For the better part of the last decade, I’ve been waiting for my chance to see Katatonia live. Along with fellow Swedes Opeth, Katatonia were one of the very first bands to introduce me to the anomalic niche of utterly barbaric, yet beautifully melodic, heavy metal.

Somehow this year, the stars aligned and allotted me the opportunity to see Katatonia not once, but twice, in an intoxicating live setting. The first appearance found me at the Peace & Love Festival in Sweden. While it was an incredible experience to witness the band performing in their homeland in front of a sea of devoted fans, the festival itself had so many amazing performers that I wasn’t able to catch their entire set. (As you can imagine, the chance to see Europe perform “The Final Countdown” IN EUROPE seemed like a no-brainer. I had to seize the moment and make my way to their stage.) The latter opportunity came from an intimate performance at The Whisky this past Sunday night.

While I was hoping to get to the show early enough to check out some of the other bands, I got sucked into the Jet’s game at a nearby bar and consequently, arrived just as Swallow the Sun was wrapping up their set. From the few songs I did get to catch, I was beyond impressed–the Finnish death metallers, led by frontman Mikko Kotamäki, absolutely blew me away. The vocals were reminiscent of early In Flames mixed with a tinge of Ville Valo, and the music was wholly crushing.

Katatonia took to the stage as the crowd roared in excitement, and they immediately went into the Night is the New Day epic, “Day and Then the Shade.” From the get-go, it was apparent that there were some slight technical problems (such as the constant clipping in the speakers that lasted the entire night), but the band played on, unfazed. The Whiskey has never been a venue that I’ve attributed as having “good sound,” but for whatever reason, this night’s performance seemed particularly plagued.

Through the course of the evening, frontman Jonas Renkse’s haunting vocals were completely spot on. The band performed an assortment of tracks from Night is the New Day, The Great Cold Distance, and Viva Emptiness. “Longest Year,” perhaps my favorite inclusion in the set, noticeably blew the entire crowd away through its spellbinding sounds.

Katatonia’s performance was absolutely incredible and left me saddened to know that this will probably be the band’s last appearance in the States for some time. However, with their 20th anniversary looming around the corner, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for a 2011 North American run.

Katatonia Set List:

  1. “Day and Then the Shade”
  2. “Liberation”
  3. “My Twin”
  4. “Onward Into Battle”
  5. “The Longest Year”
  6. “Soil’s Song”
  7. “Omerta”
  8. “Teargas”
  9. “Saw You Drown”
  10. “Idle Blood”
  11. “Ghost of the Sun”
  12. “Complicity”
  13. “Evidence”
  14. “July”
  15. “Forsaker”
  16. “Leaders”

Katatonia’s “Night Over North America” tour concludes October 7th in Virginia. If you get the chance to see them before they head back to Europe, take it!

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