Album review: Katatonia - Night Is The New Day (Peaceville, 2009)
Dark Rock/ Metal
Something new now, as I review an album I don't actually think is that great, Katatonia's most recent studio effort "Night is the New Day".
Given that their new album is now right around the corner (after the obligatory 3 year wait), I figured I may as well offer my thoughts on this one from one of my very favourite bands which I just haven't been sure about since I went out to buy it the week it was released (the last time I actually did that, too). It was just a shame that the first new album by them since I got into them managed to pretty much disappoint me, especially given the hype that surrounded it...you know, all the predictable "its their best yet!!!" press spiel. Mikael Akerfeldt's quote on the sticker attached to the CD case is especially hilarious in retrospect. The promise was all there: an expansion of the previous record while at the same time adding diversity to the sound...but as usual the sales pitch doesn't quite match the product, at least in my view.
First, what I do think is good: the production is very smooth, definitely their cleanest yet, but its full of texture and very atmospheric. They've also upped the synths on this, very noticeable in "The Longest Year" with the pulsing arpeggios which are nice. My main issue with NITND is this: it's too anemic. It just lacks energy. I know thats fairly accurate of feeling depressed, but something about the more energetic songs on The Great Cold Distance, Viva Emptiness and earlier just gives them so much more appeal. They're dynamic and multifaceted. NITND however, seems content to drift through its duration. They already perfected the sleep-like and simultaneously apathetic/ intense emotional qualities of depression on the amazing "Discouraged Ones" album about 10 years earlier.
When the album was announced, I had hoped for a continuation of the sound hinted at on "Unfurl". I thought it would have been interesting if they made an entirely down tempo electronica album, as that song was just so stupidly good and the whole thing worked really well. In a way that's what they did, but most of it doesn't measure up to that. Sure, the album is loaded with synths and programmed beats, but I can't help but feel that it falls flat. It just didn't impress me that much, and it still doesn't. They've still got the downtuned chugging thing going on, but a lot of the riffs just aren't that good... they're just there, plodding away for the sake of it at the same pretty low tempo (compared to the frantic opening to "Increase", for example). Another problem: "Idle Blood"....no. You are not Opeth. This is not what I want to hear. A very tedious song I'm afraid. The first single "Day and then the Shade" is also memorable for the AWFUL music video that accompanied it. Enough said about that one.
There's also a distinct lack of Anders' leads on this album, they had announced they were suffering from some "writer's block" a while before this album came out which I think is probably the real explanation as to why NITND seems to want to accomplish so much, but in reality falls somewhat flat. A handful of the tracks are pretty good ("Forsaker", "The Longest Year",
"Liberation" and "The Promise of Deceit" would be my picks), but on the whole I can't bring myself to rate this as high as I do a lot of their others from the debut up to TGCD. Its grown on me a little over time but even now I'm still not sure. Thankfully, the recent preview of 2012's "Dead End Kings" (out August 27th) sounds as though it will improve on this quite a lot.