Thursday, November 12, 2009

The night time is the right time

A grey figure sculpts stoic pathways out of the marble darkness; within, the ever-beating decay where blood and sweat and joy and pain all pulse, longing. For what, that's up to your fevered brain and split soul. Sound, like distance, remains ever cold, yet takes turns shouting and whispering in your ear that you are indeed alive, indeed warm despite the frigid evening rain lashing your face as you breathlessly chart the shadows that steal between streetlamps, that lurk around corners and in ratty concrete, that skim pooling acid tongue to leer through hazy portals and seasons stuck on echo. Still you manage to uncover new ways to glow in the dark, find your way to anywhere but here, a flâneur à l'intérieur.

That most famous of flâneurs, Charles Baudelaire, held in very high esteem by T.S. Eliot, was nonetheless subject to a backhand: his apparatus, by which I do not mean his command of words and rhythms, but his stock of imagery (and every poet's stock of imagery is circumscribed somewhere), is not wholly perdurable or adequate. Those same charges could be rightly extended to these Swedish mood rockers (and every band since the dawn of recording technology, and Thomas Stearns, too, when not busy restocking with stolen goods), for they mine the same earth, explore its every crevice, every unmarked place on that map. Given that this album is a shade more textured, a tone less immediate than her predecessors, will this, despite their masterful craft, prove to be a problem?

A stellar triumvirate opens with black and white oscillation in and about omnipresent, sheet metal riffs, yet Forsaker never abandons its most effective weapon, the voice of Jonas Renkse. I'd wager that there's many a goth band who'd pay through the nose for his services. Next, the match of The Longest Year is struck, breathing in the spaces before the cascade thunders, lines soaring above to spiral black omens until the oxygen burns away, back down to the languid pilot light. Atmospheric in their own idiom, less ambient, more tangibly transient, the evaporating, Opethian condensation of Idle Blood smears a windowpane, the butterflies-in-stomach aftermath of "you claim to be my long absent friend/you are the cancer that just moved in," truly one of the band's most stunning pieces.

Onward Into Battle takes awhile to do so, the quiet less effective, less perfectly formed this time around, until saved by a jazzy syncopation. Perhaps in time it'll blossom as that circular hum trapped before Liberation, blooming in blue, subdued electric fire. The Promise Of Deceit drowns in that same electro-splash before a wall of sound, reminiscent of Dispossession in sludge, debt unpaid, crests over the marching refrain.

With a glorious tip of the fedora to their doom-laden provenance and, yes, those fields, the march slows as the leaden weight of evening gloom pushes ever down, Nephilim shoulders heave and give under an audible bass grind -- this is certainly the band's most three-dimensional record yet -- the soul receives but black skies, a New Night. A stroll alone before struggle springs out of pale red strophes on the back of rippling riffs, filling the head for just a moment until the next neon storefront reflection, whose placid, fluorescent hum works best in headphones, as do the breezes of warning and escape blowing over "our names chalked," the Inheritance that tangles someone else for a change.

But again we wake to Day and Then the Shade, the metronome ticking a bit faster, a keyboard strata à la Last Fair Deal Gone Down layered over propulsive riffing, a definite album blacklight. Dusted Ashen chords strengthen with a second-half, 70s rock backbeat married to a vaguely uplifting harmony line, but those are the two sides of the Katatonia coin, hope and despair, heat and cold colliding, melting to leave us wading through a slushy, virus melancholy. The gracefully drowsy, hypnotic Departer closes and aims to soothe, "I'm so rash compared to you/surrender, it's the path of our lives." Now that's a comfort I can wrap my heart around.

Perhaps needing a bit more time to simmer than past efforts, Katatonia, if not equaling their artistic pinnacle, have presented another darkly shimmering collection of hymns documenting this beautiful sadness that always seems most appropriate when waiting for a late bus in precipitation-soaked sneakers, everything humming a lost, overcast chorus on repeat, repeat, repeat.


Übermilf said...

I'll come back and read this after my sister's done talking to me on the phone about how my mom's going insane.

Übermilf said...

You mean I came back here just to read some heavy metal album review?

Do you want to hear about my mom going crazy? It involves Cuntzilla.

Christopher said...

My eyes crossed by the end of the first paragraph.

I'm telling you Randal, you really need to pen a Randal Graves for Dummies book and make a ton of coin from it.

MRMacrum said...

If the album is half as good as the review I just read, I would say they hit a homerun. Your were on top of your game with this one.

Holte Ender said...

