Katatonia - Tonight's Decision review
|Release date:||August 1999|
01. For My Demons
02. I Am Nothing
03. In Death, A Song
04. Had To (Leave)
05. This Punishment
06. Right Into The Bliss
07. No Good Can Come Of This
09. A Darkness Coming
10. Nightmares By The Sea [Jeff Buckley cover]
11. Black Session
12. No Devotion [bonus]
13. Fractured [bonus]
Having gone from a black/doom, Gothic-era Paradise Lost worshipping act to a more streamlined, goth/darkwave/shoegazer influenced proposition, Tonight's Decision, the band's fourth album and first for Peaceville records, features the band expanding and evolving further while still retaining their trademark melancholia and fixation with simplistic yet trance inducing songwriting.
The band are back to a trio as a result of bassist Micke Oretoft having departed, leaving guitarist Fredrik Norrman to handle session bass work on this recording. Tonight's Decision also marks the first Katatonia recording to not feature vocalist Jonas Renkse on drums, as the band have brought in none other than former Edge Of Sanity mainman and producer of the first two Katatonia efforts, Dan Swano, leaving Jonas to concentrate fully on his singing duties. First off, mention must be made of the amazing artwork that decorates the CD booklet. Designed by Travis Smith and dressed in tones of deepest blue and grey, the images of a lonely man by a railroad awaiting an oncoming train to take him away from life, along with various other images of isolation and hopelessness perfectly reflect the lyrical and musical themes expressed by the band.
Before the CD is even spun, the impact has already begun. Desolate and beautiful. Where Discouraged Ones could almost be taken as one long song due to its' intentional lack of variation, Tonight's Decision sees the band broadening their ideas a bit, and injecting a bit more variation in tempo and song structure. The intent is more on giving each song its' own individuality and offering the listener more variety from track to track. Opener 'For My Demons' is a great start to the album, Jonas showing growth as a vocalist and exploring new shades of melancholy with his voice.
Swano is well known as a multi-instrumentalist, and his work behind the kit is tasteful and plays a big part in the more varied structure of these songs. 'I Am Nothing' features a very effective chorus and some desperate cries from Jonas, ["...what is worth with being here, I pray so often for a change..."]. A bouncy, almost popish, rhythm is the foundation for 'In Death, A Song', which has a somewhat awkward sounding chorus. I'm not sure if the band intended it that way, but there's just something about it that seems uneasy.
It's rare when I come upon a song by this band that I am indifferent to, but this is the case with 'Had To [Leave]'. By no means a bad song, it just doesn't effect me as emotionally as the other material does. It's a mostly slow to mid-paced affair with some nice doomy riffing, but overall fails to evoke any kind of emotional reaction to it.
'This Punishment' possesses a similar spirit as 'Day' and 'Quiet World' as it is presented in a dark, mellow melancholy that captures the feeling of loneliness and makes everything around you seem like it's been frozen in time. The empty chairs in the photo behind the lyrics for this song further enhance the overall feeling of isolation. Jonas chooses a half-whispered, half-sung approach here that fails to be as convincing as it could have been. The chorus is fine, but his vocals during the verse sections seem like they could have been delivered with a bit more conviction. Norrman and Nystrom create a spellbinding atmosphere with their ambient guitar melodies towards the end of this despondent piece.
Things pick up with 'Right Into The Bliss', a mid-paced number with a very memorable chorus, making this a definite album highlight. 'No Good Can Come Of This' opens with a chunky riff broken up with a beautiful clean guitar section that is way too short, and back to the beginning theme. This is again a song that for some reason does not evoke an emotional reaction from me, albeit a good song in its' own right, there is something missing within it that is usually present in a Katatonia song.
'Strained' features a guitar melody that reminds everyone how influential Gregor Mackintosh of Paradise Lost has been on the guitar work of this band. A great song with a great, impassioned chorus, "...I'd like to try to live my life again, I'd like to see where I was going wrong...". Acoustic guitars usher in 'A Darkness Coming' and remain the foundation of the song along with some serene keyboard subtleties, until things pick up midway through only to return to the acoustic theme to bring this classic Katatonia song to its end. Jonas's vocals are full of desperation and despair and unlike 'This Punishment', his efforts in this song are very convincing.
The band has taken on a few more influences from outside the metal realm, such as singer/songwriter Jeff Buckley, whose 'Nightmares By The Sea' is covered here and fits in nicely without disturbing the flow of the album. The album ends with 'Black Session', which is centered on one of the heaviest riffs the band has written since 1997's Sounds Of Decay EP.
About a minute and a half after the end of this song, there is a hidden guitar instrumental that just oozes with sorrowful despair, merging tranquility with darkness and a brooding ambiance of oncoming dread.
The American re-release of Tonight's Decision includes two bonus tracks that did not make it onto the final mix of the album. 'Fractured' and 'No Devotion' are both excellent songs, and I just have to ask myself why a song like the dark and brooding 'No Devotion' gets left off the album in favor of a song like 'Had To [Leave]'.
I also have to question the track listing of the album. I can't help but imagine that had this album ended with 'A Darkness Coming', a much bigger impact would have been made. This would have been a very effective way to end this album and I almost want to make myself another copy of this album just to hear how it would flow had things been done this way.
Aside from this, which are just minor quibbles that is nothing more than me just being overly critical, this is another amazing release from Katatonia, once again offering a soundtrack to rainy evenings and lonely nights. Even the title of the album, "Tonight's Decision", triggers images of nocturnal isolation in one's mind. When darkness provides comfort such as this, the light becomes less appealing.
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