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The student has become the master - 100%

colin040, August 20th, 2019

It’s always fascination to hear bands take inspiration from others while actually surpassing them. I’ve read that the Katatonia guys were huge fans of Paradise Lost in their earlier years and it shows. Dance of December Souls certainly recalls Gothic - it’s just that Katatonia ended up creating something enormous, grandiose and emotionally scattering that Paradise Lost was never capable of. Indeed, the student has become the master at this point.

The more I listen to doom/death metal, the more I get the idea that it’s a style is far harder to make than one might realize. On one hand, you have bands relying on slow paced heavy, downtuned guitars, without actually playing something. On the other hand, you have bands know that abruptly move from one riff to another, therefor interrupting any build-ups and atmosphere. Now Dance of December Souls is neither the fastest nor the most riff-filled album or anything, but it’s cleverly composed as it always goes somewhere (unlike Brave Murder Day, which is more about repetition of lifeless, dull chords). There are no flashy guitar solos, blastbeats or death metal-outbursts present here…just pure sorrow flow instead.

Structurally, Dance of December Souls seems far closer to the works of early My Dying Bride than any other band. Songs are semi-structured; throwing the listener off with a few surprises, yet revolve around certain themes. The way ‘’Gateways of Bereavement’’ gradually leads to that death wish of a chorus for a while is utterly brilliant and while Blackheim’s guitar skills are certainly limited, his creativity is rather conspicuous. Simply by playing the right amount of notes at the right tempos, he avoids the doom/death metal traps I’ve mentioned one paragraph above. ‘’Without God’’ opens up with a pleasant, wavy riff, but once that claustrophobic octave (or half?) moving motif appears, its clear Katatonia’s negativity is still present. God is dead and shall forever be, Jonas Renske claims after all and while the acoustic interlude suggests that this blasphemous journey is about to end, it’s the second half of the track that really gets things going. You can hear Renske gradually become angrier near the end before unleashing that final throaty roar. It’s it’s no wonder this guy damaged his throat, but what a voice he had – a slightly blackened rasp with a humane quality that comes as much from the throat as it comes from the heart.

As overwhelming as Dance of December Souls can be, its final songs allow one to catch his/her breath a little more. ‘’Velvet Thorns (of Drynwhyl)’’ subtly has guitars slide back and forth, harmonies backing up one another without interrupting any of its hypnotizing ambience. It’s just for a short amount of time the track picks up the pacing, resulting into a furious burst of energy that will please listeners who are looking for any headbanging moments. ‘’Tomb of Insomnia’’ ends the album and has the most gothic rock ingredients; hazy, mysterious keys that recall ‘’Prayers for Rain’’ by The Cure – of course melted with more Paradise Lost-esque mentally suffocating distortion and overpowering shrieks. Interestingly enough, ‘’Tomb of Insomnia’’ does have its questionable moments here and there, but still manages to redeem itself - It’s as if the band’s style was asking too much of them – and maybe it was. Perhaps Dance of December Souls was really meant to be once in a life time kind of album and not meant to be duplicated (even though some bands certainly tried) and while this side of the band didn’t last very long, they at least gave us something I’ll be forever grateful for.

Pure, Poetic and Evil Sounding - 100%

Gothic_Metalhead, December 14th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2007, CD, Peaceville Records (Remastered)

1993 was a very eventful year for death-doom music. My Dying Bride has released the legendary "Turn Loose the Swans", Disembowelment releases "Transcendence into the Peripheral", Anathema release their debut "Serenades", and Paradise Lost left death-doom and turn to pure gothic metal with "Icon." However, among these amazing albums that came out at the same year, the one album that remains one of two of the purest death-doom albums in this renaissance is Katatonia's debut album "Dance of December Souls." The album came during a great time in Swedish metal. Important bands were coming to prominence and releasing influential albums that defined heavy metal music. "Dance of December Souls" is one of the more underrated releases in Sweden during the early 1990s.

It didn't take too long for me to get into the album in its entirety, but considering I'm a fan of death-doom, this album along with "Transcendence into the Peripheral" is easily one of my all time favorite death-doom, doom, and death-doom album. "Dance of December Souls" has been the overshadowed album in Katatonia's career. Many fans would consider listening to their gothic to non-gothic metal era (1998-present) and death-doom fans would call "Brave Murder Day" a more influential album that would inspire the sounds of different death-doom bands in the future like Swallow the Sun, and Rapture. Granted, Katatonia's debut album compared to their entire discography, remains as the bands most sophisticated masterpieces in terms of sound and lyrical themes. Not only is "Dance of December Souls" an underrated and somewhat influential album, but it also laid the foundation for even blackened doom or black-doom metal.

A rare thing for most extreme metal artists is to take on lyrical themes in a poetic form. Katatonia's lyrical themes is really where the album truly shines over all elements in the album. Describing a part of Katatonia's lyrical themes from this album would be pointless as every Song shows outstanding poetry that is a breath of fresh air for 1993 in extreme metal. The lyrics are evil, and also melancholic, angry, but also soul absorbing (no pun intended). Not to mention the phenomenal vocals of Jonas Renkse where he used a unique sound of growling, and one of the reasons for its connection to black-doom is the empowering shrieks that are heard in songs like "Velvet Thorns (Of Drynwhyl)" and "Tomb of Insomnia."

One of the reasons why I consider "Dance of December Souls" a pure death-doom is the structure of the songs. Almost all the albums songs are slow enough to be doom metal, but also heavy enough to be death metal. The tones of the guitar is another feature that really shines as well. A kind of dirty heavy distortion that sound crushing with its power chords and sound as good with the guitars more melodic small riffs. Sonically, it is very atmospheric and cryptic in guitar, and the small use of keyboards makes it sound very eternal and dark as it already is. While the peaceville three Incorporated slightly faster tempos then this album, and Disembowelment and Winter incorporate dark ambience and slower than normal tempos that resemble funeral doom, Katatonia's "Dance of December Souls", intelligently melds both doom and death metal without going too fast, too slow, and even sound creepy due to dark ambience. Even the opening instrumental track of the album "Seven Dreaming Souls" set the entire mood of the album, as the band use their own definition of creepiness without using the empty space for dark ambient music.

I may be biased to give Katatonia a perfect score mainly due to my partial love for death-doom, but what was so great about "Dance of December Souls" is that it truly defined death-doom in general for which many bands in the future inspire to be. As I mentioned before, the album is my second, if not then tied as my all time favorite death metal, death-doom, and doom metal album of all time alongside Disembowelment's "Transcendence into the Peripheral." It is truly the best alternative for people wanting to listen to death-doom other than listening to Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, and the first two Anathema EPs and albums. It's very sad that Katatonia no longer plays these songs and dismiss their early death-doom roots. Even as a gothic metal addict, I feel that Katatonia made a stronger impact during their death-doom era with this album and "Brave Murder Day" then in their gothic metal era. While "Brave Murder Day" remains an influential record for death-doom, "Dance of December Souls" will forever be Katatonia's masterpiece.

Also the coincidence of "Dance of December Souls" is that its original release was December 15th, 1993. They really wanted their theme to be December.

Youthful and highly influential - 80%

stefan86, November 23rd, 2018

Katatonia is my favorite band and it’s always fun to examine their releases in depth. 1993’s “Dance of December Souls” is the band’s debut, a raw piece of music somewhere between death/doom metal and black/doom metal. It’s a highly regarded and influential album in both subgenres.

At this point, Katatonia was a band that relied a lot on its youthful vigor and passion. The sorrow on “Dance of December Souls” is extremely apparent in every aspect, from the heartwrenching guitar melodies to Jonas Renkse’s tortured screams. Masterminds Jonas and Anders were not even in their 20's at this point and do their best to create a dismal feeling of sorrow.

