For Katatonia‘s 13th full length, Sky Void of Stars, we (as in the Top Brass, Benevolent Overlords, etc: Corey, Dan K, Chris, and Josh) decided to capitalize on something we’ve done so many times with this band’s discography; get together over a chat, pour way too many drinks for ourselves, and talk Katatonia. This time around, it only felt right to share that experience with all of you: the first ever Top Brass collaborative
review ramble, as it were. If you’ve been following along, our love of all things Katatonia is not subtle. We’ve featured them many times over the years, photographed them, and generally love everything they’ve done from their early death / doom days to their ever-evolving gloom-goth-progressive-metal-rock that seems to only get better the longer they exist. We won’t give too much away ahead of the ramble you’re about to dive into headfirst, but suffice it to say, Sky Void of Stars is the album we needed right now. And let’s be real, this will probably be the first of several drunken nights we spend discussing this album’s place in the Katatonia pantheon. But for now, without further ado, we present our rambles…
In which 3/4 of the team assemble in the chat room. Drinks are established.
Dan: Also hai.
Chris: Huzzah, we are arrived.
Corey: I do not know if that is a pun in reference to a Viva Emptiness track, but I’m going to decide it is either way
Chris: Let’s assume for the sake of making us look knowledgeable that it is
Dan: I too know things
Corey: That’s all we ever really aspire for
Chris: I read that as “I know two things” and I feel like that’s going to be my gear for this.
Dan: Why stop at one thing when you can know two?
Chris: I have now also made a drink – went with scotch to start. Dan you are playing the designated reviewer?
Corey: I am very much not going to be playing that role, so Dan, no pressure…to be clear: there is absolutely no pressure to remain sober.
Chris: In fact, there is probably an undue amount of peer pressure to NOT be sober.
Dan: Gimme a minute and I’ll whip something sipable up.
Corey: Yeah, so, I guess I’ll disclose the glassware around me… I shall be sipping on the Weihnachtsbier from Schilling Beer Co, their holiday bock, and the last one I have from this season… while also sipping on Eight Bells Rum from New England Distillery…
Corey: …and perhaps an edible.
Chris: Damn you are going all out! While we wait for Dan to come back with a tasty beverage, where are you at as far as advance listening? I’ve heard the singles once or twice, but wanted to keep myself fresh for a full album listen.
Corey: Yeah, similar. I’ve only listened to the three singles they’ve released so far, and only a few times of each. I’m actually going into this fairly fresh on Katatonia. Never actually went back to other albums tonight like I originally planned.
Dan: …Blackened whisky it is! I have heard the new song that they played live and that’s about it… my sole other exposure is “taking y’all’s word that the songs are good”.
Chris: I listened to City Burials, and left it the same way I did the last did I tried – it’s okay. Too much electronic pop for my taste.
Corey: Agreed – the high points are still reasonably high, but as an album is not nearly on the level that Fall of Hearts is.
Dan: Do not like the City Burials.
Chris: Leave it buried.
Dan: Still love the Fall of Hearts.
Corey: So when we hitting play on this beast?
Chris: Well, it seems like we are all here, all beveraged up, so I’m ready when you all are
Dan: CHEERS – let’s do this
In which streaming promos are addressed, drinks are consumed, the last quarter arrives, and opinions are exposed.
Corey: (Quick note: stream promos are annoying – add it to the record) …and PLAY!
Dan: Note for the kids at home, we are doing this on a stream. Thanks, Napalm! So, track 1, “Austerity”.
Corey: I already love the way this album opens. Nice and dense.
Chris: Does Renske’s voice sound different? More open? I love how they get a little proggy on the breaks.
Dan: I love this syncopated rhythm. It makes it sound SO immediate.
Chris: The break with the solo is great – has a bit of an Opeth vibe.
Corey: Yeah I was just thinking that…Renske is def doing some new stuff with his voice – it’s awesome.
Dan: DRINK EVERY TIME A KATATONIA SONG IS GREAT.
Corey: I ALREADY DO THAT DAN
Chris: Katatonia always knows how to open an album
Dan: Well now I know three things, Corey…Disagree Chris. City Burials opened with [saaaaad crooooon] for like 90 seconds and lost me.
