5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I've been a fan of Katatonia since Discouraged Ones, and a super-fan since Viva Emptiness seared it's way into my brain. Prior to Viva I always thought that the weak link in Katatonia was the vocals, but Renkse grew up on that album, and has been getting consistently better ever since. On Dead End Kings, the vocals are nothing short of phenomenal. Having said that, just about everything about this album is unwaveringly excellent, although as with all Katatonia albums, it takes a while to sink in, a fact I usually put down to the bands unusual sense of melody and rhythm.
Straight off the bat, the production on Dead End Kings is crisp, powerful and warm sounding, which is a bit of a change from the cold tones of Night is the New Day. There is also more of a metallic edge here than on the previous release, that takes the listener back to The Great Cold Distance. In fact, Dead End Kings comes across as a distillation of those 2 albums, but more polished and refined than before. Opener The Parting opens with a disparate vocal and strings buildup before crashing into a dense riff, which then dissipates during the verse into a sparse arrangement which gives Renkses vocals the space they need, which is then followed by an epic chorus based on the intro riff but subtly twisted. This type of progressive structuring is present throughout the album, and as a result the album feels much more flowing than previous efforts. Stand out tracks for me are Hypnone, a slow grower but one of the strngest on the album, The Racing Heart which features an extremely mellow, almost portishead like opening before picking up at a faster tempo than you'd expect, and personal favourite Ambitions, a song which to me is one of the strongest and most emotional tracks Katatonia have ever recorded and sends shivers down my spine when I hear it. Having Dead Letters as a closer is a stroke of genius as well, as the twisty nature and slightly unresolved last chords of the song leave the listener begging for more.
Special mention I feel must be made of Daniel Liljekvist on drums. Absolutely spectacular performance once again, Daniels drumming on Dead End Kings is one of the highlights of the album, being both restrained and amazingly creative. New guitarist Per Erikkson also shines here, and the one track he contributes (Lethean) features an amazing solo near the end that had me doing a double take the first time I head it. It seems the lineup change has done no harm whatsoever to the band dynamic, and may have reinvigorated them somewhat.
The only criticism I have of Dead End Kings is the same one I've had since The Great Cold Distance, which is that the lyrics are too samey and abstract. On Viva Emptiness and Last Fair Deal, there was a narrative quality evident, particularly in tracks like Criminals, Sleeper and Evidence which is missing here, apart from a few moments like the last section of Ambitions. That's an entirely personal opinion though, because despite this the lyrics are still intelligently written and evocative, and delivered with practiced finesse. I've noticed that Renkse concentrates more on the tonality and articulation than trying to hit lots of notes, and the result is that the vocals float over the rest of the music with an ethereal quality that perfectly fits the vibe of the music.
Overall, Dead End Kings is another belter from an excellent band. At this point, they truly are masters of their sound, and they deserve widespread recognition.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 February 2013
Katatonia are a band who don't rest on their laurels, and have undergone quite the evolution in their history. Starting as death/doom band they have gradually moved away from the death elements in their sound, to a great effect. After the solid The Great Cold Distance and the acclaimed Night Is the New Day the pressure was on for Katatonia to release an album that continued their upwards projection without compromising their melancholic sound.
They responded with "Dead End Kings." I will say right off the bat, this was my favourite album of 2012, and is swiftly becoming one of my favourite albums ever.
Every song on this album is excellently crafted and perfectly executed. Starting with "The Parting" and ending with the first single off the album "Dead Letters", the whole album takes you on a journey of emotions that will leave you breathless.
Musician wise this album is excellent as well: Guitars are crisp when heavy, and well executed during the softer moments as well. The Rhythm section add brilliant layers of light and shade with aggressive groves or very subtle undertones. Renske gives another excellent Vocal performance, demonstrating heartfelt emotion and feeling throughout.