And Katatonia certainly succeeds. After a short intro, the album opens up with “Gateways of Bereavement”, which goes for the throat right away. Slow, brooding power chords linger and support the vocals. Jonas screams his guts out, and with this approach it’s not surprising that his voice couldn’t take extreme vocals in the long run. Much of the music is what became Scandinavian extreme doom metal; a mix of early melodic death metal sounds and the heaviness from traditional-sounding doom metal.

The Scandinavian scene was arguably at its most creative at this point, forming genre blueprints still valid to this day. "Dance of December Souls" is extremely important in that sense. Just like 1996's "Brave Murder Day", this laid down many foundations for future death/doom metal bands. I believe this album was also very instrumental in shaping the more depressive forms of black metal. The way Jonas spews out the lyric lines on this album reminds me quite a lot of what was to come in the more negative forms of black metal.

But beyond its importance, how does this fit into the Katatonia discography? Well, it certainly has many recognizable traits. A Katatonia trademark already present on “Dance of December Souls” are the guitar melodies. Just like on most of their material, there are many guitar moves that are as memorable and emotional as they are simple. “Without God” and “In Silence Enshrined” have especially brilliant lines.

It really is the guitars that drive everything on this album. The mood and execution of the guitars range from darkly nihilistic to absolutely dreamy. The strong shoegaze influences hadn't quite become a part of their sound yet, but there are some very moody acoustic and clean guitar sections on here. Frontman Jonas Renkse plays the drums, and as a result the beats are extremely simple and mere support to the guitars.

However, an album as youthful and passionate is almost bound to have its downsides. And it does. Some of the compositions are massive and not that fluently written. There are many epic sections and shifts between distorted and clean guitars. Some of the transitions are not particularly smooth. The shorter songs, like “Without God”, feel more fluent and compact. It stands in strong contrast to Katatonia’s clean vocal material where the songwriting is central and absolutely meticulous.

There are also some stylistic jumps that don't mold all too well. The album has traces of death metal, black metal, doom metal and even traditional metal. Sometimes it sounds angry, sometimes dreamy, sometimes almost triumphant. There's not really enough consistency, beyond the main objective of being very depressive. I think the ambitions were simply set a bit too high, considering how new Katatonia was at the time.

Despite its flaws, it’s hard to overstate how important this album is for the extreme side of the doom metal genre. It paved the way for death/doom and later developments like depressive black metal and blackgaze. It’s my least favorite full-length from my favorite band, but still a damn solid piece of early death/doom metal. I am very impressed by how they could achieve something like this so early. You can already tell that Katatonia was going places.

Originally written for deathdoom.com

Purest sorrow, embrace my soul - 100%

Caleb9000, August 12th, 2017

Have you ever found yourself to be rather frustrated with the ignorance and stupidity that is directed at an album with a small fanbase by the larger crowd. This is the case for Katatonia's outstandingly atmospheric debut, "Dance of December Souls". If is often dismissed by the current fans of the band as "generic death-doom". However, anyone else who has ever listened to this album and has any clue what death-doom is will rightfully scoff at this. This is not death metal in any way at all. Vocals do not make a genre. The vocals are hardly death metal, but I'll touch on that later.

The unique music to be found here can be more easily labeled as "doom metal" than anything else, though this is a major over-generalization. The slow-tempo and occasional riff that can be somewhat compared to acts like Candlemass or Paradise Lost (which is still a stretch) is about as far as the doom aspect goes. And even then, it takes more from what would be called "epic doom". There is also a prominent gothic-rock element, particularly in the cleaner sections of the album, but its impact is more based around atmosphere than it is melody. There is also a strong symphonic element, especially in the longer tracks. Plenty of these melodies almost feel as though they could come from the 18th century. There is also a hint at classical-piano balladry (though there is hardly any piano on here, apart from the outro).

This is as good of a description of this music as I can give and I have still likely misrepresented it highly. It doesn't really sound like anything mentioned above individually, but the sound seems to cross it all simultaneously, somehow. It is all drenched in a highly melancholic, fantastical and mystical atmosphere that will drown the listener within itself. This is all complimented by the vocals of Jonas Renkse. This is by far the greatest vocal performance that he has ever given. He is widely known for his mournful crooning that is present on Katatonia's later material, but here, here uses a highly distinctive and extraordinarily passionate style of guttural growling. He doesn't have the typical tone that many growls do, but he sounds as though he is in utter anguish. His tortured wailing often descends into an absolutely evil, deeper growl that is displayed just as forcefully. He also occasionally goes into fits of maddening shrieking that are filled to the brim with spite and rage.

However, despite the fierce vocals, the music is relatively peaceful, or at least for the most part. This creates the wintery atmosphere that the album has, with the vocals acting as if they were an evil spirit. But even the atmosphere of the music alone is enough to completely enthral whoever is listening. The way that things flow into each other in an almost progressive way, or even being practically structureless, is truly remarkable, as nothing ever feels jarring. Songs often go through many tempo-changes in their run times, and they do so in a clearly conscious and concise way. Two of these songs exceed the ten-minute mark, but neither feel forced or boring.

A song such as "In Silence Enshrined" has an absolutely apocalyptic and painful atmosphere, brilliantly blending guitar and keyboard in a practically tear-jerking fashion, without going into complete balladry. Jonas is at his least guttural and almost sounds like he is in tears, but it doesn't sound wimpy. Hell, it even sounds commanding. "Without God" has a more evil atmosphere that is the most rooted in epic doom of all the tracks here. The vocals are absolutely vicious and truly haunt the listener with their absolute savagery. Gone is the pain and misery in the voice of Jonas (for now), he is ready to reap souls. "Tomb of Insomnia" is the most epic of the songs and it truly builds up tension through many different sections, even going into Blur Oyster Cult-inspired gothic rock (though still maintaining plenty of originality), before going into an actually rather uplifting and romantic end to the song. Here, Jonas almost seems to be singing, but in a very guttural tone. Still, coherent melody can be detected in his vocals at this point. The outro of the album continues this, but in a more celebratory fashion.

But the true highlight of this masterpiece is "Velvet Thorns (of Drynwhyl)". It is the single greatest doom metal song ever written. The song uses symphonic bliss with a guitar to form an astoundingly bleak twin-attack, followed by more up-tempo, hugely atmospheric and beautiful melodic black metal, then into many slower and highly depressing slower sections. In the end, the song is very soft and uses bells to work with clean guitar to create a psychedelic, but highly romantic atmosphere that causes me to feel as though I am peacefully drifting through the night sky, accompanied by delicate whispered vocals. It is very difficult to describe this highly ambitious track. I've really only been able to describe the atmosphere of the record well, the nature of the music must be experienced by the listener.

The lyrics are truly heartfelt. Each track deals with its own concept, all of which involve death and disparity. What each song describes is written in a poetic and unique way each time, which adds to the emotional impact they have. Each word is articulated perfectly when compared to the last (as well as by the vocalist). The best example that I can think of would be from "Velvet Thorns", toward the end of the track.

"In the trees, you will hear my voice
Ever calling, ever falling.
Darkness in front of our eyes,
A darkened circle you have made.
But as you leave the darkness, I must stay"

These words alone carry the very essence of regret and anguish. They tell the other person in the story of the track in the most blatant way possible that suffering will forever be insured by the protagonist. It is a simple, yet brilliant way to express sadness.