Corey: Is it weird that I wasn’t crazy about the leads that opened City Burials? I dug the vocal intro, but once that guitars kicked in I was like… ehhhh I wanted not-this
Chris: Maybe I’m forgetting after literally having listened to it an hour ago, lol…which speaks volumes about that album
Dan: ANYWAY back to the album we are talking about. Track 2: “Colossal Shade”
Chris: I really dig the more open, less “I have a head cold” voice Jonas is doing…also digging the syncopation here.
Dan: Yes, haha. This track’s settling into a nice little groove.
Corey: I kinda like how “Colossal Shade” is just marching along after a far more dynamic opening track in “Austerity”.
Chris: It sounds FANTASTIC. Production is rich
Corey: Production is PHENOMENAL
Chris: Agreed, but I really don’t want this tempo and cadence for the whole album. Dig the keys buried in the back. You can hear everything in the mix… also I have no idea if I can keep this pace, as we’re only on track 2 and I’ve consumed 4 oz of whiskey… ON TO DRINK 2.
Corey: hahahaha, 10 minutes down, 40 to go
Dan: SIP EVERY TIME A KATATONIA SONG IS GREAT… We’ve heard two songs and I can confidently say this blows City Burials out of the water
Corey: Oh man those keys hiding in there are so tasty
Dan: Track 3: “Opaline”
Chris: That’s a nice 1-2
Corey: yep, good first phase of the album
Chris: Okay…Im worried…I’m also now losing punctuation.
Corey: Where we going with this? So is there 5 minutes of this or…
Dan: Dude this picks up… Love this
Corey: oh yeah there it is…hell yeah
Chris: I love the doubled vocals – the chorus picks up a bit to be sure, but honestly it’s not blowing me out of the water
Corey: Josh – your thoughts please?
Chris: Track 3 should be your big hitter…I feel like this is kinda batting a single. Is that how sports metaphors work? …ok, second chorus feels a bit bigger
Corey: I’ll give you a solid B for that metaphor
Dan: Katatonia doing the sporps!
Corey: I do love the rising and falling nature of this thing
Chris: This will double as my Defector resume
Dan: There’s a nice tension to it…lol
Chris: Dan the effects on those drums are pure 80s and I kinda love it…song definitely picks up on the second half
Dan: Haha indeed
Corey: TENSION RELEASED
Dan: Are we 3 for 3? Batting 1,000? SPORTS
Corey: I say yay
Chris: I’ll take it. It grows on me. And Jonas singing over the end part is GREAT. He’s the MVP so far
Corey: As this fades away, I’ll say that “Birds” was BY FAR my favorite of the three singles they dropped
Dan: Track 4, now, “Birds”.
Chris: We’ll definitely be 4-4 because DAMN Birds was a strong single
Dan: This is entirely new to me. I heard “Austerity” live a couple months back but no others. Comin in hot, though!
Chris: I love the more rock and roll vibe on that opening – totally cool with the verses going minimal with the bass driving it
Full St(r)eam Ahead
Fearless Editor Josh enters the chat, prompting the following exclamation from Chris.
Chris: JOSH BABY!
Josh: Alright then, took two big ass shots to catch up and large glass of 110 proof. “Birds” right?
Chris: DA BIRDS…
Dan: Speakin of comin in hot!
Chris: (more sports humor – I’m doing it)
Dan: Don’t quit your day job Chris
Josh: Love this track man. It’s so damn Katatonia of today. Penultimate even… HahH, yessir. Evening gents
Chris: Too late – I have quit and 9C is now my only source of income. WE NEED TO PUT UP PAYWALLS
Corey: WE WILL INJECT AND SUCK THE METAL. FOR CHRIS
Chris: Love how energetic this is. Honestly this should have been the third track
Chris: The breakdown with the vocals is great
Josh: Suck the metal we shall. Love the pacing here honestly
Dan: So, I do enjoy this. But, lol, I think it might be my least favorite of the four we’ve heard so far?
Josh: Jonas is a freaking beast on this
Dan: It’s still good!
