21.5.2019 Live Music Hall, Cologne, Germany
We haven’t been spoiled on Katatonia’s live shows in the past years, so this anniversary tour was a must-see. The occasion we are told was the fact that it’s been 10 years since Night Is The New Day came out and 2 years since the band’s last live tour (ignoring the mini-tour in the Baltics and Russia), so these precious 3 shows were very much overdue. Surprisingly, the anniversary tour consisted of only 3 shows, Cologne followed by Berlin and Hamburg. The reason is unclear, certainly not lack of interest by the fans, the venue was packed. On the other hand, Katatonia by now are like this good old friend of yours that lives in another life and even if you only get to meet once on a blue moon in Maytembruary, it’s as if you’ve never parted. It was comfortable, familiar emotional doom therapy soup for our metal souls.
Before Katatonia took the stage, we were treated to two more bands. The first one is called Wheel and is no wonder they rock, residing in Finland, but with a charismatic British front-man. I was not too convinced after checking them out online before the show, but their live energy and unique sound proved me wrong. Those guys know what they’re doing, it is heavy and intricate enough that even before vocals come in, you’d want to hear more and come nearer the stage. Definitely not the fifth wheel of the show, but the Wheel that’ll turn your attention at once. Think Tool with slightly less technicality, weaving a solid sound-carpet, but still headbangable. I’d definitely watch out for this quartet in the upcoming summer festivals, we hope they’ll get to tour more internationally as well.
Cellar Darling, one of the most beautiful band names ever, that surely you’ve read about in current metal magazines. More on the melodic side of things, a very interesting act from Switzerland. They hold attention well and appropriately accommodate a rare instrument hurdy gurdy without instantly turning the show into a medieval Pagan-fest. Flowing, clean female vocals are well suited the heaviness and melodious flow of the music, and even though for me this was not heavy enough for a female-fronted metal act, this was actually quite enjoyable. With hints of the old Gathering, flowy, melodic and very senses-grabbing. With very rich story-telling lyrics and interesting instrumental arrangements, Cellar Darling has all chances to be at the top of Album of the Year nominees at least. Anna’s unique voice has already received a lot of praise through social media and this was a very solid live proof of all the admiration. Aside from the fact she also plays the transverse flute, on top of the vocals and the hurdy gurdy. Musicians delight.
It is not that often when warm up bands stand out as much as the main act, but tonight was really the case. Surely “quality” was the motto of the night, and so we say to the organizers – job well done, audience warmed up, entertained and saw cool new bands before Katatonia took stage.
And then we’re reminded that Katatonia are not so well suited for being a live band. It felt like a concert for long-time fans (to be fair, it was an anniversary tour), who followed the band’s evolution through the last 15-20 years. The music we came for was there and that energy remains unchanged. We’ve not heard it live for what seems like a decade, but now that we do, it’s like it never left. I find that, when played live, even doom sounds heavier. The long cords and academic solos and well experienced musicianship. Katatonia live is unlike anything else, insofar as that they make you feel ok. I find that through Jonas’ lyrical style, his songs are easily relatable, they are real life and I bet everyone in the audience would’ve been in any one situation that Katatonia weaved into an acoustic comforter blanket. For example Lethean, a song that you’ve written every time a relationship didn’t go right. “What took you so long? … but you couldn’t make it…” and sung with so much feeling and soul, enhanced with gorgeous guitars and drums, it is perfection. Or July, another gem, a wonderful hit that makes a very powerful live performance. The live version is heavier than its original, and so makes a very emotional, strong and headbangable experience. I especially love the lyrics of this song, so personal and understandable, simply human. Katatonia’s releases of the last 10 years feel like exactly that, heavy slow and melodic, everything that you’ve felt and struggled with but couldn’t express. Katatonia made it into music. And reinforced with Jonas’ calm reassuring voice you can listen to it all night and feel better. I think your inner demons would, too.
Journalist and photo Marina Minkler
Translation Uwe Minkler