Sound — 8
Katatonia has been around for a while now, originally formed in 1991, though their earliest material bears little resemblance to their more recent releases. Initially, Katatonia was known for their doom metal sound with growled vocals but at some point their sound took on more in the way of atmospheric effect versus straight forward Sabbath-type riffing and they began using exclusively clean vocals. The band's lineup has been a little rocky, with two members even leaving the band in 2014. The two founding members remain in the band - Jonas Renkse (vocals, though he has also performed drums and guitar previously) and Anders "Blakkheim" Nyström (guitars, though he has also previously performed bass and keyboards). "Kocytean" is a Record Store Day exclusive EP, being released only in 12" vinyl format and limited pressings. There are 6 tracks, with 3 tracks on each side of the record. The tracks are a compilation of rare tracks and B-sides and both sides together run for approximately 26 minutes.
The EP opens up with the track "Unfurl," which is all about creating that doom-y atmosphere early in the song with a combination of electronic elements as well as more traditional rock/metal instruments. Renkse's vocals won me over a few albums back on "Dead End Kings" and the subsequent "re-mix" album, "Dethroned & Uncrowned," and on "Unfurl" I hear the same qualities that won me over to his clean vocals originally. "Sold Heart" was originally released on the EP "The Longest Year." This song uses primarily a (mostly) clean guitar with some reverb and a catchy drum part to drive the song forward. "Ashen" is one of the more straight forward tracks on the album, but even so it has a very clean passage and is followed up by an almost "traditional" metal chorus with muted triplets and such. "Second" has a strong groove compared to the other material on the album, and has a cool little guitar solo which helps make this my favorite track from the album. "Code Against the Code" reminds me of the type of music I was trying to make when I first started playing guitar myself, and is kind of like post-grunge alt metal from the late '90s. The EP closes out with "The Act of Darkening," which is a really "lush" sounding composition with clean vocals bordering on "beautific" and some interesting percussion - I am not sure if it is congos or bongos, but it works very well for the track.
Lyrics — 8
Jonas Renkse has shown over the years what he can accomplish with clean vocals and taken the band a far distance from where they started or where they could have gotten using the original style of growled/screamed vocals. Renkse performs flawlessly on the tracks on this EP. The vocals range from surreal and abstract to more linear and narrative. As a sample of some of the lyrics from the album, here are some lyrics from the track "The Act of Darkening": "So dark/ once an amusement park/ troubled whispers sound/ on a mute merry-go-round/ so cold/ once a playground of gold/ caved in long ago/ and then poisoned with the snow/ oceans of time/ broken patterns align/ hearts washed upon the isle/ it carries your name/ like radiance in the rain/ the wailing sirens alarm/ old memories hang on and gravitate by weights of sorrow/ through cracks and wounds our pain reflected in a thousand mirrors/ it is time for deeds to take the shape of vows and codes of promise/ the time to let our minds speak silently in the act of darkening." I personally enjoy their lyrics thoroughly.
Overall Impression — 8
What would I call this? Progressive doom metal with clean vocals? Does it qualify as metal, because while it has the "spirit" of metal music it doesn't, in actuality, get very heavy? At the end of the day, whatever you decide to call it, I like it. This extended play may not necessarily be for everybody, though, because not everybody is into vinyl as a format. I personally like a certain type of music on vinyl, which would be music that I'm depending on to create a mood and this record definitely does that. As the tracks are rare and B-sides you may already own several of them if you are a big fan of the band, and that may be discouraging, but I honestly feel like this is a worthwhile release especially on the vinyl format. My favorite tracks from the album would have to be "Second," "Code Against the Code," and "The Act of Darkening" … so essentially, the entire side B of the record.