March 24, 2015

Live Album Review: Katatonia, Sanctitude

Brutal Tunes

Sanctitude Katatonia

Sanctitude Katatonia

I don’t usually review live albums / concert DVDs, but this one landed in my inbox in the exact moment I was thinking I’d be keen to listen to some Katatonia.

Sweden’s Katatonia are one of those rare bands that can do no wrong, even when they do something as universally detested as re-releasing a new reworking of a previous album. In 2013, Katatonia released Dethroned & Uncovered, which was a more progressive recreation of the band’s 2013 epic Dead End Kings. The reworking impressed critics and fans alike, and Katatonia toured the songs through Europe, calling the tour “Unplugged & Reworked”. The shows were acoustic, mixing tracks from the new album along with a selection of their more atmospheric classics. Everything was stripped back and reworked. Each stop on the tour featured a venue specifically chosen for its atmosphere, creating an intimate, unique concert experience.

I wish I’d been there.

Sanctitude was filmed and recorded in the stunning candle-lit setting of London’s Union Chapel. The 80 minute set features 17 songs spanning the band’s career, including the fan favourite ‘Teargas’, and my personal favourite Catatonia song of all time, “Day”. If you check out the video below, you can see that song from the DVD.

Listening to, and watching this, it almost seems as if this is the way Katatonia’s music is meant to sound, as if their usual, doom-laden riffs were meant to be softened, pared back, stripped away into this hauntingly beautiful acoustic style. Production and mixing on the concert are perfect – a rich, deeply layered soundscape that truly does make you feel as if you’re there. The vocals in particular are crisp, and percussion sits back in the mix, letting the melodies shine.

For me, the standout tracks were “Day”, “Unfurl” – the melody in this is astounding, “One Year from Now”, “In the White”, “Idle Blood” – the vocals in this were strange and otherworldly – and the epic closer, ‘The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here’, which had The Gathering’s Silje Wergeland appearing as a guest vocalist.

If I have one complaint, it’s that at times, the filming seems to be a bit close to the stage. I understand this is probably to create that intimate atmosphere, but in concert DVDs I like to see more wide shots, what did the stage and venue look like? What’s happening in the crowd? Sometimes heads are cut off and people are framed to large in the screen, which for me breaks the magic a bit. But don’t let these niggles dissuade you – it’s professionally shot and beautifully cut.

A blissful, almost sensual release from the kings of atmospheric gothic gloom. Rarely do I hear a live album or DVD I want to have on instant repeat (Blackmore’s Night Under a Paris Moon comes to mind as one of the few exceptions), but this … this is stunning.

Katatonia are set to release the concert film Sanctitude on 30th March UK & RoW / 31st March USA & Canada / 3rd April Germany. You’ll be able to find it on Amazon and iTunes.
The Sunken, my dark fantasy novel, is now available on Amazon.

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