker” was a smart choice because it’s one of the better tracks on the disc, and the driving riffs give off an unfriendly but highly listenable vibe, but the emphasis switches almost immediately to the vocals of the much improved Jonas Renkse on the excellent “The Longest Year”. He securely fits himself right into the pocket of his comfort zone on this tune, and it works well when his dry tones blend with the guitars as they swell and fade in non-meandering dynamic exploration. When “Idle Blood” floats on in, we’re greeted with a Damnation outtake that momentarily slams on the breaks with uninteresting acoustics, but “Onward Into Battle” reveals a stealthier Katatonia, keeping to a flat and straight road as far as the songwriting goes, while lowering the visibility by way of ominous atmosphere.
It’s during “Liberation” that the very heavy slow staccato rhythms once again appear, but other than adding a significant degree of thunder, the sudden increase in force doesn’t enhance things nearly as well as “Nephilim”, and while the latter song is weighed down by lyrical nothingness and an awkward conclusion, the former track makes the most of its time by showcasing a strong structure, with great segues. Renkse makes a return to the almost whispery-clean vocals from “Idle Blood” during “New Night”, but “New Night” is a tossup of good and bad between the sweetly psychedelic guitar effects, and the overly supple lyric delivery.
As “Inheritance” rolls on by with hardly a wave out the driver side window, and the moderately proggy “Day and Then The Shade” shambles in (another tune with a jarringly abrupt ending), I find things have suddenly become rather ho-hum, and it’s also at this point that it dawns on me just how unchallenging, and unsurprising Night Is The New Day turned out overall. The stumbling of “Idle Blood”, and “Day And Then The Shade” resulted in the wooziness of “Inheritance”, “New Night”, and “Nephilim”. Songs that have the most substance lack a bit of power, and the songs that have more muscle lack substance, so for the first time in a very long time, it feels like they've hit the cruise control.
Just when it seems like nothing more can be done, the Swedes conclude with the truly stunning “Departer”, one of the finest songs in writing and execution the band has ever recorded. Renkse sounds so exposed and vulnerable that the contrast of his emotionally draining collaborative vocal counterpart, Krister Linder from Enter The Hunt, is like a soft fist that goes right through my chest as if my ribcage was butter. Where Renkse sounds physically defeated but spiritually unbroken, Linder plays the role of the delivering angel, letting it be known how hard he tried to keep Jonas safe, allowing for a smooth, peaceful release, and calm finality. Whatever shortcomings had been faced before can almost be forgotten after such a flawless closing number, but the double edge is that it highlights how the majority of the disc is buried by the astounding quality of the final song. It makes me suddenly wonder if the band is capable of molting and refreshing itself once more, perhaps gaining inspiration by collaborating with other artists and other outside points of view.
There is no question that the immaculately produced Night Is The New Day is a dismal album, but no more than anything else they’ve done. Yes, it’s heavy, but it’s no more crushing in sound or in spirit than anything else they’ve blessed us with this decade. A pattern of high quality sidestepping has been occurring since 2003, but now the stance is firmly locked. There was a time not long ago where I couldn’t decide which album I would suggest using as an icebreaker for Katatonia, but their newest record answers that question for me resoundingly for two reasons. First, because in spots this is very heavy for someone who isn’t used to them, but the heaviness isn’t unorthodox to the unaccustomed ear (like it is on “Ghost Of The Sun”), and second, the songwriting here is the least jagged and ambitious of anything else they’ve done in a while, making for an occasionally depressing but easy introduction to this exceptional outfit.
Maybe that’s just a really nice way of saying even though Katatonia is still one of the best metal bands you’re going to hear today, this is the least impacting and captivating collection of songs in their catalog for this decade. As one of my very favorite groups on the planet, I would be proud to state that Night Is The New Day wipes the floor with 85% of what’s out there today, so it saddens me to say my heart just can’t back up that statement in this phenomenal year for metal, rock, and hardcore. Nobody has laid in with any knockout punches to them, and this is the first time in a long while that I can recall seeing them come to a standstill and hold their ground instead of making some movement against the competition, but I don’t think for a moment that this band should think about hanging up the gloves anytime soon because when their blows do connect, they can still knock your ass for a loop.
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