Katatonia‘s melancholic, and atmospheric melodies have flooded the metal scene for more than three decades, yet they continuously strive to build vibrant, captivating realms of ethereal gloom and mystery. With the newly released Sky Void of Stars, Katatonia have already gathered media and fans into the palm of their hand. Streaming is at an all time high while media coverage has jumped on every bit of new info with haste – earning the album #1 spots across charts like Legacy Magazine and German Rock.
Founded in 1991, Sweden’s Katatonia have progressed in both sun and shade, living through genre expansion and explosions, emerging unscathed but not unchanged. Gathering experience, the move forward with their own, peculiar sound, bending from Gothic Doom to the enigmatic Post-metal and Melodic they now encompass – expressed thoroughly in the newly released Sky Void of Stars that debuted January 20th, 2023 via Napalm Records.
KATATONIA on the new album, Sky Void of Stars:
“Our 12th album, Sky Void of Stars, is a dynamic journey through vibrant darkness. Born out of yearning for what was lost and not found, the very peripheries of the unreachable, but composed and condensed into human form and presented as sounds and words true to the KATATONIA signum. No stars here, just violent rain.”
The previously released single “Austerity” debuted in December with a brilliant, apocalyptic music video to match. As previously reviewed (see link), this track builds the tension and atmosphere for what Sky Void of Stars is about to unleash throughout the album’s entirety. It’s a brilliant introduction into the realm that Katatonia has created, with a myriad of perfectly mixed visuals and poetic lyrics that drive the mind to dig deeper with every listen.
Following on the heels of a blistering introduction is “Colossal Shade” carrying on what “Austerity” began with a steady melody and mysterious aura. The dread in each riff echoes like a shadow looming over, offering a strange semblance of tranquility and gloom. Yet, the dread doesn’t linger, building into a higher chorus with fluid, mystifying lyrics, “just say the world, I’ll give up my final piece of freedom,” as if fated to acceptance by any means.
“Opaline” with its newly released music video offers up an empty sky with a backing harmony to embrace. It’s incredibly heavy, with high volume drums like the tricking of a clock that’s all too relevant in the lyrics, “my heart had to learn, these years, what a theft, 46 now, how many left?” It’s bleak, and ripe with despair yet strangely captivating with an anthem-like chorus that builds musically alongside quick, yet emotional lyrics. To deny the poetic expression in Katatonia‘s music would be to deny its beauty, even in the paleness. I love the vividness of each verse, to paint tiny stories in your mind yet encompassing as a whole. The movement and experiences through love and loss, passion and void, that’s carefully crafted into a musical performance that exquisitely matches each human motion.
The fourth track, “Birds” (as carefully depicted on the album artwork) is of a higher caliber, matching melody and speed into something gloriously uncertain. “Shut down my mind, is the heart brave enough yet?” – a question posed with bold intent. Look or leap? Bound or unchained? The track that captivated me in an instant for its explosive riff work, and its lyrical prowess combined. The fascination with every verse had me yearning to wander the frigid cityscape all my own – to feel the rain, hear the chirps, and feel the nothingness plaguing my forsaken heart.
“Drab Moon” feels more experimental and progressive, once more adapting Katatonia‘s genre-bending fluidity and exploration. The drop from timid curiosity into fear wickeness is tender, yet explosive. From sinking, damning riffs, to an alien-like atmosphere builds an unmatched tension that simply cannot be shaken. “You shake my blood like a raging sea, so I’m bound for the joy of sorrow, if you go there with me“. It is wondrous and filled with malice, as if bleak intentions are masked by unrequited desire. Another track that, lyrically, provokes my mind to wander the spaces Katatonia has created, and embrace every velvety storyline they seem to caress.
