Opening up tonight’s proceedings we have Swedish proggers The Great Discord. Describing themselves as ‘progressive death pop’, they craft a brilliant mix of Swedish gloomy metal and other worldly, theatrical vocals. As if headlining the show themselves, they power through a brilliant set with confidence and own the tiny stage. Vocalist Fia Kempe, complete with pure black eyes and an Indian-esque headdress of red feathers, looks at home and confident on stage, interacting with the already-packed crowd. Amidst a cluster of sound issues including the blowing of a front of house speaker, The Great Discord power on, refusing to give in where other bands would have called it a day. The set ends with all PA off and powerless yet the band remain. The crowd roar and applaud the professionalism of these guys, not even quitting when left with just their voices and the drums powering from the stage.
Next up we have a taste of American black metal. Ghost Bath bring their unique blend of earthy blackened shoegaze, harrowing screams and intensity to Leeds and sound exactly how I imagine a pained planet to sound. This band have really made ripples in the metal scene and have gained a lot of notoriety for the way they portray themselves and the mystery that surrounds them. Tonight, it is no different, not once do they address the crowd, but they don’t need to. The music really does speak for itself. Amidst the melancholic shrieks and ferocious blast beats, Ghost Bath create an awesome atmosphere and energetic performance. Paving the way beautifully for tonight’s (music) headliners. See what I did there?
Swedish progressive metal titans Katatonia are a force to be reckoned with. Bursting on to the scene twenty-six years ago as a doom metal outfit, through the years they have progressed and developed, fine-tuned their unique sound to what it is today – the pure sound of melancholy, but in the most beautiful way. The dead-end kings of doom are perfect tonight. Celebrating the release of 2016’s masterpiece, The Fall of Hearts, they open with ‘Last Song Before the Fade’ to a packed-out audience. From the new they head straight back in time to 2003’s Viva Emptiness record with fan favourite, ‘Criminals’. Tonight’s set is a brilliant mix of old and new, showcasing the best of this band’s epic career. Through the blue haze projecting from the stage, Jonas Renkse’s vocals haunt the crowd, who hang on his every word. Treating the crowd to a couple of songs from their 2012 release Dead End Kings, Katatonia power through ‘Buildings’ before the familiar repeated vocal intro of ‘Dead Letters’ fades in.
2016’s ‘The Fall of Hearts’ is still fresh in our minds, and it has barely been out of my car’s stereo since its release. It’s yet another work of art in an already massively impressive back catalogue, so to hear what is arguably the best song from the album, ‘The Fall of Hearts’ live is something else, and a personal highlight of the show. The live element seems to add an extra dimension to an already very deep song.
The brilliant thing about watching a band such as Katatonia is that they have such a back catalogue of albums to choose from – so much so that you are never quite sure as to what song they will pluck out next. Choosing to go back to the early noughties, much to the approval of the crowd, they play three classic songs. ‘Teargas’, ‘Evidence’ and the fan favourite ‘Ghost of the Sun’ bringing the crowd to a unified scream of “A FUCKING LIE”!
The venue, Brudenell Social Club, is a unique venue in its shape, with an almost triangle stage in the corner offering brilliant views all around. It’s small, but because of its shape feels very unique and personal. Usually playing to crowds of thousands in Europe and on the festival scene, seeing Katatonia in a venue of this size is beautiful and feels very intimate.
Drawing towards the end of an incredible show, we hear yet more crowd pleasers in the form of ‘Soil’s Song’, ‘Forsaker’ and ‘Leaders’ before closing the set on another song from the latest album, ‘Passers’. The final song has a slightly different feel to the rest of the set and the album itself, due to the fact that for the first time it really feels like Katatonia are playing a true metal song, including thumping double kick and shredded guitar, – not normally something we really heard on previous records. The addition of drummer Daniel Moilanen and guitarist Roger Öjersson has given Katatonia another element of which to explore and the talent of these two incredible musicians are really showcased in this song. Mixed with the now established Niklas Sandin and original duo of Jonas Renkse and Anders Nyström, Katatonia are a band at their peak. This is shown in ‘My Twin’, ’Lethean’ and finally ’July’, an encore which is simply brilliant.
PHOTOGRAPHS: Benjamin E. Gladstone Photography