Katatonia : Dance Of December Souls (re-issue)

Katatonia : Dance Of December Souls (re-issue)Peaceville : 2007
Format : CD

Dance Of December Souls is a timeless classic, and a monument to the vision and daringness found in some of the people involved in the Scandinavian music scene of the early nineties. When Norway was spewing forth a seemingly endless stream of now-classic Black Metal and Sweden was home of high quality melodic Death Metal, Katatonia explored the realms of slow, melancholy, depressed Gothic Death/Doom. Inspired perhaps by artists such as My Dying Bride and early Paradise Lost, Katatonia expanded upon their formula and made an album that at the same time is musically lighter and more melodic yet emotionally more crushing and desperate. You can hear more than a passing hint of contemporary Scandinavian Black and Death Metal in here, adding a unique flavour to Katatonia’s style. However, I would not use “extreme” to describe their style of Metal in the same way as I would use it to describe most Black and Death Metal bands.

The single most commanding element on the album are Lord J. Renkses’ vocals. More a tortured, pained hoarse scream than Death Metal-esque growls or Black Metal-esque shrieks, they are filled with such genuine emotions of sorrow, loss and regret, that one cannot help but fix attention on them. Secondly, the well-used synths of “Day Disyraah” aka Dan Swanö, which add a welcome temporary relief from the crushing hopelessness, and third, the powerful guitarwork. Of course, one should not think that this in any way represents some sort of “ranking” as to how important or good these are for the whole: on repeat listenings, the importance of the guitars just seems to grow, and ultimately it is Blackheim’s guitars which seem to carry most of the emotional load, with the vocals mainly highlighting certain moments or emotions in the flood that the guitars wash over the listener.

Yeah. It’s a great album that is a classic deservedly. And it stands as quite a unique album not only for its time, but still today. Paradise Lost never managed to be this good, and even though My Dying Bride have done more than one classic, impressive album, they somehow never managed to achieve the same almost ethereal feel as Dance Of December Souls. My Dying Bride are poetic and even sophisticated, whereas Katatonia are direct and intense. Dance Of December Souls is a demanding and commanding album that grasps the listener by the heart and won’t let go… not even once the last note fades out.

As bonus, the Jhva Elohim Meth EP is included on this re-release. In comparison to the album, it sounds mostly like a primeval, embryonic form of the excellence Katatonia matured into for their debut album. A welcome addition certainly, but pales in comparison to the actual album.

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