Gig Review and Interview: Katatonia Headline the Roxy in West Hollywood
Swedish heavy metal band Katatonia played a 60-minute set in West Hollywood at the Roxy on May 24 as direct support to fellow Swedes Opeth. In a very rare occurrence, Katatonia were back at the same venue for a headline show of their own on May 27.
At around 4 p.m. that day, I turned up for my in-person interview with guitarists Anders Nyström and Per Eriksson. Listen to our 16-minute chat below, and check out the show review that follows it. If you want to compare the two shows, check out my review of the May 24 Opeth/Katatonia show here.
After my interview and before the show, the band hosted a free signing at 6 p.m. at a record store down the street from the Roxy called Soundcheck Hollywood. Fans got a chance to hang out with the band, take pictures and get their items autographed. As people left the signing, they headed to the Roxy, and the queue for entry began forming much earlier than the scheduled start of the show.
Two local openers attempted to warm up the crowd for Katatonia’s set, and only the second band, Sirion, succeeded to some degree. The turnout was better than I had expected, considering Katatonia had just played here the Friday before. Most of the audience enjoyed Sirion’s set but seemed ready for Katatonia to hit the stage. At exactly 10 p.m., the curtains went up, the intro music rang out loud and clear on the PA, and the band members took their stage positions.
What followed was a Katatonia set that seamlessly flowed from song to song as the band breezed through their 20-song set. In recent years, the band has been known for their mellow, low-energy vibe in live settings; but during these two shows, particularly this headline gig, I was pleasantly surprised by how heavy they sounded. They’ve let frontman Jonas Renkse explore the melodies while Anders and Per on guitar, along with the rhythm section of Niklas Sandin on bass and Daniel Liljekvist on drums, keep the heaviness intact.
The slow, thick chorus riffs got a majority of the crowd to bang their heads. I never imagined I’d head-bang so much at a Katatonia show. Set list-wise, they had four tunes from the latest album, Dead End Kings, of which "Dead Letters" sounded particularly strong. They had a selection of songs from Night Is The New Day and went further back into the catalog for other tunes. Getting to hear songs from Last Fair Deal Gone Down was a bonus. There was nothing from the first two albums, not that too many Katatonia fans expect to hear that material in 2013.
“Soil’s Song” was another highlight, with its melodic doom feel pleasing fans of both the mellow and heavy aspects of Katatonia’s music. They intelligently blended in the Dead End Kings material with the older stuff, so as to not make anyone restless. Anders’ guitar tone was absolutely fantastic, and riff came through crisp and clear. I am digging their approach of taking out most of the melody from the guitars and leaving that part for Jonas to take care of. That’s the reason Dead End Kings is an impressive release, and by all means they should continue with this approach for future material.
It was a great way for Katatonia to end their North American tour, with a killer headline show seen by an appreciative and enthusiastic gathering of fans at a great-sounding Roxy. Based on their performance this time, all I can say is, regardless of whatever pre-conceived notions you might have about Katatonia, see them live and you’ll be very surprised.
May 27 Set List:
01. The Parting
04. My Twin
05. Burn The Remembrance
06. The Racing Heart
10. The Longest Year
11. Soil’s Song
13. Sweet Nurse
15. Ghost Of The Sun
17. Day And Then The Shade
18. Dead Letters
Andrew Bansal is a writer who has been running his own website, Metal Assault, since early 2010, and has been prolific in covering the hard rock and heavy metal scene by posting interviews, news, reviews and pictures on his website — with the help of a small group of people. He briefly moved away from the Los Angeles scene and explored metal in India, but he is now back in LA continuing from where he left off.
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