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Album Review: KATATONIA Dethroned and Uncrowned

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Masters of everything somber, Katatonia released Dead End Kings in 2012 to solid reception. The album was much more orchestral than previous works and flowed extremely well from song to song, all while retaining a common tonality. But what if the metal aspect of the record were stripped away? That means guitars, basses, drums… everything. Better yet, what if that aspect were stripped and everything going on in the background, meaning strings and percussion, are not only brought to the forefront along with the vocals, but even re-written in a sense? Enter Dethroned and Uncrowned: the Katatonia album you never knew you wanted so bad until right now.

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Dethroned and Uncrowned doesn't lend itself to too many comparisons and contrasts… because you know, it's the same record you've heard before. Just different. Some of the standout songs are "The Parting," which surprisingly does not open with strings and bombast, but instead light piano chords that carry the song and eventually evolve into an acoustic-guitar-driven jam, "Buildings," which is almost an entirely new song altogether but still retains the heavy power of the original, and "Dead Letters," which is essentially the same thing as "Buildings" but extremely toned down to the point of almost being ambient. Some songs, like "The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here," remain pretty much identical to the original with the exception of instruments being omitted. Which is the point of this record.

While the instrumentation is essentially stunning and is what a lot of fans had been hoping to hear from Katatonia since 2006's The Great Cold Distance (maybe longer), Jonas Renkse is the real star of the album. Where his vocals have consistently worked in the context of heavier music for the band, it's the softer side of Katatonia that really brings out the haunting tone of Renske's voice. Right from the get go of "The Parting," Renkse will reel you in like a siren and lull you into the dark mistiness that is Dethroned and Uncrowned.

So I'll keep it simple here: Dethroned and Uncrowned isn't going to be for everyone. There is approximately zero heaviness on this record and the band seem to intentionally stray from anything that could even be conceived as a little bit of that. It's a beautifully orchestrated, clean record that sets out to put Dead End Kings in a much more somber, dark light that will keep you coming back for more.

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