Katatonia / Swallow The Sun
11 March 2010
The Garage, London

Taking to the stage, lit from behind, Swallow The Sun appeared as shadowy figures as they opened their set with These Woods Breathe Evil from latest album New Moon. Unfortunately when you wanted the sound to punch you in the gut, it instead swam around the venue in an uncohesive manner. Falling World recalled one of the Finnish band’s biggest influences, My Dying Bride, although in truth you can hear a little of those Yorkshire doomsters in much of Swallow The Sun’s work.

These Hours Of Despair perfectly describes what Swallow The Sun attempt to conjure, with frontman Mikko Kotamäki clinging to his microphone-stand looking forlorn in hat and fingerless gloves. Still however the sound had not settled and much of Kotamäki’s vocals were lost in the mix. The unsatisfactory sound detracts from the band’s performance and after listening to New Moon countless times, it’s disappointing that Sleepless Swans doesn’t soar like the recorded version. Feeling disappointed by this performance is ironic given the misery that Swallow The Sun’s music invokes.

Swallow The Sun set list:
These Woods Breathe Evil / Falling World / These Hours Of Despair / Sleepless Swans / Don’t Fall Asleep (Horror Pt. 2) / Descending Winters / New Moon / Swallow (Horror, Part 1)

Based on Swallow The Sun’s sound I had real fears for Katatonia’s set but I needn’t have. Right from opener Forsaker until the house lights came on, this was probably the best sound I have heard in The Garage. Liberation, also from the band’s latest album Night Is The New Day, followed with Jonas Renske thanking the crowd at its conclusion. Whilst the frontman clings to his mic stand with raised arms that, together with his hair, block his face, between songs when Renske addresses the crowd it is with warmth.

My Twin is greeted like an old friend and whilst this and most of the band’s lyrics portray despair, in the live setting these songs have a great uplifting feel. Of course Katatonia started out a much darker beast and have progressively moved to a more refined sound, whilst still remaining challenging. This is evidenced by an interesting sold out crowd sporting shirts ranging from black metal to Porcupine Tree.

Katatonia rarely visited the UK in the past and with their latest album there appears to have been a concerted effort to up their level of touring. This resulted in the departure of the Norrman brothers and whilst their replacements have not been made permanent members of the band, Katatonia come across as a very strong unit live. Renske and guitarist Nyström visited their side project Bloodbath to find a replacement guitarist in Per Eriksson. The six stringer, known as Sodomizer with Bloodbath, clearly was enjoying himself and manages to seem energetic even in the lighter moments. He also showed he could sing when providing backing vocals on the folky Omerta. This was one of a handful of songs rehearsed to premier on this tour along with Saw You Drown and Rusted.

Idle Blood starts a run of three of my favourite Katatonia songs. This song from their latest album most closely recalls Porcupine Tree and drifts by, tugging your heart with it. The pace is taken up a notch with Ghost Of The Sun with the crowd joining in to sing the chorus. Evidence meanwhile had searchlights flashing across the crowd as they bounced along to Nyström’s flanged guitar. The response leads to a heartfelt “We love you London” from Renske.

New single Day & Then The Shade is a further highlight as the main set ebbed towards its conclusion. Returning to the stage to a rapturous response, Katatonia wrap things up with the lead tracks from 2001’s Last Fair Deal Gone Down and 2006’s The Great Cold Distance, being Dispossession and Leaders. I have to say this performance far exceeded my expectations and undoubtedly Katatonia will be playing a larger venue next time they pass through London.

Katatonia set list:
Forsaker / Liberation / My Twin / Onward Into Battle / Complicity / The Longest Year / Omerta / Teargas / Saw You Drown / Idle Blood / Ghost Of the Sun / Evidence / Rusted / Day & Then The Shade / In The White / For My Demons / Dispossession / Leaders

Swallow The Sun