This is an album that is unbelievably rewarding in every single way that you can think of, be it emotion, innovation, atmosphere, production (which almost sounds like rain... I guess), lyrics that are beautifully written, or incredible harsh vocals. It is one of the most unique and indescribable albums in all of metal, or music for that matter. It is an album that must've listened to in order to be understood, and no one can ever accurately describe its overall sound. One can only tell of it's rewarding experience to intrigue others. It is a true shame that many of Katatonia's modern fans pass this off as generic, as it may lead to this album being g forgotten by everyone in favor of their new music, which is much lower than it in quality. But those who have heard it and understand it, know how brilliant the record is. For incredible atmosphere and utter sorrow, listen to this masterpiece.

Colossal masterpiece - 99%

gasmask_colostomy, October 13th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2007, CD, Peaceville Records (Remastered)

Every Katatonia album has one thing in common - it's a subjective listen. The general content and quality of the music has always fallen second to the listener's personal reaction, and that reaction is usually strong and emotional. Katatonia will be forever special for me because their music represents a time in my life when I was struggling to find myself and trying to realize where my life was headed. There are many angry and mournful bands that produce a cathartic effect in the listener, releasing tensions and troubles, so that one emerges fully cleansed at the end of a listening session; Katatonia are definitely one of those bands and so much more too, since I find that they are a pillar to lean on in times of difficulty, a soothing hand when contemplating defeat, and a third eye to enhance sensations of infinite wonder.

The reason why this album is marked out as remarkable among the Swedes discography is due to its subjective appeal and also its objective perfection. I don't use the word perfection lightly either. Musical perfection for me means that all the pieces that make up this album are necessary, unified, and inspired. Doom metal is one of the most consistently successful genres of music in this sense, because this style - when done well - bears no excessive elements, a powerful physical and emotional weight, and aims for the sensational, for elevation of spirit. 'Dance of December Souls' is certainly the most doom-oriented album Katatonia have ever made, though it doesn't bear much resemblance to the gruff Black Sabbath template, more to the doom death of early 90s Britain and Northern Europe that brought both more extreme and more melodic influences into play to create a darker and grander sonic palette. Comparisons between this album and the nascent second wave of black metal look no further than the bands' aesthetic choices, such as the use of pseudonyms, anti-Christian and North-worshipping lyrics, an obscure logo, and the stunted studio-only lineup. Jonas Renkse's (Lord Seth) vocals have been discussed at length, but he rarely sounds like a black metal singer, apart from one outburst on 'Velvet Thorns (of Drynwhyl)'. His contribution is unrefined in the extreme, meaning that he sounds like none of the more technically proficient death metal vocalists, nor particularly many of the howling and shrieking black metal crowd.

In fact, the use of melody on 'Dance of December Souls' is its most distinctive feature, which was in discord with the rest of the British and European scene at the time and remains unreplicated today. Anders Nystrom (Blakkheim) provides all of the backbone for Renkse's gnarled narrative, though balances the vocal ugliness with a smooth tone and ceaseless shimmering leads that rarely become solos though always captivate, retaining interest and atmosphere. The musical style owes so little to death metal that one wonders exactly who Katatonia took cues from: the enormous, echoing guitars (you ought to buy the beautifully remastered version from 2007) certainly borrow nothing from Cathedral, Paradise Lost, or My Dying Bride, who never aimed for such an epic atmopshere, while it's also impossible to say that the hatching folk and melodic death scenes had any influence. Perhaps Anathema is the only precedent for the constant melodies, since songs like 'Lovelorn Rhapsody' and 'The Sweet Suffering' bore the marks of a more primitive attempt at the same goal, while Amorphis's 'Tales From the Thousand Lakes' is also there or thereabouts, bearing the deviant Finnish sense of melody that it does. Katatonia, as Swedes, have always stood out from their compatriots, and never more so than here, where they are otherwordly and deeply affecting.

Those immense melodies are difficult to describe, but the sublime feeling that one experiences when gazing up in awe at the second riff in 'Velvet Thorns' or the closing minutes of 'Tomb of Insomnia' is simply magical, nor does it shed its glory from repeated listens. The constant melodic evolutions and frequent, spacious clean sections are balanced by heavier and more aggressive passages that shudder with effort without losing their spark of strangeness or breaking the spell of doom. Again, 'Velvet Thorns' has the standout example, with a short tremolo section that soars over the landscapes depicted in the lyrics, as well as a simpler mid-paced riff that Renkse turns into a frighteningly savage outburst. All of the main songs feature variations between slow and mid-paced plus harsh and soft material, leaving any thought of stagnation far, far away. Unlike their compatriots and sometime collaborators Opeth, the songs on 'Dance of Decemeber Souls' feature no jarring transitions between sections and no pseudo-progressive tendencies. The songs are all long, but even the two 13 minute monsters that end the album flow wonderfully smoothly and return to key sections and melodic themes, yet give a wide berth to conventional song structures.

The longest songs are utterly outstanding, though that's to take nothing away from the other compositions here. All are rich in atmosphere and include memorable instrumental and vocal sections, especially the main riffs for the first two songs and Renkse's declarative "God is dead and shall forever be" from 'Without God'. What makes this album so outstanding is the sustained quality of the music and the individual creativity of the contributors. The guitar performance is one of the greatest I can think of, but the bass is also distinctive, clearly audible, and momentarily exciting; Renkse's drumming has been habitually overlooked and actually provides a lot of dynamism for a slow album, with a surprisingly wide range of styles and fills that maintain energy and fit songs together seamlessly. Dan Swano (Day DiSyraah) played keyboards as well as producing, and these lend the music its cavernous feeling and fullness of sound, as if the songs extended back for miles and miles until they were cut off by the horizon.

'Dance of December Souls' is a very special album. In the first place, it is unique in metal and even in doom death; the creativity on display here is astounding and the performances excellent; the emotional resonance it achieves is also something to behold. Perhaps the greatest indicator of Katatonia's success is that listening to this album is always a joy and an uplifting experience, despite the harrowingly pained and sorrowful lyrics and few moments of sunshine in its frozen landscape. 'Dance of December Souls' is truly a masterpiece.

Stellar - 99%

GraveEpidemic, March 26th, 2013

From an relativistic perspective, giving an album a 100 has always been branded as vague and improper judgement. I tend to agree with it for the most part, for you can always have a twitch or two here and there and some unappealing seconds of music which can drag down the album's whole judgement. But not when the album achieves everything that you were expecting of it and more, taking you to a place you didn't know exist, musically.

I usually add a albums's highlights at the bottom of the review, but I'll spare the effort this time. Every single piece on this album is brilliantly contrived and performed, replete with death and doom elements independently. It's obvious for people to judge bands as going mainstream and obscuring other bands in the genre as people say happened with the band Cemetary of the same genre, but I'll tell you candidly and coyly that no album is anywhere near to even being in the same vicinity in terms of the musical brilliance of this album. The riffs on this album are so crisp and everytime I listen to them I'm quaintly reminiscent of something I've heard before. I never found that connect though. Guitarwork is otherworld-ily melodic and the solo sections, even with no properly written guitar solos enchant you due to the plain proficiency in terms of doom/death. The band has capitalized on the fact that aggressive and highly melodic guitar solos would make the record off track, and has stuck to traditional riffs and sensibly timed and executed vocals, which are actually sporadic and take up very less time on the record. There are songs where the bass is loud and clear and adds to the overall appeal of the sound. But the execution of vocal-work has been impressive and I have no clue why Akerfeldt was asked to do the vocals on Brave Murder Day, another masterpiece. Renkse has drummed in a tone that's somber, and whether intentional or not, it makes the sound highly melancholic and bordering on the edge of being funeral doom metal. This album is a star on so many levels.

