Gildan's Guide to Good Music
The world of music is a vast ocean of crap - join me on a voyage to the tiny isolated islands of excellence.
As the tagline not so subtly suggests, it's really easy to find terrible music - you have but to turn on your radio, and lo, bad music abounds. The good stuff though, well that's rarely quite so easy to find, and while some popular music actually deserves the accolades it receives, most excellent music languishes in comparative obscurity. And that's where I come in!
What I aim to accomplish with these articles is to showcase quality albums from bands you've never heard of, in the hopes that at least one of the comparative handful of people who actually read my rambling and
rampantly egotistical definitely quite humble reviews has found them useful.
Tonight's album is one that, for those of us with the compulsion to categorize and classify everything, is a real monkey wrench in the works.
Night Is The New Day
Musical Genre: Progressive Metal (maybe, it's complicated)
Running Time: 48 minutes
# of Tracks: 11
Particularly noteworthy songs: The Longest Year, Idle Blood, Liberation, Departer
This album gave me a devil of a time when it came to filling in the "Musical Genre" field - Wikipedia simply classifies it as "Alternative Metal", and while that might be technically accurate, it's only going to give you a remarkably misleading impression; bands like Cold and Seether are classified as 'alternative metal' after all, and this is nothing at all like those.
But I'm getting ahead of myself - you probably aren't familiar with Katatonia in the first place, so background is in order! Katatonia is a Swedish metal band formed in 1991 by vocalist/then drummer Jonas Renkse and guitarist Anders Nyström - their initial releases were notable for their bleak melancholy and despair, essentially making them forerunners of the modern day Doom Metal sub-genre. An accident wherein Renske somehow blew out his vocal cords left him unable to perform the harsh growls typical of Doom Metal after their first album was released however, so Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt performed the growling vocals on their next two releases, and the band has moved to a softer overall sound after that; each subsequent release has shifted them further away from their Doom Metal roots.
Which brings us to this album, which I would consider Katatonia's masterpiece and yet cannot properly categorize - it really defies any neat classification into a sub-genre of metal. In point of fact, Night Is The New Day (and by extension Katatonia itself) is only nominally metal at all, and as an album it really challenges the listener's established notions of just what it means to be a metal band, and damn if it's not bleakly beautiful in the process.
The lyrical content at least hearkens back to their roots as a Doom Metal outfit, as it is rather dark and moody. Yet the vocal delivery itself is quiet, contemplative, and utterly melodious; never strained and never strident, it's practically the definition of "mellow". Coupled with the intricately layered and alternately heavy/soft backing instrumentals, the result is somber and sweeping - session performers contributions of keyboards, strings, and exotic instruments like the theremin have produced a sound that's hauntingly ethereal one moment, or subdued and intimate and yet otherworldly the next. Critics have lauded it for "showcasing beauty and despair in equal amounts", and they're not wrong.
I would go on, but I've quite honestly exhausted my ability to keep finding new ways to describe that which is very hard to describe - you really need to listen to it for yourself. Which you can do by clicking on the embedded YouTube video below - the power of Gildan compels you!
While I first ran across this album a while ago and instantly took a liking to it from the snippets I'd heard, I didn't actually get around to acquiring it until fairly recently, so it (and Katatonia) spent a lot of time just "on my radar". Somehow during that interval I never made a very obvious connection though, one that I really should have noticed before listening to the album's opening track recently made me say "Hey wait a minute" to myself: Jonas Renkse was one of the guest vocalists on the latest Ayreon album 01011001, which I absolutely adored. Somehow knowing that makes me love this album even more, heh.
Let's see... yep, I'm pretty much out of things to talk about, so I guess it's time to bring another entry of the guide to a close - as always I welcome any comments you might have, and I'm always open to suggestions on what to talk about next, yes sirree!
That last bit was quite obviously a lie, but don't let that stop you from futilely suggesting things anyways if you are so inclined.
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