Concert Review: Katatonia, The Ocean, and Cellar Darling, 11.10.2022

My last show in 2022, and perhaps for quite some time looking ahead, certainly was a good one. When Katatonia announced a run of North American shows with support from my favorite band in The Ocean Collective, as well as Cellar Darling, I knew that was something I simply couldn’t miss, no matter what else was going on in the world. Well, it turns out I put that stance to the test. The November 10 date at the Worcester Palladium fell in the middle of an unexpected move from the seacoast of New Hampshire to the heart of the White Mountains. Regardless, the long journey on a work night proved more than worth it, and offered a rewarding break from all of life’s other forms chaos. It’s not often an opportunity to photograph two of your favorite bands on the same night emerges, and this experience was certainly one to remember for some time.

I know nobody wants to hear about my old man, working world problems. But you’re going to get them. I’ve long dreamed of living in the mountains. And now that’s a reality. The world has changed a lot in the last few years, but this most recent change certainly has been a silver lining to emerge from all of the bullshit. The tradeoff, however, is that instead of being less than an hour from basically every show that would ever be of interest to me, that distance is now over two hours, and closer to three on weeknights. So on this Thursday night… unexpectedly-ish, here we are. But this show simply was one I refused to miss. You know how when we were younger we would duck out of responsibilities early to make it to certain parties or shows or whatever? Yeah, it was one of those deals. Totally worth it. After an unfamiliar, congested journey south, hitting rush hour traffic in basically every small city I possibly could, I rolled into Worcester with time to spare. Fuck yeah.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I was at the Palladium. It was always a haul (well, the trip from Portsmouth doesn’t feel that way so much now), and it just isn’t an enjoyable drive. 495 sucks. But I always appreciated the venue. The layout is efficient with plenty of great vantage points, and every band I’ve ever seen there has sounded great. Can’t ask for much more, and who cares if your feet stick to the floors and the half the seats in the balcony are torn to shreds? Aesthetics, yo. Anyway, November 10 was a nice trip down memory lane, and all of those qualities proved true once again. Piling on the good vibes, it turned out I was the only shooter in the photo pit this evening. So let’s get after it.

Leading off was the dark folk metal project Cellar Darling. For those familiar with Eluveitie, these names may ring familiar… specifically Anna Murphy on vocals, hurdy-gurdy, and flute, Merlin Sutter on drums, and Ivo Henzi on guitars. I haven’t made myself particularly familiar with Eluveitie over the years, and I had exactly zero familiarity with Cellar Darling before this set. But, they certainly left an impression. In fact, I found myself completely mesmerized by the whole performance. If this relatively brief set ran as much as twice as long, I definitely would not have been upset by it. Between the beautiful colors and lighting, the diverse instrumentation, and the enveloping sound in the Palladium, it was as captivating of a set as I’ve experienced in some time, especially as an opening set. The night was off to a good start, and Cellar Darling is a project that is officially on my radar moving forward.

Is my adoration for The Ocean Collective well-documented at this point? If it’s not (it is), we can reiterate that further now (still will anyway). I love this band, and my appreciation for their craft only grows with time. But I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite know what to expect with this set. I covered their show at the Brighton Music Hall earlier in the year, so this was a bit of a quick turnaround. Additionally, this was an early date in the tour, and if there were still a few wrinkles to iron out, it would have been more than understandable. And then, of course, they dropped the news that they needed a sound person for this tour… on the date of this show. Interesting. And unfortunate.

However, if there were struggles in the early days of this tour, I certainly didn’t notice them. They sounded incredible, and even more massive than they did earlier this year. They also mixed up their set just enough to make this performance stand out — but I won’t spoil anything, knowing the tour is still very much in flight. Regardless, their music is so cataclysmic, and they bring so much power and energy to their live shows, it’s truly something that you just need to experience because my words here will never do it justice. One notable difference between this show and their date in March I want to point out was simply the size of the stage. The added square footage not only increased the impact of their sound simply by offering more space to operate from, but it also meant the lighting was more prominent as well. The shadows and silhouettes were more dramatic, and the flashes of bright light out of the darkness only elevated the weight of their sound further. It’s not always obvious how much of a role lighting play in a performance, but with The Ocean it most definitely is, and I’m glad I was able to see them perform in a bit of a more cavernous environment. Overall, I understand there were some logistical challenges going into this show, and there were still more on the road ahead, but there was absolutely zero evidence of that this night. If the evening ended at this point, I probably wouldn’t have complained much.

But fortunately, that wasn’t the end of the night at all! Headlining, of course, was the much beloved Katatonia. Despite a new album on the horizon, the Swedish gloomy death metallers were touring in support of City Burials (thanks, COVID). Which is interesting, because the last time I saw them perform was in NYC in support of The Fall of Hearts, which feels like a lifetime ago. Yet, it was literally just the last album tour cycle. Time is no longer real. Anyway. Katatonia was expectedly incredible. I don’t know how he does it, but Jonas Renkse seems to sound better with each passing year. I’ll spoil the opener, as hearing him lead into “Heart Set to Divide” legitimately gave me goosebumps. But the same can be said for the entire band. They just sounded… awesome. And I don’t want that sentiment to be taken lightly — the form of melodic death and doom they put out there is very much driven by the tones of the leads and dynamic structure of their rhythm patterns… so if anything is off, it will impact how much their product resonates. But again, they just sounded fucking awesome. Beyond that, having been a fan Katatonia for many years now, I was also pleased with how far they reached for this tour’s setlist. Despite touring in support of recent material obviously, my favorite albums were very much represented, making this arguably the best Katatonia set I can remember. I really don’t have much to say beyond that. All the other stage elements played their part — the fog and lighting enhanced the Katatonia aesthetic, and the audience was very much engaged from the start of the set to its conclusion, keeping the energy up throughout the building all night. I truly could not have asked for more from back-to-back sets from two of my favorite artists.

That about sums it up. Yes, I eventually made it home in the wee hours of the morning, and yes I worked a full day the next day, and yes it was very much worth it (thanks to working from home). For those enticed to catch a date of this tour, here is your ticket link. I recommend you jump on it, if the opportunity still exists. You won’t regret it. And on a personal note, while I didn’t make it to as many shows in 2022 as I have in previous years (pre-pandemic), I couldn’t happier about the ones I managed to catch. It’s been a wild stretch. I’m just glad shows are back, and grateful I’ve had an opportunity to see and cover some of my favorite artists in the past year. Just in time for American Thanksgiving, apparently.

“Ein Bier… bitte.”

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