KATATONIA – Oslo – John Dee

KATATONIA – Oslo – John Dee

Fucking nostalgia and it’s detriment to progression, growth or more simply put – how can you make tomorrow something worthy when you’re too busy looking back at yesterday? The Metal scene is poisoned with nostalgia these last years. Reunion this, reunion that – dignity it right out of fashion it seems.
Of course every rule has it’s exception. Celtic Frost, even when fronted by that whining beanie bandit Tommy G put out an absolute stormer of an album. Cynic? Well, they were stifled prematurely back in the day and I always felt like they had more to say that would have been worth hearing. Exceptions are rare as they tend to be by their very definition. C’mon folks…..look, as a kid I loved Xentrix. I was young and naive as was the world, or mine at least, and so Xentrix solidified their place in my value system because they were a time and a place sorta thing…..then, what do they do? They go and announce a show or two in some local Northern English gym hall or youth club or soup kitchen or whatever it was and update themselves from those naive days to the present, therefore becoming a joke.

Photo: Kenneth Larsen

Then this fucking classic album bullshit? Every band and their driver is at it. What does it say? As far as I am concerned, it says "We do not believe in our new stuff". Right? Megadeth go out and play "Rust In Peace" in it’s entirely because…because it had been twenty years since it’s release? So fucking what. They also had a new album on the shelves at that point – one they had proclaimed in the press to be ‘their best so far’ and yet here they were doing the rounds trading off past glories. It would also lead a girl to think that their proclaiming that their latest platter was their best yet might have been an empty statement – could it be? Kinda makes bands like Iron Maiden and Anathema who both toured and played their new albums from start to finish look like dummies, right? Who wants to see a band that believe in their new material?

I am a longtime Katatonia fan. It was actually Alan Averill who sent me a copy of their demo in June 1993 and I was immediately hooked. Here we are today and their last album was, in my opinion, their best since 2001’s "Last Fair Deal Gone Down" – that album being their ‘breakthrough’ in that kids who grew up with glossy magazines started digging the band  whereas they had been staunchly lauded before by the likes of Alan and I who cut our teeth with those old Soviet-esque fanzines, with the crude photocopied and badly stapled pages.  Now the bias shows – Is it double standard hypocrisy or simply electrifying wisdom if I say that I can see the ‘point’ in their jumping on the classic album tour bandwagon? They have gone on to bigger and better things as far commercial appeal goes, so playing "Last Fair Deal…" is not quite the easy road easily catering for Joe Public and his below par average IQ plus they did add it as a second set in lieu of a support act. That said, it was more or less enough to qualify them for entry to the rank and file of the nostalgia whores and as such put a dampener on the night whether I liked it or not.

"Last Fair Deal…" is a stone cold classic to me and Katatonia have become a formidable live force over the years and as such their performance of the album ticked all the boxes but was soured for me by that bad taste in my mouth.

The following ‘regular’ set was a who’s who of band classics that have become personal classics for me in many cases. Personally I have always considered "Discouraged Ones" underrated and "Viva Emptiness" overrated (considering the Katatonia catalogue only, in the bigger picture both are elite) and would rather hear three or four tracks from "Discouraged…" rather than from "Viva…" but that’s nothing new and I can appreciate "Viva…" is the more popular amongst the fans. 

Photo: Kenneth Larsen

The recent line up shuffle has resulted in the band having a fantastic sounding back up vocal sound that gives a boost to the songs and probably highlights shortcomings in Renkse’s delivery on both technical and charismatic levels more than before but these same shortcomings are almost his strengths as the make the raw emotion and heart of his vocals more apparent and I believe that these are traits that hugely outweigh anything to do with technicality or the like……

The set ended with a nod to their older days with "Dance Of December Souls" and "Brave Murder Day" being remembered with songs from each being played. I’m sorry but again I have to piss on the parade and point out my disdain. Due to Renkse not liking to or not being able to perform those harsh vocals he took over playing bass or guitar (can’t quite remember) whilst Anders took on vocals. With an almost celebratory air, he explained that this encore was in recognition of it being twenty years since the band began.

OK, maybe I am missing the point here but those songs to me are sacred and I see them being played in this ‘party manner’ as devaluing of their worth. Is it me being stupid and completely missing the point? I realise this is very likely the case but I simply cannot see it that way and would rather not see it that way either.

A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down: Last year I saw them in both Dublin and Stockholm, neither show had the nostalgia elements of tonight and both were stunning highlights of the entire year. So………