Katatonia – City Burials (2020)

First of all, City Burials is not a heavy record and it wouldn’t technically be right to call it metal per se. it does have some heavy parts, but mainly seems experimental and overbearingly electronic. There are dozens of effects sprinkled throughout the album and it is completely doused in synthesizer. While opener, “Heart Set To Divide” sounds like it may contradict my point about the disc lacking heavy or metallic elements, it is largely the case further out. “Behind The Blood” also might sound a bit punchy, but trust me – I know what I’m talking about here.

“Lacquer” brings in synthesized beats (not unfamiliar to those utilized in current pop music) while “Rein” and “The Winter Of Our Passing” feel more like hard rock, and the latter is saturated with synths. It almost feels like Goth rock, though contains a section of easy listening atmosphere and strangely, more pop beats. “Vanishers” is an electronic infused alt rock piece with a female backing vocal. It’s haunting, but also a bit sweet and not quite as doom and gloom as you might expect for the band. “City Glaciers” reminds me of the band’s mid-era material when songs like “My Twin” worked well for radio. However, “City Glaciers” is a bit more artsy and textured than the former, even though it still fills me with the same vibe that I get from “My Twin.”

When we get to “Flicker” I guess you can say that there are metal elements in the background, but they are awfully softened with the electro-pop beats and atmospheres being shoved in here. “Lachesis” isn’t worth remembering, but “Neon Epitaph” certainly is – especially if you love Tool. This whole album so far seems to be directly influenced by other artists and only sounds like Katatonia in part. In fact, “Neon Epitaph” almost sounds like the band writing a Tool song. Even so, I think people will dig it. The album ends with “Untrodden” which is largely a soft ballad with a massive guitar solo injection. Not that I’m complaining.

I’ll be honest though, I kinda like it. Sure, City Burials is not Katatonia at their most fearsome nor foreboding, but it’s still a rather catchy and well meant album. This was obviously an experiment for them and I’m glad that they did it, rather than coming out with something absurdly heavy for death metal fans. It does have a few punchy moments, but I wouldn’t dare consider it any form of extreme metal, especially during the named tracks where the band scarcely uses guitar. There’s nothing wrong with a departure from heavier sounds and styles and frankly, I don’t think it was a bad idea for them to experiment beyond what we’ve already heard or what we might expect from the band. I was expecting this to be a heavy doom record, but when I realized that it wasn’t, I found myself not only surprised; but quite pleased with the whole experience. It may not be what some of you wanted, but it caught my attention and I found myself absorbed into the majority of the experience.





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