Published Apr 24, 2020Let's face it, 2020 has been one long, hard kick in the teeth so far. Has there ever been a better time for a bummed-out, beautiful Scandinavian prog-doom record? Katatonia are at the very top of that particular mountain, joining the likes of Opeth, Anathema and Paradise Lost. Ostentatiously on "hiatus" for a total of two years, they've returned with City Burials. While longtime fans know that nothing Katatonia could do would be unexpected, most probably weren't anticipating one of the best records of their 30-year career.
Neither prog nor doom, Katatonia sound like no one else. There's a bit of In Flames-esque Swedish melodic rock on the record, but there's also songs like "City Glaciers" with cascading riffs and church-like reverb. There's more electronics then ever before, but it doesn't stop "Behind the Blood," "Flicker" or "The Winter of Our Passing" from being headbang-worthy rock tracks. Katatonia have spent a long time balancing their different elements, and they fit together like clockwork on City Burials.
Considering some of their output, this is also the happiest Katatonia have ever sounded. Songs that would previously have been mopey now run like untamed horses. They sound free, as if a weight has been lifted of the band's collective shoulders. By the time "Neon Epitaph" rolls around, with its intricate riff and Tool-esque lyrics, Katatonia's transformation is complete. It's far from the only one they've pulled off, but this time they've outdone themselves. (Peaceville)