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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The evolution continues, 24 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Dethroned & Uncrowned (Audio CD)
It's been fascinating watching Katatonia's career arc. In many ways their artistic evolution has echoed that of Anathema, both bands forged in the furious flames of extreme metal, only for age and experience to temper the white hot passions of youth and shape them into something altogether more evocative. Over the years the guitars have gradually shifted form, evolving from the early flash floods of distorted rage into swirling, ethereal mists of great beauty and the vocals of Jonas Renske have gained a unique, grandiloquent quality few can match. Where once katatonia stood upon the shattered ramparts of a fortress, bravely unleashing their might upon the hordes of darkness, now they sit beneath the long abandoned buttresses of fading palaces, hunched upon the throne, still proud, but gnarled and buckled with age and care. They are grand, possessed of great majesty, and yet twisted by the weight they bear.

It is nothing new for a band to rework its back catalogue in the light of stylistic change - Anathema performed the trick twice with `Hindsight' and `falling deeper', but where those albums drew upon heavier, earlier works, `Dethroned and uncrowned' draws exclusively from the stunning album `dead end kings', following its track-listing exactly and adding a further layer of darkness to Travis Smith's evocative artwork. It is, if you like, a companion piece to that record, not exactly an acoustic reworking, but rather a further exploration of the sounds and atmospheres that lurked at its dark heart. Presented in a beautifully rendered digi-book, like its predecessor it comes with a surround sound mix (although, unusually, it is a DTS 4.1 mix) that is by far the best way to experience this deeply mysterious and brooding album.

`The parting' opens with Jonas' voice, backed by simple, haunting piano. You immediately notice the absence of the pummelling guitar that originally opened the track, but instead layers of reverb and new vocal lines flesh out the sound, whilst synth string lines add a haunting quality that was only hinted at upon the original release. Jonas' voice, always a thing of wonder, is very much to the fore and his weary lament weaves a soft, silken web around the listener until you're bound head and foot in a glistening web of gossamer threads that refuse to let go until the music has passed. It emphasises a beauty to Katatonia's music that was always present but occasionally obscured by bombast and here it is laid bare for all to see and admire. `The one you are looking for is not here' replaces the original backing vocals with a subtle ambience to create the haunting feel of empty, stone-walled corridors lit only by the light of guttering candles. There is a stunning ambience to the track and just when you feel it can't possibly become any more astonishing, a gentle percussion comes in alongside the sylph-like vocals of Silje Wergeland (the gathering) and you're drawn once more out of the grey, tired world which you inhabit towards a place of open fields and crystal clear, flowing streams. Few pieces of music are so evocative, and this particular track arguably improves upon an original track that had previously seemed perfect. `Hypnone' is the closest thing here to Anathema's work on `hindsight', with a lush, full acoustic guitar driving the sound and sweeping strings blazing brightly in the background. `The racing heart', in contrast, opens with a sparse piano, backing Jonas' soulful vocals before the guitar slides in with a hint of David Gilmour's liquid lead work on `the division bell' about it before the vibrant strings return once more. There's so much going on amidst the rich tapestry of the song's construction that no review could satisfactorily cover it and tell the reader all, suffice it to say that it is a work of compelling depth and extraordinary beauty.

One of the original album's standout tracks, `buildings' is rich and full, the guitar's warmth emboldened by the echoing piano and haunting melody. Yet for all that, it's a strangely disconsolate number that shifts darkly into the minor key, adding gothic organ to the mix to further accentuate the song's unnerving ambience of loss and faded grandeur. `Leech' is awash in strings, but the primary focus is Jonas' gently distorted vocals which are delivered with more power and passion in their naked hopelessness than if they had been harnessed to a thousand flaming guitars. `Ambitions', in contrast, takes on an almost folky feel, thanks to Jonas' intonation and the simple guitar melody that is picked out subtly beneath Jonas' echoing pleas. It's perfect music for those late night reveries, lost in self-reflection and contemplation and the electronic percussion accentuates the ambient feel the band have gone for on this release. `Undo you' echoes through vaulted chambers, the guitar sweeping over a dreamy synth backing as the candles burn low and the vocal harmonies employed at key moments are the best of Katatonia's impressive career. It emphasises the progressive aspects of Katatonia's music and recalls elements of Porcupine tree and Caravan in its dreamy, ethereal feel. `Lethean' is one of the grandest songs, utilising a greater deal of percussion found elsewhere and huge, cinematic strings giving the song an epic feel that aptly justifies the much-overused turn `widescreen' in describing it.

The final two songs on the album see night falling fast and the band raging at the dying of the light. `First prayer' is a powerful song, even stripped so bare, with the vocals shimmering in the delicate moonlight as the percussion slithers across the chorus, although it builds into something deeper and more satisfying as it develops. Final track `dead letters' is, well, it's just a remarkable work that captures and sums up everything that makes the entire album special. Here there are gentle strings, gorgeous vocal harmonies, the warm, rich swell of the mellotron and the subtle ripple of picked guitars. It's the perfect climactic end to an album that never ceases to astonish with the richness of the song-writing.

