Words by Sam Wolstenholme
In the ethereal realm of melancholic melodies and introspective lyricism, Katatonia has long reigned supreme, captivating audiences with their uniquely dark and emotionally charged sound. As they reflect on the reception of their latest offering, ‘Sky Void of Stars’, it’s evident that the album has struck a resonant chord with listeners, both live and on record. In a year that saw the world grappling with isolation and uncertainty, the band’s exploration of themes of loneliness takes on a poignant relevance, yet they maintain that these themes have been intrinsic to their artistry for years, pandemic notwithstanding.
With each release, Katatonia continues to evolve, delving deeper into progressive elements while staying true to their introspective roots. Their headlining Australian tour promises a setlist brimming with fan favourites alongside tracks from their latest opus. As they grace Australian shores once more, they’ve eagerly anticipated the warmth of the reception, knowing that despite the lengthy flights, the love and hospitality they’ve received Down Under make every journey worthwhile.
It’s been a year since ‘Sky Void of Stars’ was released. How do you feel the reception to this album has been?
Very good. The songs are working really well live and the album seems to be a favourite with a lot of people.
In your own words, you say that ‘Sky Void of Stars’ is a “stirring ode to the ones who are lost and astray”. This is your first release of new material since ‘City Burials’ in early 2020. Did the intervening pandemic influence those themes of loneliness you explore in ‘Sky Void of Stars’?
Maybe a little bit, but mainly not more than usual. These are themes we have explored for years and years. Of course your surroundings will have a certain impact but for me the pandemic just meant that I had more time to focus on writing music.
This album more heavily features progressive elements of songwriting that has been hinted at in previous releases – the intricacy of the guitar work and unconventional song structures are particularly notable – though it still retains the quintessential introspective Katatonia sound. How do you feel that this record reflects who Katatonia is today?
It’s a perfect evidence of where we are today. Still honing our sound but also very comfortable with what we do. There’s bits of more progressive stuff but also some things that works as a nod to older days, more straightforward.
It’s no secret that you are widely regarded in the heavy music world for your uniquely dark, gothic, gloom-laden and emotionally charged sound – in fact, you embrace this. What is it about this dark quality that you are drawn to and that you feel allows you to express yourselves authentically as a band?
I don’t really know! Ever since I was a kid I’ve been drawn to dark music and I guess it has served as an influence throughout. There’s just something in it that I resonate with and all these years creating music have paid off well, seeing that we make a living out of it.
Another defining element Katatonia is known for is the poetic nature of Jonas’ lyrics, and the very distinctive rhythm and imagery in his prose. What generally inspires these lyrics? Are there any particular literary influences he takes from?
It mostly comes from everyday life, the struggles that we all deal with, but written to suit a musical concept and therefore more ”poetic”. I am a huge sucker for lyrics myself so it’s definitely an ongoing thing – to raise the bar but also stay true to myself and what I write about.
‘The Fall of Hearts’ was an incredibly successful release in 2016, after which the band took a hiatus before returning in full force to release ‘City Burials’. How did that break help to re-energise you in your collective creative mission?
It showed us how much we missed being out there, releasing music, playing live, and also the fine-tuned relation within the band, kind of a wordless language that is hard to find elsewhere.
You recently celebrated the 30-year anniversary of the release of your debut album ‘Dance of December Days’. How do you feel your sound has evolved over 30+ years?
A lot. But also not a lot, because we still work with the same old formula as we set out to do. Create dark and emotional music which is something we keep doing even though the sound have changed over the years.
Musicians and fans the world over are thrilled by the return of live shows and touring in the last couple of years. Do you have any favourite moments from tours past that particularly stand out?
Every tour is an adventure of its own with highs and lows, but coming back to Latin America was one for the books!
You’ve recently come off a massive tour of Europe and North America in 2023, and you kicked off 2024 touring in Istanbul. What are you most looking forward to about returning to Australian shores?
Australia have treated us so well in the past, loads of love and supreme hospitality so it’s with great pleasure we return! It’s a wonderful place to play and if it weren’t for the amazingly long flights, we would be there more often!
It’s your first headlining Australian tour in nearly a decade, and you have a vast discography to work with. What kind of set can Australian fans expect in this tour?
It’s of course a luxury problem, but we take great pride in creating our set lists. There’s some focus on the latest release, obviously, but of course we will play a lot of fan (and our) favourites too! I think we will please pretty much everyone. If not – you’ll have to invite us back very soon!
KATATONIA are touring Australia NOW! Catch them at one of their remaining shows for a live show you don’t want to miss!
REMAINING TOUR DATES:
Monday 12 Feb – Adelaide – The Gov
Tuesday 13 Feb Perth – Rosemount Hotel
Thanks to DRW Entertainment & Metropolis Touring