Somethings are really noteworthy, for example the melodic section on the closing track, 'Dancing December', the melodic transitions on "Velvet Thorns', guitarwork on 'Gateways Of Bereavement', which I think is the definitive doom/death track for people who're ignorant and ill-informed. I probably won't do justice to the album if I write the review like I usually write, for every single track is brilliant and I cannot stress upon the fact enough. You should probably stop reading anymore and get this album, if you haven't, and believe me, I'm judging you if you don't own the album yet. And not in a positive way.

99, but there's no reason for you to obliterate the existence of such a beautiful album.
This is stellar.

Funereal blackened doom finesse. - 92%

greywanderer7, July 10th, 2012

One of the most unique works in the entire doom metal genre, taking cues from the Peaceville three such as Paradise Lost, as well as from gothic rock bands like Fields of the Nephilim, with also a black metal influenced vocal and (at times) riff approach.

A thick atmosphere surrounds the album, conjuring effectively images of death and sorrow upon the listener, one can imagine some forgotten tomb or a funeral taking place in a dark morning at a snowy cemetery, surrounded by fog, spirits, decay and the smell of flowers. The dirge-like nature of the songs, the desperate harsh vocals, the ethereal, ghastly, otherworldy yet still classy and subtle keyboards, and the slick production are mainly the means by which this 'funeral atmosphere' is delivered so succesfully.

But, there's a distinct trace of the music, which is of crucial value at the time of listening or examining this album, and this is the guitar work. The music is not entirely death/doom, and while it keeps the plodding tempos, growls, and decaying atmosphere, there are very few crunchy, 'dirty' riffs typical of the genre, those being more oriented towards melodic, fluid guitar lines, with slight melodic black metal tinges, which become evident only in certain sections, but are more subtle the rest of the time.

And, how to leave out one of the most noteworthy aspects of the music as the vocals? They switch between death growls (which are not very deep to begin with), to extremely raspy blackened vocals. Those are very expressive harsh vocals, and evoke feelings of anger, despair, sorrow, and sometimes, pure, unbridled evil. Some of their most memorable moments are the infamous 'YOUR FUCKING GOD IS DEAD AND SHALL FOREVER BE' spitted at the end of track 4, and the beginning of 'Tomb of Insomnia'. No wonder why Renkse fucked up his throat after the release of this album. (Though, in a strange turn, his clean vocals turned out just as, if not more, emotional than his harsh ones, but that's another story).

Now, the most attention-grabbing songs of the record are the five longer ones, from the slowest and most melodic, and the real opener of the album, 'Gateways of Bereavement', to the more compact and dynamic duo of 'In Silence Enshrined' and 'Without God', probably the harshest and 'blackest' song of the album, and the closing two epics, 'Velvet Thorns (Of Drynwhyl)', which goes from a doomy section to a slightly fast-paced black metal one, then goes back to doom and ends with a gorgeous, dreaming outro, and 'Tomb of Insomnia', even more anguished and despairing, with a delightful, straight gothic rock section around 3:40, and a totally fucking crushing outro. The short instrumentals 'Seven Dreaming Souls, 'Elohim Meth' and 'Dancing December' serve as an intro, an interlude and an outro respectively, and there's really not much to say about them.

However, this is not quite the utter, flawless masterpiece most people make it out to be (it's close, but the lyrics are a bit generic and clichéd, and sometimes the listen can get a little bit tiring), and despite some people even going as far as calling it 'their only worthwile record' I feel Katatonia have topped this album many times with their future releases, from the 'depressive rock/metal' era, which are way more direct and mature. Still, this is a jewel and a classic of the doom metal genre, which also may be appealing to black metal fans.

God Is Dead and Shall Forever Be - 100%

Emanon, November 11th, 2011

Never have I heard an album as enthralling as this one. When I put it on to write this review, I found I could not write or even think properly while I listened; Dance of December Souls demanded my full attention, and I was only too glad to give it.

This is not a happy piece of music. It is generally classified as death-doom metal, but this label is ill-fitting. Death-doom is most often slow, low, and thick, both instruments and vocals. Dance is melodic. The songs are formed out of the melodies. The guitars weave together a vision of melancholy, of sorrow, and of beauty. They are thick and low at times, yet understated at others, and rise soaringly as well. They are never less than memorable and haunting. The keyboards augment them with a sort of ethereal mystique that I find difficult to adequately describe. The bass alternately follows the guitar, or meanders off on its own melody. The way the melodies interact and harmonize can be breathtaking. An immense amount of credit is due to the one who so artfully designed and arranged these soundscapes. As the album title implies, the instruments truly do dance together.

These vocals are not sad or downbeat or melancholy. These are the shrieks of soul-rending (and vocal cord-rending) despair. Lord Seth howls, he shrieks, he whispers, he rasps. The vocals are very harsh, coarse, and unrefined, yet full of emotion. These are not the sounds of a sad or depressed man, but one who has been tormented beyond what anyone should have to bear, without hope of release.

The atmosphere simply has to be experienced. No words I can write will do it justice. It is downbeat and sorrowful, yet uplifting. Harsh, yet magical. Ponderous, yet soaring. The flow is flawless, except when it chooses not to be. At times the songs will come to an abrupt stop midway through, to carry on down another path. The stark conclusion of Without God is especially jarring. After all that rage and hate expended, I'm left feeling as though I've had the wind knocked out of me. And then I am caressed gently by Elohim Meth, and led along to Velvet Thorns (of Drynwhyl), which may be the most beautiful song of them all. The riffs and leads are often reused multiple times throughout a long song, but never repetitively; indeed they serve to create a more encompassing feel. This is an album to be taken as a whole. The atmosphere is such that, as despairing as it can be at times, never do I feel more of a sense of loss than after the album has ended.

My review is full of superlatives, but I do not hand them out lightly. Dance of December Souls is a one of a kind work of art. The band went down a different road after this album, and no other band has come close to creating the captivating atmosphere on display here. Dance is not perfect, but it is about as close to perfect an album as I ever expect to hear. Even now, long after it has finished playing, the melodies dance through my memory.

As Shadows Move Towards The Skyyyyy - 92%

MoonShadeX, October 14th, 2010

Katatonia's first full release "Dance of December Souls" really defines doom metal very well. Great sorrow, majestic, and a great connection with the listener. The album starts off with a intro leading into the "Gateways of Bereavement" which pretty much creates the atmosphere leading through the whole album. The chords, vocals, keyboards and drums carry a steady but very depressing rhythm throughout this song and even though it is a little over 8 minutes long the rhythmes dont tend to get too boring as the riffs flow with the other instruments and bring out the best in Lord Seth's vocals as well.

Next up is "In Silence Enshrined" probably one of the major highlights of this album in my opinion. Pure emotion runs through this song as the vocals shriek and the guitars streak through atmosphere with precise drumwork also done by Lord Seth. Even at over 6 minutes this song is magic in its own way and I actually wish it was a bit longer than some of the other songs just because the feeling it gives me.


"Without God" is next and what a song. Intelligant blasphemy and most likely the reason why this album is partental advisory as Lord Seth screechs "Without Your Fucking God" in such a tone that would bring chills to any religious human. Great guitarwork and keyboards really bring out this songs potiental and even though it is very evil it does carry majestic and depressing elements with it.

"Elohim Meth" is one of the three instrumentals on this album which Blackheims depression can be seen through his guitar style. Twisted blasphemy in it's purest form but nothing too special.

