Sound — 9
Swedish gothic/doom/depressive rock/metal band Katatonia returns with a live album from their stripped down acoustic tour following the acoustic reworking of 2012's "Dead End Kings," "Dethroned & Uncrowned." "Sanctitude" features the 05/16/2014 show at London's Union Chapel. Katatonia decided to rework their slower more ballad like songs in an acoustic arrangement. This works to great effect. When I first saw the tracklist when the album was announced the song I was most curious about is "Evidence" from 2003's "Viva Emptiness." The original is propelled by a flanged electric guitar riff so I was naturally curious how they would keep the drive of the song in an acoustic version. I was most pleasantly surprised because singer Jonas Renkse, who performed drums for the band on their first three studio albums, plays additional percussion on the song creating a tribal like drum pattern that serves to replace the flanged guitar. Anders Nyström shows he is a capable acoustic guitarist on this album. Jonas Renkse also performs lead electric guitar lines on a few songs. Since two of Katatonia's members left following the "Dethroned & Uncrowned" leaving Katatonia just a three piece, for this tour they utilized a session percussionist and two guitarists. There is also some somber keyboards on the album. The Gathering's Silje Wergeland performs her part on "The One You Are Looking for Is Not Here." "Unfurl," the b-side to the "July" single is as great in an acoustic arrangement as its original electronic/ambient arrangement.
Lyrics — 10
Jonas Renkse's lyrics have always woven dark cryptic tales of emotional betrayal, isolation and despair. Renkse's vocal style complements these lyrics well, using a mournful clean style of singing that is different from almost every other metal singer. Still his vocals have a familiar quality to them that even upon first listen can draw the listener in. Technically speaking his vocal range is limited but it fits the somber mood of the music well. My favorite part of this album is how on certain songs Jonas stresses words slightly different than the studio versions this creates a different mood on some songs, "Teargas" and "Sleeper" are good examples of this. The standout vocally was "Day." The oldest song on the setlist, "Day" was originally released on 1996's "Brave Murder Day." This was the first album where Jonas experimented with his now familiar clean singing style. He has come a long was since that time and the reworked versions of "Day" as well as "Gone" from 1998's "Discouraged Ones." "Gone" is one of Katatonia's darkest songs from arguably their darkest most depressive album, this version offers a glimpse of hope in it's depressive lyrics it shows that Jonas' life is possibly less depressing than it was in 1998 when he could no longer perform harsh vocals due to a throat injury. These songs in particular show how much he has improved as a vocalist when compared to their respective studio versions.
Overall Impression — 8
I am not usually a fan of live albums however unplugged albums where the artist reworks their electric songs are some of my favorites. Alice In Chains "Unplugged" is one of my favorite albums of all time. "Sanctitude" is very similar to this album because the balled type songs were used in lieu of the more obvious hits. Katatonia fans will notice the absence of songs like "Deliberation," "Soil's Song," "My Twin," "July," "Criminals," "Dispossession," "Chrome," "For My Demons," "A Premonition," "Departer." My main complaint about this album is how criminally overlooked 2006's "The Great Cold Distance" is in the song selection "In the White" is the only song featured from Katatonia's biggest album. Aside from this small complaint this album is wonderful. "Unfurl," "Evidence," "Day," "Gone," "Teargas," "Omerta," and "Tonight's Music" are my favorite songs on the album. This is definitely my favorite Katatonia live album. If it were stolen I would definitely buy it again because the DVD portion is wonderfully shot.