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SWEDEN, Avesta

Date Formed 1987

Categories: Doom, Doom Death


Current Members

Past Members


KATATONIA, named after a schizophrenic condition, are celebrated propagators of ambitious and supremely melodic Doom-Death dubbed "Suicide Rock". Avesta based KATATONIA started life as a duo of guitarist Sombreius Blakkheim (a.k.a. Anders Nyström) and vocalist/drummer Lord Seth (real name Jonas Renkse) in 1987. The group, working with EDGE OF SANITY frontman DAN SWANÖ as producer, utilised Gorysound Studios over three days in July 1992 to record the demo 'JHVA Elohim Meth'. 500 copies of this tape were manufactured, 300 manufactured on blue cassettes, 100 on red and 100 transparent.

The 'JHVA Elohim Meth' material was later released in CD form by Dutch label Vic Records, the only change being a subtle re-naming of the first track from the original 'Prologue: Midwinter Intergates' to 'Midwinter Gates'. This time around, Swanö featured amongst the band credits on keyboards under the pseudonym 'Day Disyhrah'. In rapid fashion KATATONIA, having signed to No Fashion Records, added former TEARS OF LUNA bassist Israphael Wing (real name Guillaume Le Huche).

Their opening album, 'Dance Of December Souls', was fashioned at Unisound Studios with DAN SWANÖ reconvening both his production role and alter ego 'Day Disyhrah'. Taking just five days in April 1993, KATATONIA re-recorded their original demo tracks and cut fresh songs to form up the album. As a debut, 'Dance Of December Souls' staggered many with its maturity. Resolutely Doom orientated, the record hung on the bleakest, almost hollow production. From the opening siren laments of 'Seven Dreaming Souls' and into first track 'Gateways Of Bereavement', eschewing a chorus in favour of a mantric "Let me die!", KATATONIA's scorn for convention would be apparent from the outset. Having risen from a Black / Death Metal tradition, KATATONIA's origins would break through on the wholly blasphemous 'Without God' whilst their ability to comfortably tackle the epic was illustrated by the monumental 'Velvet Thorns (Of Drynwhyl)' and 'Tombs Of Insomnia'. Typically oblique, the album rose to a finale with 'Dancing December', a composition whose entire lyric comprised one word repeated in whisper.

In addition to this material, the band also contributed two tracks ('Black Erotica' and 'Love Of The Swan') to the Wrong Again Records compilation album 'W.A.R.' in 1995. That same year witnessed the EP 'For Funerals To Come' released through Italian label Avantgarde Music, these songs having been put down onto tape in a day long session at Unisound Recordings the previous September. Further recordings of interest included a split 10" EP through Hammerheart Records with Irish act PRIMORDIAL the following year. Le Huche opted out in 1994, resurfacing as a member of Progressive Metal band MINDWATCH. Coincidently, another MINDWATCH man, Mikael Oretoft, took over the bass vacancy in 1996. Unbeknown to the outside world, KATATONIA had actually folded during this period, but soon succumbed to a creative drive and duly re-assembled.

Blackheim, having just relinquished a position with IN GREY, also had worked up a side project band titled BEWITCHED releasing the 'Diabolical Desecration' album on Osmose Records in 1996. Seth would also be working on his OCTOBER TIDE project in union with UNCANNY and FULMINATION guitarist Fredrik Norrman. This latter musician was then to be inducted into the KATATONIA sphere of operations.

Avantgarde Music issued the acclaimed and hypnotic 'Brave Murder Day' album in 1996, again recorded at Unisound Studios and produced by the ever industrious Dan Swanö. OPETH's Mikael Åkerfeldt featured as studio guest on "distorted" vocals as a foil to Renske's chaste lamentations. KATATONIA performed a short British tour in late 1996 with support acts IN THE WOODS... and VOICE OF DESTRUCTION. An EP, 'Sounds Of Decay' once more seeing vocal contributions from Mikael Åkerfeldt, was delivered in December 1997.

1998 was ushered in with an EP in January, limited to 1500 hand numbered copies, entitled 'Saw You Drown'. The 'Discouraged Ones' opus followed in April, this self-produced record being crafted at Sunlight Studios with Fred Estby of DISMEMBER and Tomas Skogsberg gaining engineering credits. Once again Mikael Åkerfeldt was in evidence for backing vocals. 'Discouraged Ones', a brave delineation between the doom death of yore and a courageous leap into the unknown, shocked fans with the complete overhaul of the KATATONIA sound. Forsaking speed and aggression the band discovered that utter despair, maudlin and cold bleakness was just as effective, if not doubly more so. As songs became simpler, stripped down to standard rock formats, the message impacted even harder. Needless to say, the band lost fans directly due to this change of path but began to gather in many more newer admirers.

