Date: May 14th, 2017
Venue: The Academy, Dublin
Line-up: Katatonia + Ghost Bath + The Great Discord
Swedish progressive rock/metal band Katatonia released their 10th album The Fall of Hearts last year to much acclaim from fans and critics. Embarking on a European tour later that year, many were disappointed when the band announced a single UK show (you can read a review of that show here). However, the band were quick to rectify that by announcing their return to the UK and Ireland for a longer tour.
Continuing with their trend for bringing up and coming bands on tour with them, the show was opener by their countrymates in The Great Discord. The band describe their music as “progressive death pop”, which is another way of describing the modern, gritty prog sound those familiar with Leprous, TerresecT, Monuments, etc would be familiar with. The thing that sets them apart from all of those lies in one person, frontwoman Fia Kempe. Her vocals are a cut above the rest and her performance had fire and passion behind it with some indescribable dancing. Drummer Aksel Holmgren also impressed in the center of the stage with some interesting fills particularly in the bands heavier moments. Their closing track ‘Ephemeral’ saw one of the guitarists jump down into the crowd, with many looking bewildered at his sudden appearance next to them while other joined in his headbanging.
Ghost Bath are probably most well known as being the band that pretended that they were from China. Putting that aside, the band’s popularity has steadily risen after signing to Nuclear Blast and releasing their third album Starmourner last month. I’ll be honest that I had some doubts before seeing them perform but they quickly won me over. With three guitarists, the room was quickly filled with the back and forth tremolo strumming of ‘Throne’ from their latest album. Vocalist Dennis Mikula then joined the fold, his normally irritating wailing replaced with a somewhat respectable growl. There was no crowd interaction at all, normally this could be understood from a band who rely on atmosphere more than the performance, but there often awkward silences between songs that were particularly off-putting. Their set closed with one of the better-known songs from their breakthrough album Moonlover, ‘Golden Number’ saw most of the band simply leave the stage in the latter half, with only drummer Taylor and guitarist Donovan left to fade out the track.
This was Katatonia’s first time back in Ireland since the end of 2012 when they were supporting previous album Dead End Kings. With what has become a staple opener since the release of The Fall of Hearts, the band came out with ‘Last Song Before the Fade’. This was also their first time in Dublin with their latest line-up, drummer Daniel Moilanen and guitarist Roger Öjersson.
Much of the first part of the set focused on newer material from the two most recent albums. The mood shifted between the quieter, almost catchy ‘Serein’ and ‘Old Hearts Fall’ to the metallic crunch of ‘Dead Letters’ and ‘Buildings’. The sound quality was pristine with each instrument sitting just right, one nag I did have was that the guitars could have benefited from being that bit louder as even the heavier tracks just didn’t have that edge they sorely needed.
After getting some new songs out of the way, the band went to their back catalogue to Last Fair Deal Gone Down and the seminal ‘Teargas’. While the band may not have gone back far enough for some peoples tastes, ‘Teargas’ always goes down well and this time the guitar solo was given an update courtesy of newest axeman Roger Öjersson. Vocalist Jonas Renske described 2003’s Viva Emptiness as “one of the most important records they’ve released” before diving into the back to back of ‘Evidence’ and ‘Ghost of the Sun’, for the latter of which it’s always good to hear the crowd sing back “a fucking lie” after the bridge.
‘In the White’ from The Great Cold Distance was a nice addition, possibly as a leftover from the bands recent shows celebrating the albums 10th anniversary. The main set closed with another Fall of Hearts track, ‘Passer’ which gave us another opportunity to see Roger in action once again.
A couple of the bands biggest tracks made their appearance for their encore, ‘My Twin’ and ‘July’, a pairing that the crowd were more than pleased with. Given that it was a Sunday night, a healthy crowd had come out to support the band, something even Jonas had remarked on a couple of times.
Last Song Before the Fade
Old Heart Falls
Ghost of the Sun
In the White