I think I never had so many options for concerts on one day. On this Friday, November 10th, I could have made little Moni’s teenage dreams come true and see The Rasmus. I could have seen Enslaved. I could have gone to Leipzig and see Eluveitie & Amaranthe. I could have seen Paradise Lost, among others, at Metal Hammer Paradise festival. I even seriously considered flying to Athens to see one of my favourite bands, Kamelot. (And I’m pretty sure there were one or two other options that I can’t remember right now…)
Even before the Swedes blew me away with two fantastic shows in August (read here) though, I had already subconciously made the decision that the best choice for this crucial day would be a ride to the Danish east coast, to see Katatonia in Aarhus. Said summer shows still in mind, and also having seen two Katatonia members with their side band Bloodbath just a week before in the UK, I was pretty excited for this gig!
Usually it’s one of my golden concert rules never to listen to the band I’m going to see on the day of the show (to keep the excitement up, you know?). For no particular reason, I broke this rule today and listened to Katatonia all the way in the car. What a mistake… Mostly, I find dark and sad music strangely uplifting and it puts me in a happy and euphoric mood. That goes for many Katatonia songs as well, but at the same time, their music has the power to bring out all the miserable feelings from the darkest corners of my mind. They make me feel sad about things I never knew I was sad about. (This might sound terrible, but I think it’s a good thing to explore you own emotions through music!) So, after listening to Katatonia five hours straight in the car, I was close to an emotional breakdown and was convinced my whole life was an awful mess. 😀
Fortunately, this changed as soon as I arrived at the venue just in time to hear Roger Öjersson lay down a brilliant guitar solo on the inside, as Katatonia had just started their sound check. My spirits were up again and the show couldn’t start soon enough!
There were two support bands to open the show. I liked the first of them, a young Danish band called Sunless Dawn. You’ve probably never heard of them, but this might change in the future, because their complex progressive death metal songs and their musical skills were excellent! Remember the name? Sunless Dawn. You read it here first! 😉
At last, some dark figures came on stage, who must have been Katatonia. In their good old fashion, the lights on stage were low, just some wild flashes lighted the band from the back, so you could hardly see more than their silhouettes. After one and a half hours of standing right in front of Jonas Renkse, I couldn’t have told you what he was wearing… something black, that’s for sure! But who cares for clothes anyway? Katatonia played a fine selection of 18 songs from all the albums they have released in this century, with a focus of course on the latest album The Fall Of Hearts, but also (good for me) on my personal favourite The Great Cold Distance, which they recently played in full at a show in Romania.
I remember a conversation I had a while ago with a well-loved guitarist who is used to playing big stages and who is quite famous for being very active on stage, jumping around, trying his best to get the crowd going, and so on. He outed himself as a huge fan of Katatonia’s music but doubted that it might be interesting to see them live because he expected, with the melancholic nature of their music, the shows might be a bit boring? “No, of course not!” was my answer, and the show in Aarhus proved exactly why my point stands.
True, there might not be much going on in terms of ‘performance’. There’s some proper headbanging, and Jonas politely thanks the audience in between songs before he announces the next one (at least I guess that’s what he did… he talked Swedish all night, which might have been understood by the Danish but unfortunately not by that one German girl…), but that’s about it – no jumping around, no crowd animation, no rock star antics, just some black shadows banging their heads on an almost dark stage.
Boring? Hell, no! Because Katatonia don’t need anything but their music to captivate you. Not just because they are great musicians (I’d like to point out that being close to the stage made me discover some bits in the drum parts I had never noticed before – seems like David Moilanen is an excellent drummer!). Mostly because the emotional powers I talked about earlier are even stronger when you hear the music live! As nice as all those keyboard arrangements on the more recent albums may be, the live sound is a bit more guitar orientated than the records, and this gives the songs some extra spirit. The heavy riffs are more emphasized, the guitar melodies more vibrant. And then there is Jonas’ precious voice that is so soft and shy but so expressive at the same time. It’s quite unbelievable – the melodies are often so simple, sometimes they hardly consist of more than two or three notes, the poetical lyrics are punctuated with some really plain lines (which I love though!), and Jonas is certainly far from being one of those over-dramatizing singers (quite the opposite…) – but somehow he makes everything sound incredibly meaningful. He sings ‘Was it all for nothing?’ on My Twin and you wanna burst into tears. He sings ‘We had plans but you couldn’t make it’ on Lethean and you wanna rip your heart out because it sounds so painful.
I doubt that any soul in the venue was left untouched on this night. And as long as Katatonia manage to get those emotions across, you will certainly love the show, no matter what else is happening or not happening on stage.
Unfortunately there won’t be so much opportunity to see them live in the near future; a new Bloodbath album is in the making, and after that a new Katatonia album will probably be due as well. But at some point they will be back on the road again, and that’s definitely something to look forward to!