At this juncture, Blackheim and Seth were also in pursuit of another Death Metal project titled DIABOLICAL MASQUERADE. The pair also forged old-school Death Metal project act BLOODBATH with Dan Swanö and OPETH's Mikael Åkerfeldt, both of these individuals again very much in evidence on KATATONIA's masterly 'Tonight's Decision' album released in August 1999. This collection, the first for the Peaceville label, featured the band's first attempt at a cover version, tackling JEFF BUCKLEY's 'Nightmares By The Sea'. 'Tonight's Decision' strode onward from 'Discouraged Ones' in similar fashion, the audibility of Jonas Renkse's deeply introspective lyrics now beginning to elicit deference from a previously suspicious media.

The 2001 KATATONIA 'Teargas' EP, holding two exclusive tracks, would prove another strong release. It also marked the incorporation of two new band members, ex-DELLAMORTE bassist Mattias Norrman and SUBDIVE and WICKED drummer Daniel Liljekvist. By this stage the band had rid itself totally of its formative Death Metal skin and were plunging headlong into deeply disturbing yet oddly melodic workouts, gaining a wider acceptance and recognition for their efforts.

KATATONIA took on the services of faithful studio mentor Dan Swanö to mix their sixth full-length album for early 2003 through Peaceville Records. The band united with FINNTROLL for European touring throughout April and May.

The emergence of 2003's 'Viva Emptiness', a tapestry of morosely compelling and infectious dirges, put KATATONIA firmly into the major league bracket with praise unanimous and global. German gigs to promote the album in April saw BEFORE THE DAWN and DARK SUNS as support. A 2004 release, entitled 'Brave Yester Days' compiled tracks from EPs alongside rarities and the unreleased 'Untrue'. With KATATONIA's status rising rapidly, Black Lodge Records re-issued their early 'Dance of December Souls' album but sparked some criticism from the band who issued an official statement "We do not support this re-issue and take complete distance from its existence". Apparently the re-issue's new artwork and logo, designed to be in keeping with more recent KATATONIA albums, made the band believe these old recordings were being passed off to look like new material. Meantime, Peaceville Records compiled 'The Black Sessions' compilation, a set of post 1998 recordings comprising all the single's b-sides, cover songs and selective songs off 'Discouraged Ones' through 'Viva Emptiness' plus an unreleased track.

Leading up to the band's appearance the October 'Barlo' festival in Holland KATATONIA united with AMARAN for a run of Scandinavian and European gigs. The group then engaged in songwriting for a new album. In early 2005 the rare 1998 'Saw You Drown' EP would be licensed to Infinite Vinyl for a limited edition vinyl release of 1000 hand-numbered copies.

In June KATATONIA entered Fascination Street Studios located in the outskirts of Örebro to craft a new album entitled 'The Great Cold Distance'. The group's debut Russian performances came in September with gigs in Moscow and St. Petersburg. European road work in April and May 2006 saw NOVEMBRE as support band. The band put in a small run of Turkish concerts in September. KATATONIA, MOONSPELL and DAYLIGHT DIES teamed up for a North American tour commencing in October.

Northern Silence Productions issued the tribute double album 'December Songs' in December 2006. Artists paying homage to KATATONIA included FOSCOR with 'Midwinter Gates' and 'Gateways Of Bereavement', BEATRIK with 'The Northern Silence', FOREST STREAM 'Without God', AEVERON 'Shades Of Emerald Fields', XASTHUR 'Palace Of Frost', WYRD 'In Silence Enshrined', GEIST 'Love Of The Swan', DARK FORTRESS 'Endtime', LOSS 'Brave', FOREST OF SHADOWS 'Rainroom', HELEVORN '12', FORGOTTEN TOMB 'Nowhere', HEL featuring WINTERHEART 'Cold Ways', FARSOT 'I Break', FRAGILE HOLLOW 'Saw You Drown' and OCTOBER FALLS - For Funerals To Come ...'

A third single from 'The Great Cold Distance' was released in March 2007. 'July' came backed with an exclusive song entitled 'Unfurl' plus a remix of 'Soil's Song' constructed by Swedish artist Krister Linder and a promotional video shot for 'July' directed by Charlie Granberg. 'The Great Cold Distance' was re-issued as a double CD mixed in 5.1 Surround Sound producer Jens Bogren. This variant added the tracks 'Displaced' and 'Dissolving Bonds'.

KATATONIA announced Portuguese and Spanish headline shows for April 2007. The group's live performance from 2006's Summer Breeze open air festival in Germany was released as a double-disc live album/DVD, entitled 'Live Consternation' in May.

KATATONIA entered the studio to begin recording its eighth album in June 2009. The band suported PORCUPINE TREE in Europe that October. To coincide, 'Night Is The New Day' was scheduled for release in Europe on 19th October and in the U.S.A. on 27th October.

Garry Sharpe-Young

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