But before I get in to the review, let me give a bit of back story:
About a year ago, I used to work in a warehouse with a few other people, and I was a department manager. This gave me the power over what music played in the warehouse. I, of course, wanted to play metal, hardcore, and hard rock at all times. However, being as the warehouse was shared by multiple departments, I would often get complaints from those who prefer… let’s say, “simpler” musical tastes.
One day, I was searching through Spotify, trying to find something that was heavy, but didn’t have any screaming or crazy double bass. One of the suggestions I saw was for a band I had heard of before, but never listened to. A new album called “Dead End Kings” had just released, and Spotify was heavily suggesting that I give it a listen. So I did. And I fell in love. And to top it off, I didn’t receive any complaints while listening to this album.
So there began my enjoyment of Katatonia, with their unique melding progressive rock with doom metal. Having just seen them a few months ago while they opened for Opeth, I looked forward to seeing them again with a longer set as a headliner.
Typically at Irving Plaza, during sets, a projector screen will pull down in front of the stage and display upcoming shows at the venue and its sister venues in NYC. But for some reason this night, whoever was in charge of the display decided instead to play the Harrison Ford movie, Blade Runner. This would have been awesome, but instead of the film’s audio, they played a radio selection of random music. What a tease.
While I missed out on the opening band of the night, Intronaut, I did get to Irving Plaza in time for the short set from TesseracT.
If there was one thing I noticed right away, its that TesseracT’s vocalist Ashe O’Hara can sing. And he can sing incredibly well. Once bassist Amos Williams jumped off the stage, patted me on the back (as I was at the front of the stage at the time) and jumped to the front of the crowd to play a palm muted riff, I knew I was seeing something special.
Did I mention Amos was barefoot? Because the dude totally was.
Their short set consisted of only five songs, but I certainly enjoyed all five. They ended their set with Acceptance, which was easily their heaviest, featuring the only song they played with screamed vocals. TesseracT left me very impressed, and I hope to see them again in the near future. Cheers of “Tess-er-act!” came from the crowd for some time after the band had left the stage.
With the lighting that covered the stage for the next band, co-headliner Cult of Luna, it would seem that the band preferred to be more of a group of 7 anonymous players. With 2 drummers, 3 guitarists, a bassist and a keyboards/synth player, Cult of Luna played their mix of slow, heavy, doom laden metal to a somewhat unreceptive crowd.
Opening with what I think was “The One,” CoL seemed plagued through at least the opening of their set by miscellaneous sound problems. I often caught much of the band moving over and signaling to the soundboard operator to turn something up or tweak something down.
Honestly, for Cult of Luna’s entire set, I was bored to tears. For me personally, it just wasn’t my thing. They seemed to move around a bit on stage, but once I moved away more towards the back of Irving Plaza, the light that filled the stage prevented me from seeing them very well. Though there was applause during the songs, I could tell most of the crowd wasn’t really in to it either. Many people went outside, or to other spots around the venue during their set after a few minutes. I’m sure they’re a talented band and all, but outside of his screams, Johannes Personn didn’t say a word, which was kind of off-putting.
Once Katatonia finally came to the stage, I could see people began to come alive. Beginning with a drum intro from drummer Daniel Liljekvist, the first song was a song that originally was released as a bonus track, “Ashen“. While the stage was lit a little bit better than it was for Cult of Luna, it was still rather dark. For Katatonia’s music however, it added to the mood and feel, rather than just being a case of “the stage is dark because we want it be“.
While singer Jonas Renkse isn’t the most active on stage, with his long, dark hair covering his entire face like a veil, he makes up for it with a powerful vocal performance. At Irving Plaza, typically the sound mix is so muddled that its difficult to hear the vocalist clearly, but for some reason, I was able to hear Jonas crystal clear all night. I can’t even pinpoint an exact song he sounded really solid on, because the man sounded wonderful throughout the entire night. “Thank you, thank you so much New York!” were common words from his mouth between songs, after much deserving applause.
While limited there was a bit of headbanging and moshing at times during the set. “Ambitions” and “Onward Towards Battle” both had quite a bit of movement while Katatonia hit the heavier parts in songs. Typically, when the band went in to full powerstance, there were bodies flying back and forth in the pit.
The biggest cheers perhaps came from two “Dead End Kings” songs played back to back, “Undo You” and “Leech“. A surprise playing of a song that hasn’t been heard live in almost 10 years, “Black Session,” was greeted to a many positive remarks as well. At one point during this song, guitarists Per Eriksson and Anders Nyström got close to each other, rocking out in unison.
Katatonia finished their main set with “Unfurl“. They left the stage for less then a minute before returning, after which they finally decided to bring on the heavy. The mosh pit really opened up for “Ghost of the Sun,” and for even a short bit, a few moshers organized what looked like a small “wall of death“. They ended the night with “July” and “Forsaker“. While the crowd perhaps wasn’t exhausted, as I often see at most metal shows, they left at least with smiles on their faces from a solid performance.
My only request, and I think I speak for many others in attendance, would have been for some of the more popular selections from Dead End Kings, such as “Buildings,” “The Parting,” or “The Racing Heart“. Perhaps even a playing of a song from the recent release “Dethroned and Uncrowned” (which is a more progressive take on many of the songs from Dead End Kings) would have been unique. A longer set would have been nicer as well. And a longer set from TesseracT also. And less (or no) Cult of Luna. Sorry, but the truth is the truth.
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