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Dead End Kings

Peaceville (2012)
Rating: 6.5/10

While early Katatonia works launched the seedy underground sound the band is known for (along with My Dying Bride and Anathema), it’s their more melancholy, rock inspired sound that has dominated the Swedish band’s output in the new millennium.

While it still seems to be something that divides the group’s fanbase, it was 2003’s Viva Emptiness that staked this assortment’s claim as one of the best on their side of the world and they have perfected that vein of music in the years since its release.

‘The Parting’ kicks off the melancholy festivities here in a big way. Backed by heavy guitars, strings, a very subtle piano, and one of Jonas Renkse’s most impactful vocal performances ever, the band command the song entirely, practically forcing you to be believe no matter which era of the band you prefer. The good news is that this song alone is worth the price of admission. The bad news is, while the album as a whole is good, it never again reaches this pinnacle.

‘The One You Are Looking For is Not Here’ attempts to keep the momentum but, for me, the power of the kick off still lingers and this song just feels like a leftover. The string-laden, laid back sound of ‘Leech’ is a good moment, largely due to the creative drumming by Daniel Liljekvist. It really stands as the song’s backbone without overpowering everything else. That said, it’s a great lead into ‘Ambitions’, which is the other main highlight of Dead End Kings. It’s got that underlying upbeat spark that the band has honed so well over the last decade, while keeping it heavy in all the right places and maintaining that vocal intimacy that Renkse has pretty much mastered at this point.

‘Dead Letters’ is a little more dynamic than the rest of the album, bringing it all to an end in a fairly progressive way. The keyboards (by Frank Default) play a more prominent role here and the musical style shifts back and forth often, which gives it a little prog feel that is a nice change of pace. When it rocks, it rocks just a little bit harder than the other songs as well. As far as musically interesting goes, the endcaps on Dead End Kings definitely take the cake.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of songs that sound the same here as well. ‘Hypnone’, ‘Undo You’ and ‘Buildings’, for example are all songs that are completely enjoyable but after a few spins they just start to blend into the album so much that you don’t even really notice that the band is playing something entirely different. Some fans may enjoy that aspect of the album, but it doesn’t do so much for me.

While I don’t really dislike anything on here, the fact remains that Katatonia have done this all before… a few times. While this album won’t leave you disappointed necessarily, it will likely leave you hoping for something a bit more next time. Katatonia are such a powerful force that you can’t help but feel that they are due for an evolution when listening to this. That said, if you have enjoyed their last few albums and are hungry for more of that sound, Dead End Kings will give you plenty more of it.

Mark Fisher

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