Review: Katatonia - Dead End Kings

Band: Katatonia
Album: "Dead End Kings"
Style: Gothic rock/metal
Release date: 2012-08-27
Origin: Sweden

1. The Parting
2. The One you are Looking for is not Here
3. Hypnone
4. The Racing Heart
5. Buildings
6. Leech
7. Ambitions
8. Undo you
9. Lethean
10. First Prayer
11. Dead Letters

Katatonia is a band that I have an ups-and-downs-past with. I discovered them with the album that became the big change for the band, namely "Discouraged Ones" from 1998 so we definitely have a past together. Nine full-length albums into their career, I have always regarded them as a hit-and-miss band due to some uneven songwriting. For example, I do like "Tonight's Decision" (1999) and "Viva Emptiness" (2003) quite a lot but I never got the hype for "The Great Cold Distance" (2006) and I didn't like their last album "Night is the New Day" (2009) at all.

As we write August 2012 in the calendar, it is time for "Dead End Kings" and the first thing I have to say is; what a fucking spectacular cover. I won't bother looking it up, but I assume it is Travis Smith who once again has outdone himself.

The album starts with "The Parting", which is a good choice for an opener with it's signature Katatonia-guitar work and Jonas Renkse's instantly recognizable vocals. The second track features Silje Wergeland (from The Gathering) on guest vocals, which I guess is nice and all. But ever since Renkse started singing "clean" - like in 1998 - there have never been a need for female vocals in Katatonia in my opinion. And add to that, that Renkse's vocals are layered together with Wergeland's - and she actually becomes quite useless here. To make things worse, the song itself is really sub-par and sounds as if it was put together in half an hour during a rehearsal. I'm not impressed.
"The Racing Heart" begins very ballad-ish with only vocals and keyboard-effects. After a while, it turns into a groovy track which undoubtedly sounds as if it was intended for a single. It's nothing breathtaking or anything - we've heard the band do this many times before - but it is a good track nevertheless.

Katatonia 2012: Per, Daniel, Jonas, Anders & Niklas
I wont deny that Katatonia are really good at what they do, but there's really little new ideas here and I've heard the band do this much better before. Songs such as "I Am Nothing", "Strained", "Teargas", "Sleeper", "Criminals" and "My Twin" have had some little twist that made them stand out. Also, I wish for something little more up-tempo such as the band did on one of their best songs ever; "Ghost of the Sun".
Next up is "Buildings" and it has a little more edge to it with some heavy riffing and although it sounds refreshing, there's really nothing that grabs my immediate attention or sticks out of the ordinary. After that comes a song that slow things down considerably and actually bores the shit out of me. Anathema can do this sort of music perfectly and although Katatonia has showed (more than once) in the past that they also are capable of this - "Leech" is not one of those.

The album continues on like this; lots of their patented mid-tempo songs with some changes here and there when it's time for a chorus. But it seems like the main focus and the keywords this time around has been "softer" and "slower". I like the opening track, "Buildings", the more heavier "Lethean" (which has a chorus that's quite addictive) and the last track "Dead Letters" that manages to bring something different to the table - and actually sounding a little like something off of Opeth's latest album "Heritage". Though I must admit it's a very small resemblance, it is still there lurking in the shadows.

All in all, this seems like "just another day at work" and "just a new album" for Katatonia. But I must admit that I had no high expectations for this album and it actually managed to sound exactly the way I thought it would. It's an alright album for a band that are very good and professional at what they do, although they keep doing much of the same thing album after album. Had "Dead End Kings" had a few more up-tempo songs I would probably enjoyed it more. As it is now, I cannot give a higher score than 6.


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