Chris: You are anti-rock, Dan. We all know this
Dan: But it feels the least Katatony to me
Josh: And hi, might be my fave yet. I did do some pregaming on the way home so…
Dan: Anyway, track 5: “Drab Moon”
Corey: Drab Moon (not majesty)
Dan: Would be better if it was a majesty, but I won’t hold that against it
Josh: Love the opening
Chris: Ok, so if thew last track was the least katatonia to you, this should rectify that…this feels very classic Katatonia
Corey: Man, Drab Majesty was a thing I thought was fun for like a few minutes and then totally stopped caring about
Josh: Gloomy and dark
Chris: Again with the keys and synths coming in for the win
Corey: This feels… familiar, but different
Josh: Agreed. Big time
Dan: Yeah, this is more my thing. Kind of a gothic metal slow dance song
Chris: The stabbing moments at the 1:22 mark are awesome
Josh: Slow goth. Sign me up
Dan: Wednesday Addams and like, Nicolas Cage’s kid, totally letting Jesus between them on the middle school dance floor to this song
Chris: Is Jonas doubling his own vocals, or is someone else singing the backup/harmonies? BECAUSE THEY ARE LUSCIOUS CHOCOLATE
Corey: I can’t tell, but I like it ha
Josh: Also, I’ll fourth? the “streaming promos suck” just so we’re clear on that
Dan: HI NAPALM IF YOU’RE READING THIS WE STILL LOVE YOU
Chris: THANKS NAPALM
Corey: I can understand something, and not appreciate it
Chris: (we do. keep us on the list, please)…I love this song. This is what I would have wanted “Opaline” to be
Corey: So this took a turn heading into the home stretch
Josh: Indeed, keep us since all 4 of us have vinyl coming
Chris: You mean that in a good way, Corey?
Dan: Am I wrong to describe this album as “breezy” so far?
Corey: yes. very eys. yes
Dan: Because we’re getting through it so quickly and effortlessly
Corey: uh oh – there’s goes my typing ability
Chris: Yeah – it’s tight THANK GOD
Dan: I mean that in a good way
Corey: THANKS ALCOHOL
Josh: Breezy yes. Dark yes. Why I love Katatonia, all of it yes
Dan: Anyway, Track 6: “Author”
Corey: Feel the future, boys
Dan: Jonas is, uh, pushing himself a bit vocally here
Josh: But I dig it a lot
Chris: Yeah, reaching for the higher register on lead…it sounds a little forced but I’ll allow it
Dan: Yo this fuckin riff after the vox drop out, though
Josh: High register is not a place I thought he’d flourish yet here we are
Chris: damn I love that riff going out of the verse
Dan: That shit’s gnarly
Corey: that is so damn cool
Chris: that thing has SWING
Josh: Oh DAMN
Corey: meaty yet pretty
Chris: This feels like a classic Katatonia chorus from Viva Emptiness. I am so here for it
Josh: This is that thing where it gets really great. Exactly my thoughts Chris. And I love it…Give me VIVA
Dan: VIVA VIVA
Josh: Second full drink of 120 proof
Chris: The run of Last Fair Deal through GCD is impeccable
Chris: I WILL BORACH NO ARGUMENT…oh, good lol. SOLO TIME!
Josh: And what a damn solo! Jesus
Corey: It’s got complex patterns!
Chris: The solo is so damn good. Honestly these good good boys don’t solo enough
Dan: COMPLEX JUST LIKE JUSTICE
Chris: Damn I love the chorus on this
Josh: More solo. Just like more cowbell, always a good thing
Chris: this is becoming a fave for me
Josh: Tide is tipping for me too, this track rules
Dan: 6 for 6?
Corey: 6 for 6 without a doubt for me
Dan: Track 7 is “Impermance”…Im[ermanece…Motherfuck (ed. it’s “Impermanence”)
Corey: and 3 faves so far are this, Colossal and Birds
Chris: I’m going to slightly adjust to 5.5 for 6…”Opaline” is dimming for me
Josh: I cheated on the way here so yea 6 for 6
Chris: This immediately feels like a “back half” track…you know what I mean?
