(Live Review) KATATONIA + SUPPORT - Joliet, Illinois (11/18/23)
The Beard & Little Johnny
Tonight, loyal followers of the Beard and Little Johnny, we make our 68th stop of the season as we review three more bands, (#291-293) on our yearlong “The Reviews Never Stop tour 2023”. This evening, the Beard and sidekick Little Johnny have made our way to The Forge (in Joliet, Illinois), for Swedish progressive goth metal act Katatonia, with support from Gost and SOM.
When I first informed Little Johnny of this one, he heard the band names and turned towards me with a concerned look on his face saying, “Are those real words or did you just have a stroke? Quick Beard, say your ABC’s aloud.” After giving Johnny a visual reassurance (via middle finger), that The Beard was quite all right and in full possession of his faculties, Johnny relaxed and said, “Okay Beard, so what’s the story with these guys then?” (Ed: I'm with Johnny. I had to check to make sure that you didn't forget the "h" and "e" when spelling "Gost" and "SOM".)
Katatonia has been around for about thirty years, although they were vastly different when they started. They began as a death metal band in the early 1990’s and transitioned to a more doom/death sound through the mid 90’s and again to a clean vocal sound by 2000. For most of the next decade, Katatonia released clean sounding albums that were more “hard rock” than metal while touring with other genre bands like Opeth and Moonspell. Since 2010, they have seen several lineup changes, but continued releasing albums including their 12th (in 2023), Sky Void of Stars. When Johnny admitted the name sounded familiar to him, I reminded him that Katatonia had played a few years ago at Psychofest Las Vegas, but that horrible sound board issues had forced a very abbreviated set and therefore we never really got to hear them properly and tonight was an opportunity to judge them fairly.
As far as the openers, SOM has been called “shoegaze” and post rock by publications such as Kerrang and Revolver. An odd sub-genre, but one we could decide what we thought of after hearing them perform. Gost, is in a weird place between black metal and electronica, almost like Satanic Dance Music. To the Beard's surprise, Johnny nodded and said, “sounds interesting. First rounds on you Beard.” I don’t think he understands we are not really making money at this job. (Ed: Ah, but don't forget the glory!)
Light crowd for a Saturday night. At start time, The Forge was still only half full. SOM entered and began their performance with only floor and back lighting. This rendered the band virtually invisible to the audience. SOM has a dour sound and a wall of sound in the shoegaze fashion. The music is a sort of a heavy gentle melancholy, like if Christmas music merged with Type O Negative,but then got sadder. Oddly, for The Beard, that had some small appeal. Johnny disagreed and felt he got more out of actually gazing at his shoes than watching this act.
The Beard suggested that this is one of those bands that presents an image and a sound such that while it is happening it is engaging, but then almost instantly forgettable once you leave. Like a Depeche Mode concert while on Quaaludes. Overall, it is a Beard grade of 76/100. (Ed: Erm, you've been to a Depeche Mode concert ... and done quaaludes? That explains a lot!)
This is electronica with a guitarist, and a man in a skull mask and cape playing synthesizer. Most songs are instrumental, but again, oddly interesting. The Beard knows virtually nothing about darkwave synth, but this is unique in its approach to merging a black metal feel with music you might otherwise expect in a dance club. (Ed: The Quaaludes must have been kicking in.)
The skull & cape outfit gave it a different feel. I had to say, in total, I sort of enjoyed the performance.
Even Johnny remarked, “Beard, that guy is weird, but kind of fun too. I think if the Phantom of the Opera did some ecstasy and then had a synthesizer instead of a pipe organ, it would have sounded like this dude.”
I am not going to ask Johnny to elaborate on that statement, instead I will just say Gost gets a solid 83/100 as the most interesting act of the evening.
They came out with “Austerity” from their newest release. Personally, I thought it was a sloppy first number, (except for the guitar lead by Anders Nystrom, those were good.) Katatonia also utilized lots of floor and back lighting, (which in my opinion was not a great band visual presentation.) Their second number, “Colossal Shade” (also from the new release), sounded better, was more of a show, and had a better crowd response.
“Lethen,” from 2012’s Dead End Kings featured some good drumming by Dan Liljekvist. “Flicker, Dead Letters, and Opaline” would follow, and I was already determining that musically Katatonia’s goth metal approach was fine, but I am not impressed by it. Looking down at the main floor crowd, Johnny looked largely nonplussed. So far Katatonia was just kind of there.
“Forsaker, Buildings & Decima” would follow and I am thinking vocally, it was a little like My Dying Bride without any teeth and musically like Tool without being as well designed in its structure. Katatonia has thirty years of this stuff to draw from. They have a good crowd. They have accomplished musicianship, but they are not engaging my enthusiasm. I think they played another six songs before ending the initial set with “Journey Through Pressure” from The Great Cold Distance .This one I had at least heard before and it was played with some energy including a great finishing guitar solo.
Encores, “Behind the Blood, My Twin, and Evidence” were ultimately uninspiring to me although strongly supported by the crowd. At the end of the day, I just found Katatonia kind of boring. 79/100
This wraps up show #68 and bands #291-293. Just one more metal show to go this season. Remember to check out the Beard & Little Johnny each Wednesday & Thursday at your award-winning home for metal - The Mighty Decibel.
Then check out all the videos on our TIKTOK page at
Thebeard0728 or #thebeardandlittlejohnny
Until next time ...