And here is the forest song "Velvet Thorns Drynwhyl", clockin in over 13 minutes. Lots of fills in this one but if you wait for the whole song, it is well worth it because their effort does not go unreconized. It is slow and depressing but has it's moments where it speeds up a bit but goes back into it's doom gloom following the fast parts. Day DiSyraah's (AKA Dan Swano) keyboards are there in the background and matches very well with Blackheims style without taking over or adding too much atmosphere.

Finally "Tomb of Insomnia" comes fourth from the shadows to engulf the listener with pure depression and talent. This is my favorite song off this album because each instrument is heard very easily and each shines throughout. Israphel Wing's bass in the intro really makes it very heavy and catchy and remains so throughout the song. Day DiSyraah created some of the most vivid and interesting sounds that some might not even hear, but they are heard in the background filling in the space between the madness. Blackheim and Lord Seth don't disappoint either, even though the song is 13 minutes long it is well worth it with the tempo changes as it takes the listener very deep into the eyes of Katatonia.

"Dancing December" defines what this band has created and does not leave fans disappointed even though it is an instrumental. 1993 had many special Doom Death albums, but for those who heard this release it has a special place within them and it was a start for things to come from this unique band.

Here's where the magic is - 95%

Arboreal, December 18th, 2008

One album. Out of their prolific career, only ONE album was recorded by Katatonia that completely captured their essence and it was this...their first LP released in 1993. Dance of December Souls is one of those rare recordings where a once in a lifetime vocal performance took place. Literally. The guy never growled again. To say they were "good" would be a severe understatement. Download the album or pop it in your stereo. Go to track seven and jump to 01:30. Listen...do you hear that? That's the sound of someone blowing out their fuckin vocal chords with tortured rasps. Powerful stuff.

I'm sure he healed though, if they did damage his voice, and the absence of harsh vocals after Brave Murder Day was for stylistic reasons. On that album they were done by Mike Akerfeldt of Opeth and it was their last LP to feature any growls. The change that followed was to a more rock oriented sound most people seem to be familiar with. I like to believe that it's a completely different Katatonia only using this band's name. Really, it is.

The instrumentation is reserved on Dance of December Souls. The focus is on the terrific vocals and guitars. Most of the songs are driven by reverby, sorrowful riffs in an overdriven amp tone. Percussion lays down solid rhythms and mingles with the guitars quite well. The pacing on here is very understated. It's doom! Sabbath? Yes, that Sabbath. This means the tempo is slow but nowhere near funeral doom territory (see Esoteric).

Really, this music's purpose is to swathe you in atmosphere. Dance of December Souls is dark, gloomy, pained, and extremely negative. I swear, if you looped this too many times in one day it could transmit mental illness to you. The synths bring everything together nicely and give more impact to the feeling of despair and futility. When I'm feeling more introspective and thoughtful, this is one of the albums I'm most likely to reach for. It remains one of the most emotionally intense slabs of metal ever. Others of you, of course, may not feel the same way and therefore not see what all the fuss is about. If the mood of the music doesn't capture you and you yourself are not in the proper mood to receive it, then I imagine you won't enjoy this nearly as much.

Perhaps the only thing I wish was different would be the inclusion of melodic, Gilmour-esque solos. I guess it's for the best...I should just go listen to some Floyd for those soaring, reverby string bends and the impeccable vibrato he adds, bringing them to a whole different level. Sorry, back to Katatonia...the riffs here are so powerfully phrased that it doesn't bother me one bit that there aren't any cool solos. Maybe the album should be longer...or maybe Katatonia should've continued along this path instead. Either way, I'm glad they gave us this masterpiece of doom/death metal.

"In The Trees You Will Hear My Voice..." - 97%

Akerfeldt_Fanboi, October 26th, 2008

Katatonia are a spectacle to behold. Similar to Opeth that they are shunned for their genre-wanderings, though the difference is that Katatonia started out playing solid depressive doom/death metal.

And, here is that genre's masterpiece. No, not My Dying Bride's "Turn Loose the Swans" or Paradise Lost's "Gothic" but Katatonia's "Dance of December Souls".

Here, we are greeted by Lord Renske and the boys dishing out a cold slab of moody doom metal. The first thing you will notice about this album is the slick production. Not slick in the disgusting sense (See: Behemoth's "Demigod") but slick that it feels like a wet wasteland, like a marsh you are slowly sinking into without even realizing it.

The second thing you'll notice is the ridiculous minimalistic guitar playing. Not so minimalist that it's a Darkthrone record, but minimalist in that Blackheim took one mindset "Power chords and simple harmonies, we have an album." Instantly it's obvious that it's an early Katatonia album, but it permeates a sense of foreboding moreso than any other album they have released.

Starting with an ambient intro, "Seven Dreaming Souls" the album is already looking up nicely, and I'm never a fan of dull fourty-five second intros.

Next is "Gateways Of Bereavement" we are slammed into a cloud of despair with the riffing. No other guitarwork could set the mood up right for this release, could it? The answer should be obvious. Then we are welcomed by Jonas' vocals. They could be described as inhuman, as other reviewers have stated, but they sound too human in actuality. They sound so plagued with emotion it's difficult not to concentrate on those tortured yells and screams.

Instantly evident is the vocals of Renske, but is the drumming? Hell yes, it is. Jonas has a good sense of rhythm, not making a beat or pattern more complex than it needs to be and always remembering that he should stick to simplistic fills and nothing too technical or it would throw off the balance of this album.

That's where I'm struck, if one thing about this album was different or changed, it would throw off the sound the band were going for completely. If the guitar sound was a bit heavier, it would drown the drums. If the drums were faster, it would take away the bleak sense of melody. If the vocals were harsher or more human, everything would collapse.

Which is where the album keeps ahead of the pack, not only does it excel in the music department, but the perfect (not near perfect, but absolutely perfect) combination of sounds, power, melody, and depression make this the ultimate doom metal release. The songwriting, in turn, is also quite excellent. Three of the songs are under three minutes in length, yet don't sound rushed. Two of the songs are over 13 minutes, and neither sound meandering, and then the 3 6-8 minute ongs are just excellent.

Dan Swano finally did something right in his godforasken career with this album's production and the "In the Back, Making Atmosphere" keyboard approach. Thankfully, he didn't have any part in the writing of this album though.

So, there you have it. A ridiculous piece of melodic and sorrowful metal in the doom form. This album is a true masterpiece, recommended to anyone who hasn't let it grace their ears.

Favorite Songs: All except the intro. Though, "Gateways of Bereavement" and "Velvet Thorns (Of Drynwhyl)" are definitely in the top categories.

Masters of depressive melody - 97%

Moravian_black_moon, June 26th, 2008

This album is just a great listen every time. I consider this a classic in whatever genre one wishes to affiliate it with. You could put it with Doom, Black, or Death, but probably not just one exclusively because there are heavy influences from all these genres which makes it hard to categorize. It‘s not too depressive or slow to be only doom metal, it‘s not evil or raw enough to be black metal, and it‘s not sick or in your face enough to be death metal. But one thing that I am sure about this album is that it has a great slow and depressive vibe that always catches the listeners attention and doesn't let go.

The one thing that this album should be most known for is the guitar work. Through the whole thing they perform fantastic melodies and harmonies, and, though minimal in various instances, they get the job done exceptionally. I can’t really compare the guitar tone to any other band I’ve heard. Of course it has distortion but it’s a very clean version of it with a little bit of reverb. The guitars are the leading component in the epic atmosphere that this album contains. It seems Blackheim wanted to make this album as complete as possible in regard to the guitar playing, and he definitely made some memorable riffs here that will be in your head for days.

