363: KATATONIA

A couple of months ago, I did a series of 2-part posts detailing bands who’d undergone such a dramatic shift in sound that I could readily write separately about their early and late output. While Katatonia might have seemed an obvious choice for that run of bands, there’s two main reasons they didn’t make the cut. Firstly, as far as I am concerned, so gradual and steady has been this evolution that there’s no clear split between an old sound and a new one. But, secondly (and more importantly), Katatonia are such an unbelievably remarkable band that there just was never any doubt that they’d be one of the final bands I wrote about.

When they first started out, Katatonia were a 2-piece death/doom act. They were already a promising band, and their debut full length, 1993’s ‘Dance of December Souls’ was a fantastic death/doom album. But it was the period of change Katatonia started going through in the late 90s that put them in a path to becoming something truly special.

Prompted in part by vocalist Jonas Renske no longer being able to deliver death growls, as well as an overall drive to grow their sound, Katatonia began shifting to a more doom/gothic sound. Renske started really exploring his clean vocals, delivering increasingly beautiful performances.

As they’ve carried on producing music (an occasional hiatus not withstanding), Katatonia have continued to craft their unique sound. While it carries a lot of the hallmarks of doom metal, the mournful atmosphere and dark beauty, they’ve always pushed further and further. Terms that have Katatonia have been labelled with on and off the past twenty years include alt rock, doom metal, gothic metal, gothic rock, prog rock, prog metal, and even shoegaze.

While this might seem like the symptoms of a band whose sound defies categorisation, and that is perhaps partly true, it’s also simply because, at one point or another, Katatonia have been each and every one of those genres. And that’s what makes them truly remarkable.

It’s not that Katatonia are some eclectic mish-mash of styles, pinballing from genre to genre, but rather that it is such a beautiful and meticulously crafted sound that flows so gently and consistently that you’d never consider what the genre was unless pressed to.

In the end, the best label to give them is simply Katatonia and I know that, for me, that means stunningly beautiful and somber music outside of any genre.