Katatonia: Northern Kings On The Fall Of Hearts
Prog charts Katatonia's journey from death metal to prog, learns their musical influences and finds out if it’s all just doom and gloom in their world.
In progressive terms, 1991 was a pivotal year for extreme music.
While grunge was emerging on both sides of the Atlantic, techno was bringing in a new wave of dance music and the after-effects of hair metal could still be felt, in Scandinavia there was a pocket of bands forming who would have a massive influence on progressive metal. Those bands were Opeth, Enslaved and Katatonia. All three built upon the extreme sonic landscape of their homelands but were also melodic, atmospheric and progressive. Whether they knew it or not, they were spearheading a new approach to black and death metal.
Taking their cue from the UK’s burgeoning doom metal scene and blending it with the visceral attack of black metal bands like their homeland’s Bathory, Sweden’s Katatonia have mastered their musical balance. For the last 10 years in particular, Katatonia have produced some of the most emotively forlorn and yet life-affirming and beautiful sounds that heavy music can offer; and now they have come up with what is probably their most progressive record to date.
It’s shortly before the release of their new album, The Fall Of Hearts, and Prog sits down with founding members Anders Nyström and Jonas Renkse. Nyström is in reminiscent mode, looking back at the band’s origins as we discuss Katatonia’s natural progression over the years.
“At the beginning of the band, this whole gothic, melodic, doomy scene was non-existent here in Sweden,” he explains. “Everyone here was either playing black metal or death metal. We looked to the UK and saw bands like My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost and Anathema who had their own thing going on there. We really identified with those bands so we said, ‘Why don’t we become the fourth band of that genre, but from Sweden?’
“Obviously our roots were with our heritage,” he adds. “But I think what really made Katatonia stand out was that we blended those styles so effectively. All that gothic doomy stuff was blended up with this harsh, Scandinavian black metal edge from Bathory and that’s how Katatonia was born, and it was immediately embraced.”
Self-confessed Paradise Lost fanboys Nyström and Renkse fell in love with the atmospheric vibe that bands of that ilk provided, and they quickly learned how to mimic that sound by experimenting with pedals and adding delay to otherwise standard riffs and hooks.