Katatonia in Moscow

28.3.2009 Rockclub Moscow, RUS

After Katatonia already cancelled one show in Moscow in January, this one was awaited even more. And even more because this Swedish classic of things dark, beautifully depressive and addictively melancholic does not treat its followers to too many live appearances.

The chosen venue 1Rock is a rather big club that can easily compete with either Finnish Nosturi or Köln’s Live Music Hall, both by capacity, sound quality and light show. Concerts in Moscow usually start early, as clubs close at 23.00 already, and those which remain open then start the nightclub programme with a separate entrance fee.

With two warm-up bands, the evening opened with Forest Stream ( and continued with Morigan ( . Because of interviewing Katatonia’s Jonas at that time, I missed most of their shows… But I can say: Forest Stream gained a certain recognition as it was signed by the well known British Candlelight Records, which is a serious achievement for a relatively unknown Russian doom metal band. Generally spoken, Russian alternative/heavy scene is still evolving and with confidence can be said, in few years from now it will reach a level decent enough to kick serious European butts. It is up to bands like Morigan to lead this important development. Along the lines of Finnish Insomnium, Morigan is also very melodic, yet harsh and heavy, occasionally doomy, metal act. With their gear, presentation and impressive growling skills, this band convinced me that there is more metal in Russia than Europe has heard of or can expect there to be…

Towards the main guest’s appearance, the audience was packing the floor tighter and tighter, shouting and clapping rhythmically to “ka-ta-to-ni-a!” and exploding in applause even when the Swedes’ sound engineer walked through the stage. Finally with lights getting dimmer and slow piano intro starting, Katatonia came just a few minutes behind the schedule. Unlike many other famous bands, this was quite surprising when the singer came on at the same time with the rest of the band, and not separately, usually being the last person to appear. And the way Jonas walked in, without showing the devil’s sign with his fingers, but simply clapping to the audience and … genuinely smiling. Which other heavy metal artist does that?! Moreover, Jonas isn’t flirting with the audience or the cameras’ objectives, what he’s doing at the mic is simply singing and expressing himself. His way of doing a song is very sensitive, as it seems, with eyes closed and gesticulating, as if he’s trying to convey the message of the song to someone before him, occasionally headbanging in-between. After each song he’s clapping to the audience, generously saying “spasibo” [“thank you” in Russian] and briefly introducing the songs. And again, what a surprise to hear “Next one is ‘Evidence’, do you like this song?” – how sweet and touching is it to say?! And unexpected! Not once have I heard Alexi Laiho or Tomi Joutsen asking that… And not a single “f” word thrown towards the audience, not once!!!

Most of the setlist was made of Katatonia’s latest album “Great Cold Distance” interspersed with a few other songs and a one special treat “Without God” – a rare unique chance to hear Jonas’ growling like at the beginning of the band’s career, whereas now growls and other harsher sounds are left to Anders. Even though that album of the band’s discography isn’t that popular, many of the audience were screaming the lyrics along the song. Impressive…

Overall their live sound is heavier than on any CD and often also faster, with some good improvisations and pauses, when the song unexpectedly continues again. At one of the songs, having turned his back to the audience, Jonas did some little drumming with spare drumsticks. It was heart-warming to observe just how much the band genuinely enjoyed performing, just as the audience couldn’t hold their emotions either, regardless some minor technical problems and a couple of broken microphones. Since there was no photopit (at a concert of that scale?!), there was nothing separating the band and the audience, so the latter had a chance to be especially interactive. A few stage dives brought excited fans right to Jonas’ feet, a few rows away from the stage fans were busy keeping the moshpit going. I think it’s only Russian audience who can get up and do a moshpit in a punk pogo style, along the riffs of melancholic doom… So if Katatonia will ever think of making a live DVD, I won’t be surprised if Russia would be their country of choice.

Although the band came back for an encore twice, their whole concert felt like it just started … When it was over, musicians generously shook hands of the front rows, guitarists threw picks, the drummer gave away his sticks, some one from the audience simply climbed the stage and picked a couple of picks and the setlist themselves, what’s to lose? And so the evening ended, sadly…

My conclusion was that Katatonia is definitely not a festival band, remembering their strange appearance at Tuska Open Air two Junes ago. Yet within club walls, with decent light and just some smoke, (a lot of which was contributed by the crowd, as smoking is still allowed indoors in Moscow), the atmosphere was just right, and well, perfect… And what’s also interesting, after having been through Katatonia live, seeing and feeling just how the band weaves its songs, how the singer expresses the lyrics, it made their songs on cd even more meaningful and comprehensive. So now I suggest you read our interview, and listen to this music over again, I can guarantee you’ll hear a little something new in it…

Some of the songs in that evening’s setlist: Teargas, Deadhouse, Soil’s song, Cold ways, Leaders, Ghost of the sun, My twin, Criminals, Sleeper, Evidence, July, Without god. thanks Ronnie of Headlight Promotions for his assistance.

Marina Sidyakina

GastmitarbeiterInnen / guest contributions

Regular guest contributors e.g. Melanie Kircher, Tatjana Tattis Murschel, Grit Kabiersch, Marina Minkler, Jasmine Frey, Maria Levin, Elvira Visser, Nina Ratavaara, John Wisniewski