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Katatonia are one in a class of many who I consider bands that improved by being brave enough to lose their cred. By that I mean, a slew of death metal artists emerged from the cold Euro & Scandinavian death metal scene in the '90s to elevate to greater heights once their catharsis was complete and they matured into their own being. Bands like Tiamat, Amorphis, The Gathering, Moonspell and certainly Katatonia cut their teeth in the [semi] traditional death growl world only to morph into exquisite hybrid creations a few albums in. While I find the early works of these bands credible and often enjoyable (Tales from the Thousand Lakes still reigns supreme) it takes courage to risk alienating your core fan base when you know by developing you have so much more to offer yourself and others beyond the niche.
Which brings me to Katatonia, a band who, though brilliant in early incarnations, became iconic as they explored textures, moods and instrumentation during the course of their recording career. Perhaps it was out of vocal necessity that the guttural growls came to be replaced by emotional layers of dim crooning but I for one am thankful for the change. Night Is The New Day achieves that "masterpiece" status that so many artists seek and so many writers throw around casually. This is a legit career defining record of, dare I say, "epic" proportions.
From the earliest crushing intro riff of lead track "Foresaker" which bounces back and forth from a weight that would level the most dense Mastodon guitar rhythm, Katatonia flows effortlessly into a world of moody melancholy. Their ability to shift gears, then bring the two seemingly disparate feelings of the heaviest metallic heft and the tenderest melody into a singular stream where both the mighty and the beautiful flow together. It is a feat repeated countless times throughout the course of the album.
Also of note is the blending of programmed electronic percussion with the bombastic crashing of "real" cymbals and toms. This two pronged approach to beat management is a key element to the "new" Katatonia sound and has managed to widen their fan base to include those who follow doom, death & drone to an outside fringe of alterna-hipsters and goth-esque later day Depeche Mode aficionados who generally might exclaim "Now THIS is metal I can appreciate." I saw this first hand while witnessing them live recently. You could tell for many it was their first "metal" show. While this often raises the ire of those who followed their favorite band since "before they were _" for the sake of the scenes evolution this is paramount and should be encouraged by other openminded hard music lovers. Katatonia unites and this album was the true catalyst for their transition.
Night Is The New Day benefits from a wonderful assortment of acoustic guitars, sparkling synth runs, tasteful strings, progressive polyrhythms and a sullen folkish element that only European acts seem to pull off convincingly. Every single track is a mini voyage into saturnine realms of digital delay and heartfelt voicing. There are no weak links in this chain. The only thing that keeps me from giving it the perfect score is that I wish they had included the superior "Unfurl" from the July single that immediately preceded the release of Night. It was the gateway drug for me to really become addicted to this band I had always dabbled with.