My personal favourite tracks are "The Racing Heart" and "Leethan" which both have strong groves but a really soft melody. In all, the whole album is wall to wall brilliance and highly recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 April 2013
I have listened to Katatonia for a long time and in my opinion they don't have a bad album, even down to the early Discouraged Ones and Brave Murder Day. They have progressed into one of the best progressive rock bands ever and are getting better with every album. Dead End Kings is amazingly melodic with Jonas's voice sounding ever moody that fits with the music like an instrument in an orchestra. You really have to listen hard to appreciate how intricate their sound is with little enhancments here and there like extra voice overs, odds and bobs of instruments thrown in all adding to the amazing overall sound and feel of the album. I have seen them 4 times, they are one of the best live acts of this genre that I have seen. In fact my 15yr daughter loves them (thankfully she follows my taste in music, as do my other 2 offspring). In fact, we met the band after their gig in the Manchester academy this year, I was a bit apprehensive but they turned out to be the most polite people I have met in a while, very thoughtful of my daughter, and at one point Jonas told Daniel Liljekvist to watch his language!!! Loads of photos and the usual hand salutes with the band, hugs for my daughter. A genuinly great band.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 8 November 2012
With the release of this album, for me Katatonia have established themselves as the best band out there. The evolution into the top level of progressive metal that started (for me) at 2003's viva emptiness, (although the transformation begun in tonights decision)has continued until they are at the top. The great cold distance was a phenomonal release, for the first time in about 15 years (im 37) I waited with bathed breath for a next album by a band i fell in love with, the fear of a dissapointing follow up, as so often happens, at the back of my mind (ill never get over the crushing dissapointment of hammerheart after blood fire death by Bathory when I was about 16-im still scarred by that episode). This fear was unfounded as night is the new day, again a progression to greater refinement of thier sound was released...
So to dead end kings.
In many ways the structure of the tracks are more accessable, the instant grabber on the album for me is the racing heart, then Lethean, and dead letters. This album though as a whole does take a number of listens to build a clear impression, and keeps on rewarding..
The addition of a new guitarist (Per Eriksson)is a very good thing and provides more depth to the music (nothings ever overdone all the same), the keyboards (frank default)again add a further layer and improves the overall sound on the album,and new bass player Sandin works well with Daniel Liljekvist on drums, who for me is an outstanding drummer, where technical ability is shared with pure feel...
the exit of the norrman brothers (all very friendly, no bad blood due to family stuff on the norrman side), has not affected the writing -as they didn't contribute on that front anyway. and I think eriksson is technically better anyway.
This album is fantastic and builds on the progression of the last four, making katatonia one of the best (for me the best) metal bands in the world.
Buy this and then i recommend buying each preceding album one at a time, until you dont like it anymore-most will go all the way back, and some will go at least 4 or 5, they are that type of band.... then go see them live.
There is no fear of disappointment....
on 29 June 2014
Night is the New Day was one of my favourite records of 2009 and so I was very eager to hear Dead End Kings. I’ve been listening to it since the promo dropped in June. Yet I was so heavily invested in Night Is the New Day that the new album didn’t initially capture my imagination, perhaps because the opening track The Parting – though good – doesn’t have the impact of NITND’s Forsaker.
Forget that quibble though, the second track on the album – The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here – is an absolute belter thanks in no small part to The Gathering vocalist Silje Wergeland joining Katatonia’s Jonas Renkse on lead vocals. The resultant doom-bathed duet is a beautiful lament and a song I keep coming back to for more.
As the album progresses the traditional elements of Katatonia’s sound are all present and correct. Jonas’s melancholy effect laden vocals, the dynamic shifts between ethereal atmospherics and crunching guitars and the evocation of bleak lonely landscapes. Shut your eyes and you could be marooned on a rain-swept Swedish sand dune.
Halfway through Dead End Kings we reach Buildings which is one of the album’s heavier moments and shifts the pace up a gear. The segue into the piano-focussed Leech is delicious. And while both songs show completely different sides of the band they both feature excellent guitar work, the former with heavy crunching guitars, that latter with a beautiful lead line. The production of Dead End Kings allows the crunchier guitar moments more space than Night Is the New Day. So while not really a guitar-led record the guitars feel like an equal partner in the mix.