I have not heard other Katatonia work in a while, but I remember there being clean vocals. Not here though. The vocalist Jonas Renkse has the perfect voice for this album. Raspy cries of anguish and hatred that sometimes end in a dying moan of agony. Every element on this album fits together like a puzzle in flawless fashion, and the vocals are no exception. The drums have the melow backbone feel on this album, and once again, fit the music perfectly. If you listen carefully, it’s hard to find two drum fills or patterns that are exactly alike. This adds to the range of the music and makes sure that nothing goes stale, giving the listener the ability to listen to this album over and over again without getting bored.

Dance of December Souls is a compilation of doom, black, and death metal elements. I would say doom metal fans would probably have the best chance at a great experience with this album. Black and death metal fans might think this kind of music is too “light” for them, but if you give this album a chance and respect it for what it is while having an open mind, you’ll find how wonderful of an album it is. The harmonies and melodies speak for themselves here.

Old Timer. - 72%

Perplexed_Sjel, November 7th, 2007

Viewed by many as the pinnacle Katatonia record, 'Dance Of December Souls' is the bleakest segment of Katatonia's sparkling history. We all know by now, that as time has progressed, so have Katatonia. The evolution of this band has been a joy to behold. Though the sound has changed and the style of this doom laden outfit has long gone, the backbone still remains. The negativity pours out of Katatonia like blood out of a wounded man. It flows steadily and is incredibly hard to stem. Katatonia's debut was seen as nothing short of remarkable by many people, including me when I first heard it. However, over time, i've developed a change in opinion. Don't get me wrong, I still like 'Dance Of December Souls', but not as much as I love the new look Katatonia have developed over recent years.


This record marks the end of an era for Katatonia. One that was actually very short lived. Katatonia have actually considerably altered their sound on pretty much ever full-length they have ever done. This is probably the most different sounding one in comparison to the most recent offerings from the Swedish outfit. It's incredibly melodic, but in a very dark way. The guitars create a solid wall of noise from which the atmosphere seeps through the gaps. It has the ability to cover everything it touches entirely. The atmosphere of this record is the major positive. It's bleak sound will undoubtedly be appealing to a vast majority of people. The riffs that slowly edge their way towards your inner core make this record a special one. They're generally quite slow, which suits the vocals. The percussion is also another slow element. Each aspect taking it's time to build slowly, but with purpose. Direction and diversity control the hands of the individuals who make this gorgeous soundscapes which come littered with images of desolate landscapes and bleak skies.


The fact that this Katatonia record is slow may be a put off to those who prefer the more aggressive style the band have created over recent years. The songs are far more lengthy than they have been in the past, which allows musical expression to take over and creativity to flow. What with the songs being far shorter nowadays, the music has to reach it's destination quicker. 'Dance Of December Souls' is in no such rush. Doom has always been a genre that comes in the form of slow and low riffs, this is no different. Though I do enjoy it, i'm one of those people who likes the more aggressive touch when it comes to Katatonia's music. The harsher sounds are by far more appealing to my senses, but this slow approach works it's magic in different ways.


It's emotive feel is obviously a plus. The doom laden riffs curve majestically around your senses and suck them in. This record has the undeniable ability of being able to connect with it's audience through emotive leads and dark growls which express the themes behind the band. The vocals are pleasing. They do their job with intent and are incredibly focused on causing a rush of ill feeling. They stand side by side with the music and form an unbreakable soundscapes. The production is distant, rather like the music. It portrays isolation in a very negative way. At times it can feel quite old, but that isn't really a problem. I feel the highlight just has to be Tomb Of Insomnia.

Old-Katatonia Masterpiece.. no less!! - 99%

Shadespawn, January 28th, 2007

1993 - Dance Of December Souls Rating: (10/10)

Well, Katatonia's more or less debut full-lenght album, which was my first encounter with this band. This really continues their earlier work "Jhva Elohim Meth". Katatonia are in my opinion one of the more interesting bands from Sweden. Dance of December Souls really captured me and showed me the beauty Doom/Death has to offer. They are, together with other important bands of this genre such as Anathema, Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride the creators of our beloved Doom/Death.

If you are only familiar with the later work of Katatonia, well let's say this is completely different, this is darker, more depressive, more anti-religious, simply more evil, if you want. Technically, this album is really over the top, as the hypnotic melodies and interludes are very catchy and they stream the whole album beauteously. The lyrics are a mixture of sorrow embracing last embers of hope, about atheism, sorrow and dispair. Jonas Renske does a great job here as a vocalist, sounding very exhausted and desperate, yes, he even has a bit of a "blackish" tone in his voice, but you can't compare his vocals here with the job he did on other albums, where he sounds better as he started singing clean. On "Brave Murder Day" they even got Mikael Akerfeldt to take over the harsh vocal part. I think he wouldn't really fit well into this album, simply because its way more gloomy.

This album has a really unique guitar sound, the drums aswell don't sound empty or hollow, they really fit the music. If you just insert this CD into your CD-player you will get 53:33 minutes of pure doom. Tracks like "Gateways Of Bereavement" and "In Silence Enshrined" really makes you understand what i mean with great interludes, as I've mentioned earlier. Two more favorites of mine on this album also are "Without God", which really impressed me, the name really fits the song, and "Tomb of Insomnia" which more or less, blew me away. The song is really epic and doesn't let you go. From the beginning to the end I couldn't even think of skipping this.

Even though the recording quality of this record may not be overwhelming, it really doesn't have to, because that doesn't really bother you on "Dance of December Souls". I really recommend this for fans of Katatonia, for collectors this is a must. I give it 10 out of 10 points, no less. Definetly one of the early highlights of Katatonia.

Dancing December - 90%

OzzyApu, October 22nd, 2006

Before the incarnation of Brave Murder Day, Katatonia spawned Dance Of December Souls all on their own. While possessing all the qualities for a fine debut, there is no other album that I can pinpoint in Metal during this time that captures the same malevolence, atmosphere, and depression. The first track, “Seven Dreamy Souls”, displays this feeling really well. Shall we go into the details?

Anders Nystrom, or Blackheim, was only 17 at the time of the recording, with his 18th birthday a couple weeks after the album was recorded. At such a young age, he was still able to master the art of creating melodies of bereavement and wholesome riffage; you can hear him strut his stuff throughout “Gateways Of Bereavement”, “Without God”, and “Velvet Thorns”. His playing is the only aspect that seeps through the atmosphere, creating the overall sound of the album. Israphel Wing holds the beast…I mean bass, which he plays pretty damn well. By this I merely state that his playing is audible to say the least if you have the volume at a decent listening level. You can here its mumbling throughout the tracks, never leaving a lasting opinion. It doesn’t play a huge part on the album, besides creating a darker and heavier tone, which is good altogether.

Last in the mix is Jonas Renkse, the commander of the battery and the dictator of the mic. While his drumming is par for the genre (on key and whatnot), his vocals depend differently on ones interpretation of them. Some look at them as amateur vocals, while others find it totally in unison with the music and mood. Personally, I find his vocals as a companion to the sound albeit always loud. They do get pretty annoying at certain points when he seems to be yelling more than he should.

If there is something on here you should really spend your money on, its Blackheim and the production. While Blackheim doesn’t have any serious issues with his playing, the production turns what would be a colossal failure into a unique memory. Due to the production, the album feels older than it really is. This is especially true with the drums, as whenever it is hit the sound is very alive like that of any drumming sound from the 80s. In any case, the album is bearable by all means in the production aspect. The tracks where Blackheim pretty much owns the set are the two instrumentals “Elohim Meth” and “Dancing December”, which is my personal favorite. They are both really short, but show elements of his style of playing, also fitting well with the album.

