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Katatonia: Sky Void of Stars

Let me start this review by stating that I had somewhat lost interest in Sweden's Katatonia somewhere around the release of their 2016 album The Fall of Hearts. Not that The Fall of Hearts, or even its follow-up City Burials were bad records, but as someone who fully was behind such gems as Viva Emptiness, Brave Murder Day, The Great Cold Distance, and Night is the New Day, I found their more recent fare somewhat safe, and shall I say, bland. So, with the news of their new release Sky Void of Stars, I'll admit I had the 'well, who cares' attitude, but decided to give the new album a try, as I do with all their records. Well, I have to say I'm pleasantly surprised, though not completely bowled over. I've heard plenty of 'album of the year' praises coming from a variety of sources, and while I certainly won't be shouting that anytime soon, Sky Void of Stars is a pleasant listen, Katatonia once again blending their penchant for catchy hooks and delivering them in emotional, melancholy, slightly proggy and mildly heavy song arrangements. Doom this certainly isn't, and I'd argue much of this album isn't even quite metal, but sits somewhere in the space that bands like Ghost or Anathema live; plenty of hard rock, some gloomy pop, and bits of prog, with songs that are quite full of hooks, meaty guitar riffs and blazing solos, keyboards and electronic soundscapes, and the always enchanting vocals of Jonas Renske. In fact, Mr. Renske is the star of the show here, and he's never sounded better. Songs like "Opaline", "Austerity", and "Birds" shine brightly thanks to his soaring vocal delivery, and he's absolutely mesmerizing in the highly engaging "Atrium" and the hard rocking "Colossal Shade". And, don't miss the closer "No Beacon to Illuminate Our Fall", easily the heaviest song here, with a snarling vocal and killer guitar work.

On the downside, I'm still finding that Katatonia seem like they want the album to be heavier than the songs actually are. There's a clear lack of memorable riffs, though the lead guitars and textures are quite well done, and if you like the bands prior use of keyboard layers, you'll get plenty of that here. The mellower tracks still tend to bore me, but the more upbeat material is actually quite strong and grows on you with each listen. That's actually what I find happening with this album in general; it's a grower. Each spin has me liking it a little more, so for now, I'm going to give this a very solid 3.5 stars, which might even increase over time. You be the judge.

Jonas Renkse / vocals, guitar, keyboards
Anders “Blackheim” Nyström / guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
Niklas Sandin / bass
Daniel Moilanen / drums
Roger Öjersson / guitars

Track List:
1 Austerity
2 Colossal Shade
3 Opaline
4 Birds
5 Drab Moon
6 Author
7 Impermanence (feat. Joel Ekelöf)
8 Sclera
9 Atrium
10 No Beacon to Illuminate Our Fall

Added: February 26th 2023
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 1048
Language: english

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