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Thursday, 11 May 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Katatonia

Katatonia, Ghost Bath & The Great Discord, Marble Factory, Bristol

First gig in Bristol for a while and it was one I was anticipating was going to be good indeed, this was to be my first viewing Swedes Katatonia in the live arena (I think, my memory is going) and in a cosy venue it was going to be excellent to see them modest sized venue. In fact the only band I had seen was the main support Ghost Bath and that didn't bode well, but I digress, with my snapper/other half in tow we hit the venue and got ready for openers.

With a band dressed in all black they took to the stage in relative silence with the stage cloaked in darkness, then they started their set of thumping progressive alternative metal similar to djent bands but more melodic, the members carrying instruments played the riffs but the focus was on vocalist Fia Kempe who cuts an impressive figure on stage with her whitewashed face and feathered headdress she dramatically threw herself around the cramped stage, a visually arresting display the music was confident to carry her wild performance and strong vocals that were marred by technical problems with the microphone which kept cutting out intermittently until the last song where it gave up the ghost for most of the song. Still despite these issues the assembled throng reacted well to the The Great Discord (8) after the initial bemusement they managed to win around the audience with their accessible but almost post modern take on, definitely a band I'd see again as they were breath of fresh air as a opening act.

A reasonably short change over so as to accommodate three bands and next it was time for the only Americans on the tour, Dakota natives Ghost Bath (7) first woke us up at Bloodstock last year with blood curdling screams and little else, meaning that I didn't hold out much hope this time round. The bands name is derived from "the act of committing suicide by submerging in a body of water" so they are a cheery bunch but this time the were at least more audibly appealing, their depressive post metal is primarily instrumental based upon the five members (who all use Chinese symbol as their names) playing repeated heavy riffs backed by furious blast beats, but I guess I haven't addressed the screaming, well that comes from the frontman who uses his voice as an instrument squealing and screaming down the mic like someone in their death throes.

Now on the record due to the production techniques this is kept as part of the sonic landscape however live there is a tendency to ramp the mic up more than everything else, fine when there are lyrics but screeching not so much, this was the issue at Bloodstock but thankfully not here, the live mix in The Motion was much more balanced meaning that the vocals were at the same level as the instruments, this proved to be a much more enjoyable show because of it. The band played a well built set that climaxed brilliantly, unfortunately there was just a little bit too much tuning silence between the songs to really let you immerse yourself.

Another fast turn around and this was the moment I wanted to see the Swedish merchants of doom-laden, depressive heavy rock Katatonia (10) playing in a small venue almost close enough to touch, in the direct opposition too the openers there was very little fuss on stage, little movement with the exception of Jonas Renske who shuffled on his feet as he delivered his booming, resonant, emotive vocals as the set opened with Last Song Before The Fade the first of 6 tracks from their most recent record The Fall Of Hearts which led into the grinding Criminals from Viva Emptiness, it's one of my favourites from their back catalogue, its a bitter piece that set the stage well for a return to The Fall Of Hearts Serein.

Three heavy hitters first and the room slowed to one indistinguishable mass of hair and heads banging in unison, the crowd mesmerised by the bands hypnotic playing. Cheers of recognition came for riff friendly Dead Letters that to me echoes Opeth in composition and along with Buildings allowed Anders and Roger let loose on their guitars. Kudos again to the sound engineer as the band were powerful but not too heavy that everything was distorted, a crisp sound was bolstered by the expert use of backing tapes to let the songs sound as they were recorded while not distracting from the performance.

The songs moved and twist spellbinding those in attendance, with only a few breaks for thank you the attention level was high and the set list was strong although with only 1 song from Night Is The New Day (the admittedly epic Forsaker) and Last Fair Deal Gone Down which was Teargas which is as near as this band get to light, some may have complaints but personally having 6 tracks from your latest album and 5 from probably your most accomplished (The Great Cold Distance) your bound to get a great set and as it progressed we got Soils Song, in The White, Residual Leaders and Passer but in the encore they took things up another notch with My Twin, Lethean and perennial favourite July. Katatonia give a masterclass in performance, almost perfect sound, tight musicianship, honed performance and light and shade to draw you in, they are untouchable.

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