Corey: I do
Josh: Sorry. Stream dropped out on me…ugh. Back now. This one kinda…drags?
Dan: Okay yeah, this is very pretty but also kind of bland
Corey: I… don’t know if I’m into this
Chris: The chorus strives for AOR godlike mode
Dan: GO BACK TO THE CITY WE BURIED YOU IN
Josh: Haha. Ok yea. No
Chris: This is like all of the last three albums for me…it’s “fine” but I won’t remember it
Corey: 6 for 7 ha
Corey: You WILL remember FoH
Josh: Still a tremendous average
Chris: lol I need to revisit that
Corey: or so help me I will turn this blog around
Dan: Chris you watch your tongue Fall of Hearts was a last three album
Corey: You shut your mouth when Falling Hearts are talking to you!
Chris: I actually recall putting FoH on my EOY list, but I never, NEVER revisit it (ed. I did, a fact you can verify here.)
Dan: I think I combined “hold your tongue” and “watch your mouth” there. Hooray alcohol
Josh: FoH is a desert island album for me
Chris: I think that’s the measure of a Katatonia album…”will I revisit this in a year, or will go back to my standbys?”
Corey: This solo amuses me (in a mostly good way)
Chris: It give the blues, baby
Dan: It is the most interesting part of the song
Josh: Yeah for sure. Not digging is track at all honestly
Chris: FO SHO
Josh: No needle movement here
Corey: Josh is upset – fix this Katatonia!
Chris: okay so for you guys what are the desert island Katatonia records? I said for me it LFDGD to GCD
Corey: FoH, GCD, and…. actually just those two
Dan: Brave Murder Day, Last Fair Deal, Great Cold Distance, Fall of Hearts
Josh: Viva, FoH and LFDGD
Corey: eh, throw DEK (Dead End Kings) in there…
Dan: Track 8 is upon us, finally! “Sclera”. This, I get the feeling, is going to build into something
Josh: Alright Sciera, let’s do it
Chris: Phil Collins drum are GO
Dan: Anytime you have low pass filter on vocals, it’s gonna get fuckin massive… Ask any electro act – I’m sure Katatonia did
Corey: ooo me like
Josh: In the Air Tonight
Chris: This is better than “Impermanence” but it’s still a back-half track. It’s okay
Josh: Yea that is good. Not first half good but good
Chris: The “wow” hasn’t wowed me yet
Dan: Man, it felt like it was gonna get bigger there, and then it just kinda started spinning the wheels
Corey: Yeah that tapered
Josh: Tapered…. Perfect descriptor
Chris: Also I’m now almost 8 oz. down with my whiskey. Someone call my doctor. Or my son to grab me another bottle
Corey: Let’s try that again…
Chris: OH WAIT
Corey: If your doctor grabs you another bottle, I want that doctor
Josh: Me too
Chris: What is this? The song just changed gears completely
Dan: Chris I know Katatonia is awesome, but please do not drink a pint of whiskey tonight
Chris: 3:10 mark
Dan: Yeah, complete feel change
Corey: Yeah it did a thing!
Josh: Yep. And that’s the beauty of this band
Dan: Aww and then it died again
Corey: Do something with it. DO IT NOW
Josh: Switch on a dime and shits ok all of a sudden. Then not
Chris: This is crazy…the second half of the song is redeeming the first half for me. oof…nope. It went back to the old way
Chris: Folks – for about 30 seconds “Sclera” is fantastic
Corey: I kinda dig this, but not where it falls in the tracklist I think
Dan: 6 for 8?
Dan: Track 9 is “Atrium”
Chris: I can dig with that…”Atrium” was another single…and I recall digging it hard
Josh: Ahhh, “Atrium”
Corey: I think it was the first single… It was
Dan: Oh! I think I did hear this one live, too. This rings bells
Josh: Major digging it
Dan: And I like it
Chris: I am so into how Jonas has opened up his voice
Corey: My opinion on this track has changed like 10 times
Josh: This thing has some damn swing to it and some heavy balls as well
Corey: Loved it when I first heard it, then didn’t after hearing the other singles
Chris: The chorus swings for the fences and hits it
Josh: Just upped the proof to 130 with a new glass
Chris: Guys I am ALL about the sports tonight
Dan: Yeah, this is a contender for best chorus on the album. Spike that ball, Jonas!
