Katatonia / Alcest

10 December 2012

Islington Academy, London


With openers Junius wrapping up their set as we arrived at the Islington Academy, the first point of order was to find a suitable spot to stand in an already busy venue which had sold out earlier in the day.  Alcest’s profile has risen markedly since the release of last year’s Les Voyages de l’Ame and if the follow up lives up to its promise it’s quite probable they’ll he headlining this venue themselves next time round.  Indeed, it’s a mark of respect that there’s not over bearing chatter in the numerous quite sections of Alcest’s material but transfixed silence.


A delicate Autre Temps sets the tone, which is more suited to chin stroking than headbanging.  At its conclusion a timid Neige politely greeted the crowd with “Good evening London, we are Alcest from France, thank you so much.”


Là où naissent les couleurs nouvelles saw Neige move from his dreamlike clean vocals to a harsh black metal scream and back with the transition perfectly organic.  Towards the songs conclusion the beat built as guitars weaved melodies that recalled classic Fields Of The Nephilim.  That uplifting gothic edge is one of a number of genres Alcest have gradually taken on board with elements of metal, prog and shoegazing included in their palette.


With the benefit of a great sound, for me this topped Alcest’s performance at Bloodstock this summer and technically didn’t turn a few heads as much as fix them pointing straight at the stage.


Alcest Alcest Alcest


Alcest setlist:

Autre temps / Là où naissent les couleurs nouvelles / Les voyages de l'âme / Souvenirs d'un autre monde / Percées de lumière / Summer's Glory


When the Norrman brothers left Katatonia in late 2009, one of the cited reasons had been the rest of the band’s desire to spend more time on the road.  Over the two years to that point, Katatonia had played the sum total of 34 shows, whereas by comparison, after the line-up change, they notched up 97 shows in 2010 alone.  This level of live activity has continued and goes a long way to explain where we find Katatonia this evening.  Consistent touring has built both built a following and honed Katatonia’s performance skills.


Whilst Jonas Renkse still hides behind his hair, resembling Cousin Itt from the Addams Family, it may sound weird on paper but he does it in a far more confident style.  Renkse has become more talkative and was obviously enjoying himself, evidenced when he told us “It’s a f**king blast to be with you.”


In fact it feels like the band as a whole has raised their game.  Where past shows have been dark brooding affairs, there’s much more of a celebratory nature about Katatonia’s set tonight.  At various points throughout the set the crowd clapped along, encouraged by a quick “Come on London”, by Renkse.


Katatonia Katatonia Katatonia



Katatonia’s material has also matured, with much more progressive tendencies making their way in to their last two releases.  I’ve read many reviews that rightly describe the band’s latest album as a grower and majestic pieces such as Dead Letters add variety to the set.  Meanwhile older more streamlined classics like My Twin and Teargas give a more immediate hit and see the crowd singing along.


As we head towards the end of the 2012’s gigs, this will be a show that will be recalled as one of the better ones of the year.  With festival appearances now being confirmed, he’s hoping to see Katatonia added to one of the UK’s summer events.


Katatonia Katatonia


Katatonia setlist:

The Parting / Buildings / Deliberation / My Twin / Burn the Remembrance / The Racing Heart / Lethean / Teargas / Strained / The Longest Year / Soil's Song / Omerta / Sweet Nurse / Deadhouse / Ghost of the Sun / July / Day and Then the Shade / Dead Letters / Forsaker / Leaders