As I was reading your review I was listening to Je Suis Desole. Quite appropriate don't you think.

sunshine said...

Wow! Great review Randal.
As I do enjoy this band, I think that I will buy it.


sunshine said...

P.S. What a great title for the album by the way! :D

Randal Graves said...

übermilf, yet read it, you did. A story involving Cuntzilla? Hell yeah, but you really need to turn that into a rock opera.

christopher, if I had more than a dozen readers, that would be a wonderful idea. Hey, I think I make perfect sense, dammit.

mrmacrum, I can see it now. You go into a record store, purchase the album, go back to your bike shop, press play and are so disgusted with how bad it is, set the place on fire and pedal all the way here to assassinate me for making you waste 12 bucks.

Reviewing albums are tough, man, especially when it's a band you really dig, because you don't want to come off as too fanboy-ish. Plus describing music is a pain in the ass. I don't play, so I can't go "oh, this is a I-IV-V progression or that's C moving to a D." It's the feelings conjured up more than anything else.

Plus plus, as with every piece of art, you either get it or you don't, it moves you or it doesn't. But I figure, even if I don't dig a particular album, I can always appreciate that someone was affected by it enough to say so, the Billboard top 100 excepted, you stupid kids.

holte, oh man, I can't remember the last time I listened to Knopfler.

sunshine, just give it time, you won't be disappointed. But trust me, headphones! Less big riffs this time around, more texture.

TomCat said...

Wandal, you outdid yourself. You usually do lately.

okjimm said...

OK.... is this a music review or a Hocky forecast? I get the two mixed up.

Beach Bum said...

With a glorious tip of the fedora to their doom-laden provenance and, yes, those fields, the march slows as the leaden weight of evening gloom pushes ever down...

Damn, that on phrase is excellent writing. Depressing as Hell but excellent writing.

Mary Ellen said...

You're so deep, Randal. I know...I know...that comment sounds like porn, but that's ok 'cuz porn and heavy metal seem to mesh.

S.W. Anderson said...

Again, wonderfully rich, skillfully composed description, RG. I suspect you put as much or more into your review as the band did into its album. And again, a workout for the ol' perceptions.

I'm telling you, if you could branch out from "doom-laden provenance" stuff to writing ad copy or slick-mag articles for fine-dining places, wine, liquor, resorts and such, you could trade your seat on the wheelie bus for a Mercedes in your driveway. Complete with a trunkful of cool CD's and DVD's for your viewing and listening pleasure.

You'd have to be really careful to not slip in a playful reference to slithering, corpse-like demons, though. Nothing turns blue-hair luxury cruise regulars off more than the prospect of sharing a dinner table or poolside seating with corpse-like demons.

Tengrain said...

Graves, you swine!

I read this review first thing this morning, and did not comment on it then, because, frankly, I thought the cough syrup was still on, or something. Though looking back on it now, I suppose I was just at the right point to understand it.



Demeur said...

Just pass the hemlock and let me get it over with.

Cormac Brown said...

Baudelaire? Eliot? Metal? All in the same post?

You are a mystery wrapped in an enigma, surrounded by a hard rock tortilla, Randal.

susan said...

I'm continually impressed by your ability to describe music that I'm unlikely to hear sound as if I'm missing something truly wonderful. You have a great gift.

Randal Graves said...

tomcat, thanks, but don't worry, I rectified that error with today's garbage.

okjimm, what's wrong with you? It's a recap of the third period between the Thrashers and Hurricanes from last month. Duh.

BB, they're a depressing band. ;-)

nunly, boom chicka wow wow wow. I think my plumbing needs checking.

Oh shit, I left my porn moustache at home!

SWA, are you suggesting that I sell out to The Man and start hawking cheesy wares? I might do that for cheddar, but that's about it.

Nothing turns blue-hair luxury cruise regulars off more than the prospect of sharing a dinner table or poolside seating with corpse-like demons.

I see you've forgotten about those star-studded NRO cruises.

tengrain, I'll include a non-cough syrup shorter next time. Not that you should think about giving up the sauce.

demeur, I drank what?

cormac, I sure hope Jesus doesn't appear on me. I'd hate for lunatics to start knocking on my door.

susan, maybe you should give it a listen this time around. It's not death metal, I swear on this book of carpet samples.

susan said...

You were right. I just spent half an hour at youtube listening to some of their songs. I enjoyed what I heard of the new album as well as some of the older examples. Omerta was very nicely done.

Dr. Zaius said...

they misspelled "catatonia".

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