Corey: But, I think following those previous couple tracks, it has a nice redeeming element to it in terms of just… catchiness and energy or something
Josh: Totally agree
Chris: I have now emptied the Jameson’s. You were killed for a noble cause, bottle
Josh: This is that sweet spot of gloom rock
Chris: Yeah, this is a late track that makes you want to keep going. You need this pick-me-up at track 9
Josh: Second half needed this… shot in the ark and all
Dan: Oooh a little key change!
Corey: If i had MY way – ditch impermanence and go from author to sclera to this
Josh: Arm, as it was…
Chris: I would be down with that sequencing
Dan: Yeah… When you’re president, Corey
Corey: This being the penultimate track makes me concerned there just isn’t enough to be built off this the rest of the way
Corey: but it is a GREAT pick me up track
Chris: ok last “official” track
Dan: Track 10 is “No Beacon to Illuminate Our Fall”…let’s goooo
Chris: I’m not surprised at the tone here…makes sense to end on something darker
Corey: I love that we took our drunken ramblings about albums that we were already doing anyway and turned it into #CONTENT
Chris: ..also the longest track at over 6 min
Dan: Oooh, that snaky little riff once it picks up
Chris: Love how it turns hard rock… Yeah BABY
Josh: Hmm, interesting
Josh: And I like it
Chris: they really have been hitting the “syncopation” button for these rock riffs. I am 100% here for it. Damn, the next section is just as good…a little more sinewy
Josh: Those quick blasts buttonhooked with gloom. Oh yea
Dan: Sinewy is the perfect way to describe this, Chris
Josh: I’ll agree
Chris: I knew that degree would come in handy
Corey: I’m getting the sense that this is gonna end up being a 6 minute track that could totally get away with being 8
Josh: Jonas is really showing out here and I’m here for it
Dan: What is this chaos section?
Chris: and again a KILLER section
Dan: I love it
Chris: holy shit this is insane
Josh: Oh THERE IT IS. Money shot
Corey: This is fucking bonkers haha
Dan: Definitely finishing strong
Chris: This is maybe my favorite track
Josh: Good lord
Dan: Or, uh… halfing strong? We’re only 3:30 in at this point. Album as a whole finishing strong though
Chris: so many ideas and sections…kinda prog in how it refuses to repeat itself
Josh: Agreed. Idea after idea but they all actually work
Chris: Love the solo work
Dan: This little solo break feels almost Gilmourian?
Corey: I’m just vibing so heavy right now haha
Josh: I think overall this album has the tastiest solos
Chris: I can definitely hear the PF influence, Dan
Corey: Inject this track into my veins, god dammit
Dan: Yeah, this is great
Chris: I’m sorry – this is now my favorite track on the album
Josh: Also sake
Corey: Hard same
Dan: You do not need to apologize for that, buddy
Josh: SAME, dammit haha
Chris: HOLY SHIT IT CHANGES AGAIN
Josh: And that deep blast of bass!
Chris: GOD DAMN THAT WAS AN ENDING
Corey: That track covered more ground than City Burials ha
Dan: And now we get a bonus track. Which I’m sure will not suck. “Absconder”
Josh: Phil Collins is back. Jesus those druns. DRUMS
Dan: So, I was correct. This does not suck
Josh: 130 proof is talking
Chris: I don’t get the concept of a “bonus” track…how does THIS not fit into the overall tonal theme of the record? This is great
Dan: I kinda like it. Just not after that last song
Corey: This can also replace Impermanence
Dan: Can we ditch Impermancce and put this in its place?
Josh: Indeed it can
Dan: Ipmernance – Fucking fuck
Dan: LEARN TO TYPE DAN…Ignorance
Josh: Thank you! Haha
Chris: We have made it so. New sequence initiated
Dan: Other “I” words
Chris: igloo, iguana, icicle…
Dan: INAGADDADAVIIIIIIDA BAAAABY
Dan: Man, this woulda been such a better “side two” kickoff
Josh: Bonus track my ass, this should’ve been a main album track
Josh: And this better be on our vinyl copies
Chris: 100% this should have replaced Impermanence
Corey: A back half-er, perhaps. But yes, it earned a spot in the starting lineup…SPORT
Chris: I have never been so happy Corey ordered two of this album
Josh: SPORTY. HahH
Corey: That was a thing I did!
