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Katatonia Interview / Dead End Kings Review

Dug out this article I wrote for the now defunct Musicpix.net back in 2012.  I was really excited to have the opportunity to interview Katatonia because this release really hit me in the feels.

Have you ever regretted anything in your life before?  I like to consider myself a positive person, and I live by the rule of letting your decisions in life mold you into who you are.  This situation….this dire situation I was in….is one that no matter how I hate to admit to regretting something….I most absolutely positively regret.

I have never listened to a Katatonia album.  This is where all my fellow metalheads cry out in disdain.  YES, I ADMIT IT.  I don’t know why, I just never got around to it.  There is such an abundance of metal out there that….I guess…..it just slipped past me.  “But one of your favorite bands is Amorphis…..they’re similar….,” I hear ringing in my mind.  Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, I know.  This album review and interview are my penance for overlooking this amazing band.  

I was handed “Dead End Kings” to listen to, and from the first minute I was HOOKED.  This album is to me as crack is to Tyrone from the Chapelle Show.  After listening to this masterpiece a few times back to back, it spawned a 48 hour Katatonia listening spree along with me spending about $200 on merch.  It has been a while since a band just completely attached itself to me, and I tell you, that was one fantastic 48 hours.  

“Dead End Kings,”  …  Wowewowow.  I can’t say much more.  This album blew me away.  From the first track “The Parting” to the last, “Dead Letters,” my attention was not once pulled away.  I am still having a hard time deciding my favorite track on this disc.  It is a toss up between “The Racing Heart” and “Dead Letters.”  Don’t get me wrong, the rest of this album is also prime rib, but these 2 tracks I found to be the most goosebump-raising and even tear-inducing.  Listen to this track and marvel.


I, Doc Metal, shall rate this masterpiece a 9.5 out of 10…..only because I do not believe in a “perfect” album, with the exception of a very few releases.  

I was lucky enough to snag an interview with Anders and Jonas of Katatonia before their performance with Paradise Lost and The Devin Townsend Project at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago.  Here is what they had to say about “Dead End Kings” as well as some other questions.

Doc:  How did the album title “Dead End Kings” come about? 

Anders:  Well it’s two factors, basically.  The first factor is like a word play that we continue to do as a tradition to have these negative and positive words in the same sentence.  The 4 last albums actually, follow this tradition.  The other is the meaning of “Dead End Kings” is like a statement of where we are in our career at this time.  It has been 20 years since we have started the band and everywhere you go, people are surprised at that fact.  20 years is a very long time.  Some people might ask:  Are you known world wide?  Are you big?  Are you popular?  Are you successful?  These people may think that we have these big mansions and drive fancy cars and all that kind of stuff, but that is not really the case.  The only thing that has stayed consistent with us is that Jonas and I are still a band after 20 years. We were the 2 guys that formed the band, and we are still here in the band.  That is our take on success.  People are referring to our career a bit like a dead end.  We just turned it around and said we are the kings of the dead end.  The dead end kings.  The album title fits to where we are in our career.  

Doc:  This is Katatonia’s first new album since the Norrman brothers departed from the band. Did their absence affect the writing process at all? 

Anders:  Not at all actually.  They were not involved in the writing so much so it did not really affect the process.  

(Frederik and Mattias Norrman were the guitarist and bassist, respectively, for the band until December 2009) 

Doc:  Your last few albums have involved quite a bit of backing music–keyboards, violins, etc–how has this changed Katatonia’s live performance over the years? 

Anders:  Well thanks to technology, we are still able to reproduce it live.  We use backtracks for all that kind of stuff. I personally would love to have a keyboard player with us on the road because it would be the real deal, but that has not been working out so far.  The backtracks have been working out for us really well.

Doc:  How has it been working with Frank Default?

Anders:  It has been great.  He has helped us out a lot with the creation of the backtracks we use.  We have been working with him in the studio, but we never took it as far as to take him on the road with us to play it live.  He was a guest at one of our shows that proved that a live keyboard player would work out.  He has really helped us and put a lot of his talent into our band.  We are very grateful to him.

Doc:  Were there any artists/bands that influenced the new album?