There’s not a bad track on the album. Yet I did find myself occasionally getting lost on the journey from the excellent Leech to the equally fabulous final track Dead Letters. I think the record could have taken the less is more approach and lost one of the second half tracks Not that there’s anything wrong with any of them just that in terms of the album’s dynamic as a whole we seem to slow down a little from the mid album excellent.
This slight hiccough is soon forgotten through the pacey Lethean and it’s a smooth ride from there to the end of Dead End Kings. Katatonia has saved the best for last. Dead Letters is a cracking track, beautiful, heavy, and full of twists and turns. The keyboard melody that underpins that heavy guitars is something you’ll be humming for weeks and definitely has a Pink Floyd vibe to it.
Much of the album’s beautiful solemn atmosphere can be attributed to long-time session man Frank Default whose keyboard and sample work weave the narrative thread through the whole record without dominating proceedings. Katatonia certainly would sound very different without Default’s work.
So in closing another very strong record from Katatonia. While not as instantly memorable as the last outing I’ve a feeling that this is a collection of songs such as The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here, Leech, Buildings and Dead Letters that are going to stay with me a long time. Dead End Kings is a beautifully crafted album from a band that clearly has a lot more left to give.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 January 2013
Kataonia have grown on me since I was introduced to them a year or so ago. They have a distinctive sound which, although very full and heavy, shows a lot of quality in the construction. This album is one of those 'without a bad track on it', and although that is usually over generous I don't think it is in this case. One of those that grabs you on first hearing and just improves with further listening. They are up there for me with the best of modern metal.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 5 September 2012
I don't do too many long reviews, but this CD needed it IMO. This needs a bit of an overview. I waited 3 years and am not disappointed.
I actually find it difficult to see reviews for any Katatonia CD unless its a few days (at least) after release as their songs can take a few spins before hitting you. You cant force their music really. Doesn't work. So i listened at least 6 times to this and here is what I made of it so far.
At first, I was slightly disappointed for the same reason that others have commented on (at least in the U.S.). It does sound like 'Night is The New Day part 2'. But after a few more listens it just starts to sink in to your psyche and you want MORE. Same way Night is the New Day did. So is that REALLY a bad thing then? I don't think so. With the mass of music out there, and the amount of music I personally buy, I seldom feel that deep urge to listen to things again. So in that regard alone this CD passes the test.
Sound wise its clear, layered beautifully and very high end. Actually sounds like it was recorded at the same time as NITND. Seldom can artists and Producers/Engineers capture the same sound vibe as a previous disc. No matter how hard they try. But this one sounds strikingly similar in fidelity and song structures. BUT that does not mean all the songs sound like its predecessor. There are more keys (that work very well) and the hooks are a bit more memorable on this. The songs are shorter and don't drag. Maybe for a more commercial approach, as these songs do have a more broad appeal to them overall and could really open doors for the band if heard. BUT I still believe the band has evolved to this point and this is who they are. In fact, right now they can do no wrong. Even with a disc that is so similar in ways, to the one before it. Its the right step because every song is worthy of inclusion. Some better than others, but all worthy.
Renske gives another excellent Vocal performance, stretching the few lyrics contained in the tracks with his emotional delivery that only he could do. But he is really stretching out in style, not so much 'range'. He is becoming quite the singer for this band. Even does a 'lounge music' style performance at the beginning of 'Leech'. Without his Vocal this band would be lumped in with many others. Its that somber, laid back Vocal that gives the music its real emotion.
Guitars are crisp when heavy, and well executed during the softer moments as well. Even has a solo on a track (10)! They supply the needed crunch as always.
Keyboards - Necessary for beds to the Vocal and offset the heaviness well, making the soft/heavy interplay that much more effective. There are more on this CD than previous, but still not very intrusive and add some needed melody to sections. As good as Renske is, he does not have the biggest range, so I believe the keys in Chorus sections actually help the melody.