So there you have it, everything good about this record. What more is there you want to know? This isn’t expensive and everything on here is worthy of your ears. So go ahead, pick it up, and dance to December…

A unique, solitary monument - 98%

Sean16, October 1st, 2006

While other Katatonia releases are quite easy to apprehend, Dance of December Souls always made me the effect of a giant monolith of frost, something huge, impressive and somewhat scary one don’t really know how to climb. It has no equivalent in the band’s discography, even the previous EP Jhva Elohim Meth remaining only a nice children’s play compared to it, and probably in the whole metal history.

It was thus easy to pretend Katatonia had created a brand new genre of so-called “black doom”, while some didn’t hesitate to even call this album slow black metal. However I stay convinced Katatonia never CREATED anything new, their genius only consisting in having taken previously existing elements to their ultimate perfection. Because pretty much everything that could be found on this album, now famous British death/doom bands from the early 90’s had already thought of it a couple of years before. I’m talking about Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride as you must guess, and about Anathema to a certain extent. But this doesn’t deprive DoDS of any merit, as a quick comparison would be sufficient to show how much Katatonia were ahead of their time. Paradise Lost and Anathema will never reach such a zenith, soon turning to mellow rock/pop and electro, and My Dying Bride will only unleash their full potential almost ten years later with the gorgeous The Dreadful Hours (and sorry for those Turn Loose the Swans is still giving wet dreams to).

Of course, there’s first this strong anti-religious imagery, which certainly helped in comparing this album with black metal, but once again Katatonia hasn’t really innovated here. Early Paradise Lost also showed explicitly anti-God lyrics while, if My Dying Bride always leant more towards bizarre poetry and erotica, regular mentions of God or Jesus never turned to the Divinity’s advantage (The Snow in my Hands, anyone?). But now I can’t really imagine Nick or Aaron spitting a “YOUR FUCKING GOD IS DEAD AND SHALL FOREVER BE!” in the tone of a mortally wounded beast – this is in Katatonia’s well-known blasphemous anthem, Without God. Yes, it’s the same band which later released The Great Cold Distance, believe it or not.

But where Katatonia definitely goes a step further from their predecessors, it’s on both the atmosphere and the construction. The production in itself isn’t very original, given how guitars exhibit the same raspy sound one may find in other death/doom bands. The ensemble isn’t really raw though, each instrument being easily heard, even if it’s not the sharp, crystal-clear sound of later Katatonia releases. Fortunately, may I add. But the overall atmosphere is unique – cold, desperately cold. Acknowledging Dan Swano’s punctual icy backing keyboards for it is easy, but after thinking twice those aren’t particularly overwhelming, this opus being most of time guitar-driven, and above all dominated by Jonas Renske’s unique voice. Sorry, it’s not Jonas Renske, it’s Lord Seth, Jonas Renske being this annoying pop-ish singer Katatonia will use on their later works.

Actually, even if I guess it’s scientifically proven Jonas Renske and Lord Seth are the same man, anyone listening to this will conceive some doubts. No clean vocals at all, and even calling those... things growls is still a euphemism. Compared to this, even in their most aggressive growled parts Aaron or Nick still sound like charming little boys. It’s barely human; it’s like the embodiment of despair and hatred. It’s not low DM growling, it’s not high-pitched BM voices as well – even if it occasionally sounds closer to it - it’s rather barking, spitting, almost vomiting.

Concerning the construction, it’s a work of art at every level. On the individual track’s level first. Each of the five real songs is of a respectable length, especially with two 13 minutes long monsters. It might not be the excessive lengths of funeral doom works either, but given how dense the music is, it’s honest. The band manages to never fall into monotony or repetition by alternating crushing parts topped by Lord Seth’s aforementioned agonizing voice with far lighter, semi-acoustic instrumental parts where Blackheim can display his full mastery. While on the slow parts his guitar sounds as heavy as you might wish, painful and suffocating, faster (well...) parts carry by contrast an unpleasant mad feeling which will reach its pinnacle in the short closing track Dancing December, sounding like a morbid carnival backed by an eerie whispering voice endlessly repeating “Dancing... Dancing... Dancing” – indeed, a genuine macabre dance.

The general album construction has to be highlighted as well. DoDS is exactly contemporary of Turn Loose the Swans, and while I won’t diminish the importance of Turn Loose the Swans in doom metal history, and as much as I admire My Dying Bride, let’s just admit DoDS beats it on almost every point, the most striking one being the overall construction. Turn Loose... may begin on the strongest possible way, with a monumental piano-driven piece of work followed by another unforgettable death/doom anthem (Your River), but soon after somewhat falls into repetitive and, to a certain extent, boring tracks. In fact, with the exception of the first track that album throws one hundred tons of doom metal on the listener from the beginning to the end, eventually totally asphyxiating him to the point he can’t even enjoy the music any more.

DoDS is constructed in a totally opposite fashion, beginning in the softest imaginable way with an atmospheric, noisy intro, the usual rain-and-thunder samples, which only goal is to set up the mood before the genuine music kicks in – this being Gateways of Bereavement, maybe the most classic track here if there is any. Thus, the album opens on a song interesting enough to encourage anyone to keep on listening, but definitely NOT an ultimate masterpiece so that the rest doesn’t look flat in comparison. This allows the work to progressively build up to, of course, the full-of-hatred Without God. Which is followed, right after its abrupt end, by a gentle atmospheric/semi-acoustic interlude (Elohim Meth) enabling the listener to recover – that is capital – before the monumental Velvet Thorns (Of Drynwhyl). This song alone would be sufficient to prevent this album from ever falling into oblivion: complex, but almost hypnotizing, hopeless, scary and beautiful altogether, it might be 14 minutes long but one can spin it ever and ever and still discovering new qualities to it. True, after having recorded this, Katatonia could have shut up forever.

... And indeed, they did. The album ends up on the haunting, though less spectacular Tomb of Insomnia followed by the aforementioned sick conclusion Dancing December; then, the band quickly died. Brave Murder Day, without being a bad album, already looks like a pale shadow of this one, without speaking of Discouraging Ones (pun intended) and its followers. Much has been said about Metallica’s fall, but Katatonia’s fall looks even more tragic. They may not have fallen lower, but they fell from much higher, and all of a sudden. Just to put it another way – our fucking Gods are dead and shall forever be!

Highlights: Gateways of Bereavement, In Silence Enshrined, Without God, Velvet Thorns (Of Drynwhyl), Tomb of Insomnia

Classic in every sense - 100%

MartyriumNecroScream, February 4th, 2006

What have we here? Did depression and sorrow just take sonic form? After listening to this album you will most definately believe it. Hell, after listening to the first doomy masterpiece, "Gateways of Bereavement" you will believe depression and sorrow took sonic form. Before there was any Nortt or Pantheist around, this was the ultimate doomy, desolate music, along with stuff like diSEMBOWELMENT. A perfect example of this desolate doom I speak of is the first track, "Gateways of Bereavement". Riff after droning riff, after gloomy riff, it hypnotizes. By the time the first riff plays it's first cycle, you'll have a clue of what is in store for you in the next eight minutes or so. Pure quality riffing, because riffing is the substance which makes this album thrive in excellence. I would also like to point out the acoustic guitar parts, which are perfectly placed in the songs and not overused. Like in the beginning of "Gateways...", beneath the distorted guitars, there is a layered acoustic guitar which follows the riffs for a little bit, playing mostly the individual notes in chords in a rung manner. Then in "Velvet Thorns", there is an acoustic part which is played amid the song, and in the end too, it sounds wondeful in such a bleak way. And although the riffing is the most important part of the album, we hear some bass too. It's killer to hear some desolate basslines, as it is very fitting due to the depth and the heavyness a bass has. At times, the bass will not follow the riffing, and will play some good individual low end melodies, but you gotta listen a bit closer. And then there is also the drumming. Surprisingly, the drumming, althought it is slow and fitting for doom metal, is exceptionally busy. It is very interesting to hear the bass drum/double bass patterns Jonas played whilst keeping the timing perfectly. It is harder than it may seem. And the fills aren't bad either. There are also some keyboards, played apparently by Mr. Dan Swano, and they sound just as desolate as any other instrument in the album. It is cliched to have the word atmosphere describe music with keyboards on it, but in this case it is undeniably true. The parts which have keyboarding add to the overall atmosphere.

