'tis better to have waited to review than never to have reviewed before, but that's not never not stopped me yet. That's a lot of negativity. Apropos, no? Post-Viva Emptiness, Katatonia began departing from immediacy -- think I Break, For My Demons, Chrome, riffs that clutched with gusto -- distancing instead into the great cold of texture. Oh, I've got a million of 'em. The just inferred album, after a mountain of spins, has nearly ascended to the height of its three predecessors [ed. note: Leaders always kicked the shins], the melancholy trinity. That should probably be capitalized. As for the last full-length, after an introspection allotted only by time: some hits, some misses, & the template followed still, the weakest of the clean vocal era, still. Now, Dead End Kings, the question being, is the title a Freudian slip?
Soft/loud continues to hold pride of place, but the electro-noodling plague wielded on the last LP by unofficial sixth member Frank Default [ed. note: chortle] has thankfully sunk further into the earth, replaced some by loamy keyboard work that harkens back, though sadly not strongly enough, to Last Fair Deal Gone Down, their undisputed meisterwerk.
Now, upon thirteen new tracks, Messrs. Nyström & Renkse open an old bag of tricks: the wispy patina of The Gathering's Silje Wergeland guesting on The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here, an honest-to-Hanneman metal solo swooping before a classic bridge-n-chop on Lethean, the muffled AM-radio fadeout of The Racing Heart, the low-key carnival gait of The Act of Darkening so sap I wonder how these knuckleheads decided to leave it off the standard release. The shuffling Leech recalls but doesn't clone Viva's quietly despondent One Year From Now, whilst Undo You filters select passagework of mid-period Arcturus, even Black Sabbath's atypical Air Dance, through the band's trademark gloom, an October never painted in bombast but fragments of stanzas, measures (oh, 2:23-3:05 of First Prayer, why weren't you an eleven-minute extrapolation before slipping back into sheet metal chords?), passing clouds that blind foolish Reason with the good stuff.
The biggest difficulty in reviewing albums, albums by these guys most notably, is that nearly every past release has corresponded to a specific dilemma/upheaval in a particular point in the four dimensions, i.e. separating the music from personal context is nigh impossible & that cannot but help to color the impression one way or the other. True of any piece of art, but the final arbiter is, again, time. In another three years, who knows, but at this point on the clock, Dead End Kings isn't a dead end, the slow start to too many tracks notwithstanding, but an exploration of endings that, hopefully, will harmonize with the beginning of something better out here. I doubt it, but at least the doubt has sound.