Josh: Just to be sure we were all covered
Corey: Now, am I am confident I’ll actually receive both copies? Maybe 80%
Chris: If you didn’t rest assured I would have been buying this as soon as our chat ended
Corey: …but that’s better than how I felt a month ago haha
Dan: I do not vinyl, but I will be adding this to my Bandcamp queue
In which our heroes, thoroughly soused, attempt to wrap up
Chris: Now THAT is a Katatonia album
Josh: Honestly, minus Impermanence, this album is a banger. A slapper, a whatever is great these days
Corey: It’s definitely a leap up from City Burials (which I mostly liked, to be clear)
Dan: A banger, a slapper, a lover and a fapper
Corey: Time will tell where it ends up but damn did I enjoy that first listen through, just about end-to-end
Chris: I’ll need to (if I wanna keep Top Brass status) revisit FoH, but this is the best thing since GCD for me
Josh: Same here. Loved that album but this? Love more
Corey: I’m thinking… I’m gonna be thinking… the same
Dan: It eats City Burials’ lunch
Josh: FoH is still my top but this is close
Dan: I need to go through this a couple more times before I determine if it’s Mount Rushmore status, but it’s very, very good
Corey: I’m curious about how my opinion on those back half tracks shift over time
Chris: Something we haven’t discussed but I’ll posit it here…best Katatonia album art since…forever?
Dan: Impermanence – skip. Sclera – fast forward to the good part, then skip. The rest? DRINK
Josh: Drink to the good
Dan: As for the artwork? Easily
Corey: Colossal Shade will end up being a favorite of mine I think
Chris: Yeah – it just kicked back on for me and it is SO GOOD… but not “No Beacon to Illuminate Our Fall” good
Josh: 99% sure Colossal is my album pick …of tracks on said album
Dan: No Beacon takes the cake for me
Chris: If I was ranking, I’d go No Beacon, Colossal, Birds, Author, Austerity, Atrium, Sclera, Opaline, Impermanence
Dan: It’s like that Phoebe Bridgers album a couple years back where the whole thing was mostly pretty great but then the last song she just started shrieking “Midsommar” style and it somehow still was far and away the best thing on it? No Beacon has that kinda craY good energy
Chris: Yeah – it goes out there and I love it for that. Ok, I think unless anyone has anything else, maybe we did this thing? I honestly can’t believe I’m still able to type
Corey: I think we’re good
Chris: Any final words from you guys about the album?
Dan: We definitely did this thing
Corey: It’s great… but how great is TBD. But on a single pass it’s pretty damn clear that this is really fucking strong album
Josh: Alvin indeed. ALBUM. LOL
Chris: NO…ALVIN IT IS
Corey: STRONG ALVIN
Dan: Final words: if you live by the golden rule (DRINK EVERY TIME A KATATONIA SONG IS GREAT), you will consume approximately one unit of measurement [which I will call a Voss] of whiskey listening to Sky Void of Stars
Corey: 4.5 ALVINS OUT OF 5
Josh: Bourbon y’all… HHahahahaha
Chris: Katatonia’s Sky Void of Stars is STRONG ALVIN…you heard it here first, folks!
4.5 out of 5 Alvins, folks. I can’t think of higher praise. Check back with us next month when we present our dumb selves in chat form for your amusement. In the meantime…yeah: Sky Void of Stars is very, very good. Katatonia have more than brought the goods.
– Top Brass
Sky Void of Stars will be available January 20 on Napalm Records. For more information on Katatonia check out their website and Facebook page.
This was a great read. Fall of Hearts was a masterpiece, especially after Dead End Kings was so…meh. Which is why City Burials scared me. Two out of the last 3 albums have been underwhelming for a band that I’ve fanboid since discouraged ones.
My initial listens to this leave me hopeful.