Too much deathly sorrow and desolation for you? Don't worry, there are also some headbanger moments. Like the classic song, "Without God", which manages to be a bit upbeat and also hateful while keeping the whole depressive feel of the album. Similarly, "Velvet Thorns" also has a section where the band thrashes out, in their own way.

If you like your metal in a depressive vein, give this album a chance. I can almost bet my life that you won't be disappointed.

What if a December soul doesn't know how to dance? - 99%

Funeral_Shadow, October 18th, 2005

This is the definitive doom metal album... or at least in my opinion. Everything about this album (which I have the original version by the way) reeks beautiful despair... it's all just a sorrowful utopia. I really love this album with a passion... it's just so damn great! It's so emotional, so depressing, so romantic and sexy, just so damn good.

Every track is unique and well composed. Nothing on this album is filler (unless you consider "Seven Dreaming Souls" and "Elohim Meth" to be fillers, but I personally feel these intros/interludes add more atmosphere to the listening experience.) This indeed is one of those albums you can truly appreciate and listen to from beginning to end. How does one describe the greatness of this album to begin with? I'll attempt...

I love the production on this album. On further albums, the band decided to go with a more clean yet "fuzzy" production, but this album holds a very muddled yet exquisite sound. In a sense, this is "tr00, kvlt" sounding doom metal. The production is very hollow but still listenable. The vocals definitely echo through the album and I really think the band didn't intend the vocals to be like that. It doesn't matter though, because the echoing of the vocals really give more of a deep atmosphere to this album. Every instrument has it's space and can be heard clearly. No complaints here with the production.

Now if you're not a fan of slow music, then this isn't for you at all. Don't let the "death" part of this band lead you to think that there would be any sort of blast beats or blistering double bass drumming. The only "deathest" thing about this album is Lord Renkse vocal style (he was also the drummer for this album, and I find that highly impressive that he had done two major parts on the album.) The vocal style leans on a death metal approach, yet it has it black metal moments... sometime, the vocals can sound like screeches (think of the style Dissection uses in their music.) There's even a lot of clean vocal use on tracks like "Velvet Thorns (Of Drynhwyl)", which are more likely faint whispers. Other than that, there are many leans towards doom influences with the amazing harmonies and leads presented in this music. The drum style as well is doom influenced with it's epic-style slow drumming and, yes, there are occasional double bassing's here and there, but they're very slow double bassing's.

What I love about this album most is the abundance of emotion put into the music. This isn't some band that thought "well let's try making some sorrowful music and do our best at it." They knew what they were doing from the beginning, and you can tell that all of these lyrics are from deep experiences and personal beliefs. Songs like "Gateways of Bereavement" relates to lost love, and there's a part that makes goose bumps pop all over my body when Lord Renkse screams, at the end of the song, "I love you..." It's not just any scream, but it really sounds like he was crying or dying while screaming this. Another song where you can feel such emotion in the vocalist’s voice is in "Without God." This is a super-anti-God song, and he doesn't sound like other singers in a death metal band when he screams "your God is fucking dead and shall forever be!!!!" I've heard that many times from countless other bands, but Lord Renkse really makes me shiver when I hear this because it sounds soooo real when he says it. I wouldn't be surprised if there was self-mutilation on Lord Renkse behalf while recording this CD... His vocals on this album are just that damn morbid and memorable. Cookie-monster-style vocalists, eat your damn hearts out!!!!

It doesn't hurt to mention that the lyrics written for this release are so emotional and beautiful. You'll never find anything more beautifully depressing than Katatonia's lyrics on this album, and to this day, I still feel that this album has some of the best lyrics I've ever seen in any music (and I'm not just saying in all of metal, but all of music in general.)

Of course, we cannot forget the other musicians on this album that make this CD timeless and just that Godly. Blackheim is one hell of a genius guitarist on this album... all of his harmonies and palm-muted riffs are perfectly placed in each song. The song writing and structuring on this album is just amazing... everything seems so simply placed yet technical. This album overall relies on heavy guitar harmonies and screeches. There are some "death metal" oriented riffage that happen as well as acoustic breaks, but everything always comes back to the harmonies. "In Silence Enshrined" has some of the best displays of Blackheim's guitar playing, which varies bar to bar on the musical scale. Israphel Wing's bass playing doesn't merely follow Balckheim's guitar playing; it usually seems to follow it's own path, creating some very memorable bass lines like on "Gateways of Bereavement." Lord Renkse was also in charge of all keyboard effects on this album, and the keyboards, as with the guitar harmonies, give every song that "beautifully depressive" quality. Keep in mind that (thank goodness!) the keyboards don't make up the whole album or, in other words, the keyboards aren't used ever damn second of this music. They're basically used very "intelligently" as I like to put it (not overly using keyboards to create the atmosphere of the album.)

Please believe me when I say that this has got to be one of the best metal albums ever put out. It's one of the best because this album has everything for any fan of metal, whether it be you're an extreme fan or not. Maybe some people will be turned off by the slowness of this album, but if you can overlook that slowness, you'll definitely find something you'll love. It also has to be the most artistic album I've ever heard and overall emotional album laying ears on. Overall, I love this album and can't ever stop listening to it. Just a little "for your information" for ya, this album practically got me into doom metal, so that really says a lot. I'm sure if you're not a fan of doom but are interested in getting into it, this will help you!

Everyone should listen to this album or give it a chance... you can't go wrong with a Godly underrated album like this. Forget about "Brave Murder Day", Katatonia's second full length album, and check out this one (that other one is very overrated!) This has the most emotion and rawness in it as opposed to the rest of Katatonia's catalogue and, like I said before, you can't go wrong with this album! Buy it and feel the crestfallen beauty!


Ear Candy: Every track is definitely worth the spin... huge admiration goes out to "Gateways Of Bereavement," "In Silence Enshrined," and "Without God."

Their first and greatest realease - 100%

WIndrider, June 29th, 2003

I always find it funny when bands start off amazing and slowly deteriorate into utter crap. This is the case with Katatonia. While their latter releases do have some redeeming values, Dance of December Souls is an absolute masterpiece. It is in my opinion the most emotional, melancholic, beautiful metal album ever created. Dance of December Souls could perhaps be labeled doom metal, however it is unlike another doom release around. While the music is quite slow, it is very full sounding which is contrary of most doom bands. While the musical notes are fairly simple it is the atmosphere which carries this band so far. The guitar glides and sounds light like a feather. the drums are intricate and full. The keyboards create an extremely somber background. However it is the vocals which bring this album to it absolute potential. The vocals borderline somewhere between crying and grim shrieking, yet remain understandable. They are so sorrowful and melancholic that I doubt even the most seasoned, testosterone fuelled male, could resist their power. This is album is truly legendary, and I believe anyone even slightly in touch with themselves will truly appreciate this cd. Don’t mind the fact that this cd is 10 years old, even in regards to production it still stands among the best modern Katonia inspired acts such as Rapture and Agalloch
It is just such a pity that this and their original MCD are their only releases which sound like this.