The Parting - Sounds VERY similar to Leaders off of 'The Cold Distance'. Nonetheless, its a great opener with good ending as well.
The One You Are Looking For.... - Is a nice, mellow track. Laid back with nice harmonies, cool drumming, some light female vocal and muted, light guitar. Very Katatonia and sticks in your mind for some reason. Excellent.
Hypnone is a FANTASTIC track. A ++. One of the best on the disc. Great Keyboard/Guitar interplay and solid Bass line.. Has a 'New Night' vibe from NITND. But it creeps into your subconscious and is an example of the band doing what they do best. Memorable, pretty with a tinge of beautiful darkness.
The Racing Heart - A++. Contagious. This song could catapult this band into the big time if heard by people. Its a great track that would crossover well. Could be a huge hit for the band, but its also a great song.
Buildings - Good Heavy track, pretty standard for Katatonia, but adds some crunch to the disc. Good Drumming on this. Not quite filler, but you get the idea the band needed another heavier track and this was it.
Leech - Different for the band. Sounds like Faith No More style lounge music at the beginning. Very Keyboard oriented at first but gets into a great hook and adds to the overall flow of the CD. Good Vocal performance by Renske keeps things interesting.
Ambitious - Another slower track, but once again, very pretty.
Undo You - Slower track with that light - prog 'Porcupine Tree' style. In the same vein as 'Inheritance' from the last CD.
Leathen - Another of the most accessible tracks on the CD. The band seems to have a couple on every disc that teeter on mainstream. Another song that could get the band somewhere if ever heard, but again, a good track as well.
First Prayer - Cool track, mid paced with decent drumming, nice off beats and a bit more progressive style than other tracks, but no overkill. Definitely has a Porcupine Tree style to the last heavy section, but still comes off great. It's different for the band. Starts the 1-2 punch of closing the CD.
Dead Letters - A ++ .Great track. The last CD ended with the very slow and emotional 'Departer' (which was brilliant), this track ends the CD in a heavier manner. Has a Tool inspired vibe to the Guitar work and the track just kills. Which I think was a good move. Another slow dirge like 'Departer' to end this, would have made the 2 CD's seem much more similar. This track ends the CD leaving you wanting more, which is always a good thing. Maybe a sign that the next disc may be a bit heavier?? Will will not know for probably another 3 years. But a great song.
If you liked either of the bands last 2, don't think twice about getting this. A rich and beautiful CD that is one of the best of 2012. In fact, so far for me, it may be the frontrunner. If a couple of these tracks were to catch on, the band would be huge. Especially track 4. But don't think that means its commercial crap because the songs are just good.
Katatonia is a brilliant band and they had reached their career peak (to this point anyway) with NITND and maintain it with this CD. Well worth the time and money. This band ceases to amaze me with their development and approach.
Sorry for the winded review.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2012
I think that this is the best piece of work that Katatonia have done to date, which is saying something after their consistently brilliant output over the last ten years.
Strong melodies, trademark doom, subtle atmospherics and crushing riffs easily make this the album of the year in my opinion, and a welcome prog direction marks real development for what must be the most under-rated and unsung band on the planet. Lead vocalist Jonas Renske has now achieved an almost ethereal presence, demonstrating heartfelt emotion and feeling throughout, particularly on "Ambitions", which with "Dead Letters" is one of the best tracks on an inspired and faultless set.
Miss at your peril, this one will touch your soul after repeated listenings and will just grow and grow until, like me, you will start to believe that not even the mighty Opeth can now touch them.
on 21 December 2012
Katatonia , the best prog-metal band had issued next masterpiece .Recommend for everyone who's like ambitious music .You will have to repeat it over and over again :) never bored you . They are amazing live as well Thanks for Soton 19th Tomas
on 14 May 2013
i reviewed this on my music blog if anyone's interested :P [...]
this is basically my favorite album from the whole of last year, it's beautiful. it was my first katatonia album ever, too, and ever since i've been hooked on them :)