Anders:  It’s kind of hard to pinpoint specific bands, but we do have our influences from way back, and they are still influences for us.  A perfect example of a band that has influenced us is the band we are touring with currently, Paradise Lost.  They were one of our biggest influences.  It is really cool to hear them live every night, it rubs off on you.  I have to say that we are really influenced by ourselves these days.  Our last album was the most influential factor for making the new album.  

Doc:  After 9 albums, do you feel that it is harder or easier to write new albums?

Anders:  It gets harder and harder with each album you come out with because you have to raise the bar every time.  You always have to try to make better songs.  It is not hard for us to experiment and to go in different directions and explore new sounds and styles, but to implement that into our style, that is a challenge.  That is also why there is a longer pause in between us releasing albums.  

Doc:  How is it touring with Paradise Lost?

Anders:  It is amazing.  It’s great.  We have toured with them twice before, and we were their support.  It’s a quite surreal situation right now that the tables turn like this…Paradise Lost playing before us.  I think it’s like this only in America.  I think they go by album sales or something to decide who is playing first.  It is a real honor for us to be playing with them.  We are good friends with them regardless who plays first.  We love the band, it’s a legendary band.

Doc:  How different is it touring with a group like Devin Townsend Project, as opposed to a group like Opeth? 

Anders:  Devin Townsend is so much fun.  He is such a talented guy.  I personally love his music.  It adds a needed diversity to the bill.  Shows should not be three bands sounding the same.  I think it is really cool.  Stolen Babies, the 4th band added to the bill, also does not sound anything like us either.  

Doc:  Is there any talk of getting a new Bloodbath vocalist since Mikael Akerfeldt decided to leave?   Is Bloodbath on hiatus or are there plans for a new Bloodbath album? 

(Jonas is the bass player for Bloodbath)

Anders:  We are planning on doing something, we just do not know when we will be able to do it.  I cannot reveal who the new singer will be just yet, because of contracts and such, but I will promise there will be a new Bloodbath album in 2013.  

Doc:  Is there anything you get from Bloodbath that you don’t get from Katatonia?

Anders:  Of course, Bloodbath is all about old school brutality and aggression and everything you do not get from Katatonia.  By having Bloodbath and Katatonia, I am just a happier person.  

Doc:  What is your favorite song to play live? Which one has the best fan reaction?

Anders:  Right now my favorite song to play live is probably “Dead Letters” from our new album.  It is the song we pretty much open with.  I think the song is a little adventure put into a mini compact form.  I love to play it live.  The best fan reaction is probably “Lethean.”

Doc:  What music are you currently listening to?

Anders:  Anything and everything, my iPod is exploding with 70s, 80s, 90s, I keep rotating my playlists and am open to pretty much anything.

Doc:  Do you have a  top 3 favorite musicians/bands of all time?

Anders:  Sure, actually Whitesnake is one of my favorites growing up from the 80s.  Judas Priest ….and why not, I will say Paradise lost!

Doc:  Describe the craziest or most over the top encounter you have had with a fan.

Jonas:  As in lunatic?  One of the things that I think about is what happened in Germany once.  After a show our merch guy came to us and said somebody left us a letter.  We opened the letter and read it.  It said that if we do not play more old songs on the next gig, there will be a bomb exploding!

Doc:  Who was your studio engineer for “Dead End Kings?”  When you first worked with him, was he able to produce the sound you were looking for or did it take some communication and a few takes on the mix?

Anders:  David Castillo.  He has done the Bloodbath albums before, also worked with Opeth.  He knows the Katatonia sound well, so we pretty much nailed it quick actually.  We are on the same wavelength.  

Doc:  So you’re pretty much really hands on in the mixing/tracking process…Adding input instead of giving all control to the engineer.

Anders:  Oh we never give all the control to the engineer, we are really hands on.  Its very important that we have complete control.  It is our vision, and we want to make sure that it is perfect.  We are a great team, David, Jonas and I are a great trio.  

There you have it, from the legends themselves.  I want to personally thank my crew of brainstorming friends and huge fans of Katatonia, Kimberly Morgan, Dean Whitehurst, Brian Hanna and Michael Stanton for submitting some questions for the band.  

If you haven’t purchased your copy of “Dead End Kings” yet……Please do so.  I PROMISE you will not be disappointed.



Favorite Tracks:
The Racing Heart, Dead Letters

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