Where `dead end kings' provided the band with an opportunity to pile layer upon layer to build up the warm textured sounds of the album, `dethroned and uncrowned' bravely takes all that away. The songs, it is plainly obvious, have no need of embellishment, they stand proudly on their own, stripped bare and, in many ways, the better for it. It is not a matter of which record is better - they are both so different in execution as to be like two totally different directors creating a movie from the same script. If you loved `dead end kings' then there is no question that this is an essential addition to your collection. If, for any reason, you missed out on that record or considered Katatonia too metallic for your tastes, then this is the perfect introduction to their unique song craft. Beautifully presented, perfectly recorded and deeply rewarding, `dethroned and uncrowned' confirms what many already knew - that Katatonia are master song-writers who have only improved at their craft - this is a sublime, majestic release of which the band should be justly proud.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crowned as my new discovery, 19 Sep 2013
This review is from: Dethroned & Uncrowned (Audio CD)
I take on board the last reviewer's comments in that that this album may not attract new fans, but it depends what route you took to discover them

Sure, if you are looking for a sound that is parallel to your regular listen and that is similar to old school Katatonia, then this may be not what you expected.

My route to them was again similar to the last reviewer with Wisdom Of Crowds and for me most things K-Scope. A very pretty, melancholic and superbly recorded effort that showcases the stripped down Dead End Kings (also purchased) and brings Jonas Renske's sublime voice to the fore.

Overall the album is fantastic and should entice those along the same route as me. Coupled with the room filing second disc, it's an easy 5 stars for me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must have, 12 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Dethroned & Uncrowned (Audio CD)
This is a really amazinng Cd.
Probably you have the last one too.
Great ambience, a must have for all Katatonia fans
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent retelling, 29 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Dethroned & Uncrowned (Audio CD)
How do you top a great album like 2012′s Dead End Kings? You don’t, you strip it bare and make it even better. Katatonia is spoiling us. I really enjoyed Katatonia’s Dead End Kings – though I readily admit I still prefer Night Is The New Day of their most recent works. So I was delighted to hear that Katatonia were re-releasing the record in a different form.

Dethroned and Uncrowned strips back Dead End Kings – removing the drums and the heavy guitars – leaving a largely acoustic and keys work that is even more melancholy and ethereal than the original. Some electric guitars do remain – for the occasional lead – and the album is by no means the clichéd “unplugged” version.

Instead Katatonia have explored the emotional and darker aspects of the music and while obviously this isn’t a heavier record than Dead End Kings it is much more sombre. The result is a resounding success. In almost every case I prefer the Dethroned version of each song to the one presented last year. Jonas’ duet with The Gathering’s Silje Wergeland on The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here is even more haunting.

If I was going to nitpick I’d say it is a shame that the vocals were not re-recorded. In many cases it sounds like the Dead End Kings vocal lines remain and this does mean that sometimes the emotional emphasis isn’t in keeping with the gentler music on offer.

That aside Dethroned and Uncrowned is a fabulous moody, haunting and progressive take on a great heavy metal record. Highly recommended. And of course it’s the second great record of the year to feature the vocal talents of Jonas Renkse - the other being Bruce Soord's Wisdom of Crowds.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great complement to the original, 28 May 2014
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TechMick (Yorkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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The original is my favourite album of last year but it is a little heavy for my partner so I picked out 'acceptable' tracks for her, which always felt like she was missing something. The unplugged version means we can both enjoy this excellent album. Saw them play it live a couple of weeks ago, with some older unplugged tracks, and they were very good. Not easy to leave the heavy guitars behind but the quality of this album allows them to do that. I still prefer the original but very happy I bought this one as well.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional!, 3 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Dethroned & Uncrowned (Audio CD)
Not only is this a sublime reworking of an already exceptional album; it is simply an exceptional album in its own right.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Katatonia unplugged, 14 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Dethroned & Uncrowned (Audio CD)
So, this is basically Katatonia unplugged with a reworked mainly acoustic rendition of Dead End Kings. Dead End Kings is a great album, though I wonder if die-hard Katatonia fans feel a little worried about the direction the band appears to be taking. I reviewed 'The Wisdom of Crowds' album that Renkse did with Pineapple Thief main man Soord. I really like that album, so no surprise that I like this side of Katatonia. I sometimes find that the Katatonia sound - dark and intense - gets to sound a bit repetitive. Their songs are all live at the same tempo and similar structure - abrupt endings featuring quite a lot on Dead End Kings. And that doesn't really change on Dethroned & Uncrowned. The songs have all been reworked, and beautifully so. But for me there's still a sameness about them. I think Katatonia could push themselves a lot further. They're extremely comfortable in what they do (and hey, that's not a bad thing), but I just feel they could do more.

Not sure that tis album will find them any new fans, but I don't think that's its intent. It's a very good album, and a very interesting direction. I think what will be more interesting is the direction that Katatonia decide to take on their next offering.

All in all, 4/5 for me.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great music, 23 Oct 2013
By 
Gustavo Cirigliano (Bs, As., Argentina) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dethroned & Uncrowned (Audio CD)
This is a fine piece of art. The "naked" version of Dead end Kings. No drums, no distorsion. Just vocals and ambientation sounds and effects. Take note of one thing: It's NOT 5.1. It's 4.1 MLP and DTS (also stereo, of course) Is misprinted in the label of the package. When you go to the Audio menu of the DVD, it says 4.1. This was done this way by request of the band.
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Dethroned & Uncrowned
Dethroned & Uncrowned by Katatonia (Audio CD - 2013)
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