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Katatonia - Dance of December Souls
Review: This band are aesthetic masters; they have cleanly meshed a dark black metal style into a keyboarded stadium heavy metal style with gothic and atmospheric rock influences, making something which sounds good while bearing a black-ish aesthetic, all while being essentially a rock band creating personal delusions of emotional grandeur. Yet instrumentation is precise, and rock theory has been expanded for creativity in delivering the dynamic shape of atmosphere across a range of phrases, giving nods to the classics of black metal and their power in breaking musical ideas into melody.
These riffs have been heard before, with one being the same general pattern as "Dead Skin Mask" from Slayer and another being reminiscent of Dismember, the fourth track on Katatonia borrowing roughly from the first album of those Swedish gods (Override of the Overtures). Another aesthetic foundation: Cemetary, from whom some of the keyboard integration technique is borrowed. Other "Visible Influences and Derivations" include a real desire to be My Dying Bride, andsome elements of the more melodic older metal; Iron Maiden lurks in the appeal to grand gestures and symbolism especially in the choice of harmonies on which to base melodic work. If one listens carefully to track six one of the simpler At the Gates riffs makes an appearance, denoting another influence, most prominently in the treatment of continuity in melodic phrasing.
The previous EP from this band was more of an atmospheric endeavor than this, and seems distinctive from a comparative listen. "Dance of December Souls" is a rehash symphony, and lacks the epic quality that first rate black metal does, yet for rock-based music with the aesthetic of black metal and the emotions of a mainstream band, it is an enjoyable frivolous listen if you can live past the predictable parts. Of those, there is little to fear: the semi-waltz beats of mainstream black metal mixed with atomspheric rock bridges and choruses, raining sentiment from their maudlin and moribund discourse. Yet intrinsically this is self-centered teen isolationist angst music, and for that describes its existential desires well.
Harsh black metal vocals over dark guitar, with clean guitar picked carefully in the background, and layers of keyboard washing through the whole. This has heavier, more decisive percussion than the EP, and is a welcome change in that area, but seems to be more enmired in the current ideas of metal as commercial vehicle than what the EP targetted. Where the "melodic metal" movement brings heavy metal and goth into metal, there are few successes, but for sheer musicality and mastery of aesthetic this band dominates them, while understandably not finding the influential minds of the underground impressed.