This review was co-written with Viola.
On Friday night, Viola and I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Katatonia concert as guests thanks to Peaceville Records and Fresno PR. We had a chance to briefly meet the band and spoke with Daniel Liljekvist, the drummer from Katatonia. We are transcribing the interview, but wanted to share our collective thoughts about the concert.
Katatonia is currently touring with Swallow the Sun and Orphaned Land, but Novembers Doom and Clad in Darkness joined the trio of bands for the Chicago show. This made for one heck of an awesome night of music. And we were thrilled to hear some bands in performance that we didn’t know much about.
Clad in Darkness
Prior to the concert, Viola and I had never heard of Clad in Darkness, so we will assume that many others haven’t either. According to the bio from the band’s Facebook page, the band started in 1999 when guitarists John Benter and Coy Scottberg met in high school and eventually added drummer, Brian Rendina, vocalist Casey Hogan and bassist Chris Shive.
Clad in Darkness is a doom/progressive metal band from Chicago. Although the band as a whole had an interesting sound with an amazing drummer that kept the music interesting, there was something that didn’t quite fit right. I can appreciate screaming vocals in metal, but the sound that blanketed the dark screams of agony didn’t completely fit together. Viola said it best, “It’s like eating a fruit salad and finding an olive; it just didn’t belong.”
The arrangements were a mix of mellow Pink Floyd-inspired, minimalistic riffs with some interesting drum grooves and suddenly there is a scream. If there were words, I seriously couldn’t tell, partially because vocalist Casey Hogan had his back to the audience for much of the show. If the vocals ever find purpose other than screaming for the sake of it, then Clad in Darkness might actually become something bigger, but for now a one-off show will suffice.
Viola and I were also unfamiliar with Novembers Doom, but we were pleasantly surprised by this Chicago-area metal band. Founded in 1989 by vocalist/lyricist Paul Kuhr as a death metal band, they have moved towards what they call “modern dark metal”. The other band members are Lawrence Roberts (lead & rhythm guitar/backing vocals), Vito Marchese (guitar) and Sasha Horn (hitting drums and other band members with sticks).
Novembers Doom is a great combination of down-and-dirty metal, catchy drum grooves, a booming bass sound, and a versatile growling/clean vocalist. Overall, the band had great energy despite being crammed on a tiny stage. Each song had nice contrasting moments that kept the audience interested throughout the set. Although Kuhr has a commanding, large stage presence, he also has a great sense of humor and interaction with the audience. The band played several heavy, hard-core songs, but also a mellow one which showcased clean vocals. The highlight of the show was the song “Rain”.
During the concert, Kuhr mentioned Novembers Doom is preparing to enter the studio to record a new album. Viola and I are interested in listening to more of the band’s music. We would definitely attend another Novembers Doom concert.
Swallow the Sun
Although we had heard of Swallow the Sun before, this was our first exposure to their music. The Finnish death/doom metal band was founded back in the early 2000s by guitarist Juha Raivio. Since then, the band has released five albums (most recently New Moon, in November of 2009).
There were elements of Swallow the Sun I really enjoyed, but what made it challenging to appreciate was the vocalist constant growling. Not that we have anything against growling singers, but we hoped to hear more variety. Despite the excellent playing with melodic guitar riffs and drum grooves, the barrage of deep, growly singing eventually sounded too formulaic and lost both Viola and myself. Perhaps it was the setlist, but we also noticed that most of the songs were the same speed and tempo.
By the end of the set, we were both ready for the next two acts. I was expecting more from Swallow the Sun, but I was disappointed by the lack of contrasting songs.
We had the good fortune to see Orphaned Land and interview lead singer Kobi Farhi (read the interview here) when they first came to the US back in March. The Israeli band describes themselves as Jewish-Muslim, or Middle Eastern progressive metal. Think Dream Theater meets Metallica meets Middle Eastern modalities. Since the last time we saw them, Orphaned Land has performed all over the world and opened for Metallica in Israel. Orphaned Land was incredible the first time we saw them, but since then, their stage energy and charisma has grown exponentially. This time around, they pretty much blew the roof off of Reggies.
One distinguishing aspect of Orphaned Land’s live show is that all the band members (except for the drummer, of course) stand right up at the front of the stage, creating intense crowd interaction. They are also one of the few metal bands which inspires the audience to dance. Farhi also encourages the crowd to jump, although at this show, it was difficult to do so because the audience was so closely packed together.
Orphaned Land performed songs off of their most recent album, The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR, along with some from Mabool. The highlight of the show for Viola was the band’s highly addictive single, “Sapari”.
Over the past few months, Viola and I have begun to learn more about Katatonia. Our introduction to the band came through Jonas Renkse’s participation on a recent Ayreon project, 01011001. Since being exposed to Katatonia and having the opportunity to review Night is the New Day, we have slowly become more familiar with the band’s older albums. We fully admit, we aren’t Katatonia experts, but I can firmly say that this show made us even bigger fans than we were before.
Unlike the typical metal band which often leans towards shredding and speed, Katatonia’s sound is built on polymeters and texture. The layers of sound that came from the stage were spectacular to hear live versus off of a recording. The purity and clarity of Renkse’s vocals over dense guitar and bass lines that were supported by synthesized sounds created a hypnotic blend.
Katatonia performed a nice mixture of songs from Night is the New Day and from older albums. I was pleased to hear “Idle Blood”, which is one of my favorite songs off of the recent album. “The Longest Year” sounded incredible live. We also enjoyed hearing some of the heavier tunes off of their older albums, especially “July” off of The Great Cold Distance.
Katatonia’s North American tour continues until Oct. 7, when it concludes in Virginia. If anyone is contemplating whether to attend a show, then set any doubts aside and go.
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