“Author” blows me away. “Author of scars, I see your hands upon my epitaph. Then you shift into a looking glass, a sky void of stars,” is such a thoroughly imaginative line that I could easily visualize the scene in a mere blink. Each song holds its own take, yet winds into the expansive galaxy of realms that Katatonia has so skillfully crafted. With a rugged solo and balanced melodic core, this song quickly placed itself in my brain, with lyrics that have stuck since the moment they first hit my ears.
“Imperanence” teases light mood and delicate playthrough but, its bludgeoning lyrics take this moody track to darker horizons. “I remember well the contradictions, how you turned your face towards the city lights and the shadow fell behind,” as if foreclosing on their doomed hearts. “Even if we try, we can’t live forever. I gave you my shards of sky but, we can barely see the reflection,” is a line so divine it nearly brought me to tears. The lyrical power of this slower track had me in awe, waiting for a moment of pickup or change that never arrived, nor did salvation. A perfectly timed solo that chains the hurt, and drags it out like themed musings brilliantly melds with this track’s raw emotion, and I absolutely adore it.
“Sclera” jumps from the back of “Imperanence” ‘s depression, casting a more slender shadow in the flickering light. The off-beat drums build something foreboding, as the gentle plucking of careless strings chime in the distance. The cacophony of sounds quickly develops into something gloomy and menacing, “we are standing safe outside of knowledge, where nothing ever can or will be taught,” is such a provocative yet simple line, as if to deny change and progress yet to embrace freedom in purest form. A song, with lines so gracefully carried by plain words yet, deeply embedded with passion and intensity. The chosen memories, the decisions made, and the path that was once taken.
Winding down, we hit the elusive “Atrium” that begins with a cinematic-style that escalates into a rapid ride of harmony and fractured joy. The unbound love, and devotion never quite reciprocated nor to ever be repeated. The clutches of the chase, digging in for that feeling of pleasure and desire but to never truly feel fulfilled. “We sing to the night. Abolishing the promise. Our constellation is so far out of reach,” is so vivid in its simplicity yet, complex in its expression. To feel the embers of a once vibrant flame, that now burns as a mere memory.
“No Beacon to Illuminate Our Fall” simply sounds like star fall. The exquisite melody of this track of ever-changing, moving fluidly from eerie clam, to harsh truth, and back again. The motions, simmering in black and white, are repeated in harsh chords and stammered drums, building the complexity of this track and its execution. The heaviness that finally invades this track holds such shock that it nearly ruptured the calm I’d build up over listening, though I shouldn’t have been so unwise. I’d note the lyrics of this track, as I have with many others but, this track is an experience beyond listening and mere interpretation, and one you must truly indulge all your own.
The bonus track “Absconder” kicks up the heaviness on this album, winding up some doom melody to remind us of Katatonia‘s roots before moving through progression. However, it never quite lets off the doom-metal vibe, letting it flow thorugh Gothic rhythms and sound, harmonizing with the newer elements to create a final track that’s absolutely terrifying. “I’m ready for oblivian” is a perfect line to capture this song’s mood, and wrap up the album’s feel. Inquisitive pauses, mixed with mystifying tone and quick changes leaves listeners in awe, and yet deeply inspired.
All in all, to find a proper way to express this album’s completeness in a way that hits every detail is unfathomable. It’s meticulously detailed, excellently crafted, and ripe with all the genres and experiences Katatonia has had throughout their musical exploration. Lyrically, it’s untouchable; utilizing poetic expression and vivid verses to carefully construct realms of memory, reflection, and dread in unflawed sequence. Musically, it’s so intricately detailed that you’re just as enveloped in the sound as you are the mood. Katatonia has come out of the 2023 gates on absolute fire – setting the bar for this year’s Metal scene astonishingly high. Overall, a flawless masterpiece from Katatonia that I’ll continue to ponder on for an insurmountable period of time.
You can grab your own copy of Katatonia‘s Sky Void of Stars via the direct link. And don’t forget to follow the band directly on Bandcamp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and their very own website at Katatonia.com for news, updates, and more!