Dethroned & Uncrowned review by Katatonia

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  • Released: Sep 9, 2013
  • Sound: 6
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7 Good
  • Users' score: 8.2 (53 votes)
Katatonia: Dethroned & Uncrowned
1

Sound — 6
It seems the veteran masters of depressive, artsy metal have had enough of routine. Katatonia's ninth album, "Dead End Kings," was a step into the esoteric for the Swedes, infusing their naturally pessimistic drudge with more strings, synths and experimental ideas than ever before. But one year on, they've taken it a step further and decided to remake the whole thing with different goals in mind. The original was stacked with good songs, but the band saw something else lurking underneath the distortion and here decide to fully expose it. With this, arguably their most ambitious work in many years, they've promised a rebuilt, reimagined look at the entire album, letting its ambient and progressive elements shine through with the heaviness totally stripped back. "Dethroned & Uncrowned" has the advantage of being crafted by the people who know their music best; fans do not want to hear butchered versions of songs which were perfect the first time around. The trouble is that having written these songs once, Katatonia are not going to write them again. And so it is that this progressive "reimagination" largely became a remix and acoustic album. The now-absent drum grooves of Daniel Liljekvist are replicated with acoustic jangling, meaning the rhythmic engine runs almost exactly as it did on "Dead End Kings," and the dynamic ebb and flow is identical in most cases. This represents a missed opportunity; the likes of "Hypnone" and "Dead Letters" are decent renditions of good songs, but for these reasons they are effectively acoustic duplications. "The Racing Heart" sets a better example, mapping its brooding synths and melancholy vocals onto a blank canvas which allows the natural rhythm of the melody to shine through. "Leech" is similarly refreshing, tying the original chorus to a disjointed but emotionally invested conversation between piano, strings and woodwind. The highly polished gloom is enjoyable throughout, but the best moments undoubtedly come when the band cast off any kind of pacesetter and delve into ambient territory.

Lyrics — 8
"Dethroned" uses Jonas Renkse's original vocal tracks so the lyrics are, of course, identical. Their themes have been extensively covered elsewhere and we need not remind ourselves of them here. It's interesting to note how the soft, vulnerable heartbreak in Renkse's voice seems to change when he is the loudest instrument rather than the quietest. Finding yourself deprived of big riffs and thundering drums would emasculate most metal vocalists, but Renkse is shown to be incredibly versatile in the way he adapts to tranquillity. Texture is, however, the only real change. Remixes usually work because they sample the original tracks and reshape their phrases to say something different. See Frank Default's intoxicating 2010 take on "Day & Then the Shade" for an example of how Katatonia's gothic missives can be reshaped to suit other styles of music. Nothing like that occurs here, but that doesn't stop the changes from being curious at times.

Overall Impression — 7
Assessing this album is difficult. The high quality of the songs is not in question (if you're new to Katatonia, "Dead End Kings" is as good a place to start as any) but the definitive versions of tracks like "The Racing Heart" are still backed by drums and distorted guitars. Ultimately, the title is instructive. "Dethroned & Uncrowned" strips its predecessor for parts and rebuilds it with cosmetic changes instead of creating something new. It could have been so much more.

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15 comments sorted by best / new / date

    brad.mo.3
    Katatonia live is amazing, fools. Jonas tends to be pretty shy live. If you've ever heard him speak, he seems nervous even after being a frontman so long. It's certainly a changeup from Mike Akerfeldt's more charming and comedic stage presence, but that's what Katatonia is about. If you're expecting a metal frontman to get up and cuss at you and tell you to mosh, you are definitely seeing the wrong band.
    Masta' Exploda'
    Katatonia wasn't meant to be a live band, and just like many other doom/ambient bands there sound isn't really based on diversity. It is more focused on droning and moody progressions then on groove and contrast. That being said, they still do amazing albums as a studio band.
    azrael667
    ""Dethroned & Uncrowned" strips its predecessor for parts and rebuilds it with cosmetic changes instead of creating something new. It could have been so much more." That's what it was always gonna be, so no, it couldn't have been more.
    kennethdave
    I have never explored Katatonia's music before...this is my first album...I'm really impressed actually...working my way through their catalog now...
    jimmy-moto
    I've seen Katatonia open for Opeth twice. They by far the most boring live act I've ever seen. The keyboard was playing on a backing track and there was lots of it - it was really weird to see them all standing there for 2 minutes when the keyboards were playing the intro to a song. I like some of their older music. Their new stuff literally all sounds the same and has no energy.
    Human371
    I like them, but I have to agree. They were a bit dull live. They were tight, but not energetic. Opeth blew them away.
    6sic6_blank
    They're great live. They are just a sit down band though I feel. Like, performing in an opera theater. Which is great by the way!
    peter_lindgren
    When I heard Katatonia was opening for Opeth this past American tour I was very excited. I've never seen them before and I thought it would be really good. Boy was I wrong. They just sucked. I still love them, but live they were dull and boring
    BwareDWare94
    How exactly does one move around to Katatonia's music? I understand that you want more energy, but with a band like Katatonia, it's all gotta be about sound, live. Don't they at least sound good?
    SkyValley
    They sound good live, but like the previous poster said they use the keyboard backing tracks a lot and it sounds too much like you are just listening to the CD. Also, when I saw them their singer had his hair in front of his face the entire time, like you couldn't see his face at all. Lame.
    ScottStewart1
    same experience. But it as because I wasn't familiar with their music going in, so to me all the songs sounded very similar to one and other. I know most bands are that way, but since they were associated with Opeth I guess I was expecting more diversity... and death growls lol
    wolvesofmibu
    So much negativity towards their live shows, which I suppose I understand; however, I've seen them live a few times and they were always great. The energy of the shows feels like the right amount for the music, and they are a welcome rest before the energy of Opeth's stuff, or whoever else happens to be following them.
    manicmuso
    ...thought this was a review of a new Catatonia album (alternative Welsh 90s band)... shock of my life!
    Reevo
    Late reply to this i guess but ah well. I dont think i had actually heard of Katatonia prior to this Cd being released. I saw it posted on facebook by UG in the middle of the night here and saw "Depressive metal" and thought "Ok lets see what this sounds like" expecting it to be like black metal. Completely wrong and quite possibly one of my favorite bands now. I have listened to D&U and Dead End Kings extensively, had to order them into the country which cost a chunk being from New Zealand and all, all in all i prefer Dethroned and Uncrowned. This really is a magnificent and beautiful record, not a single song I dislike and since finding it when it released, i listen to it daily. 10/10 Katatonia, looking forward to the next one whether you follow this path or now