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Despite being into their third decade, gloomy Swedish progressive metallers Katatonia are still producing fine work. 2009's Night Is the New Day was heralded as the band's finest ever album, and with prog's increasing influence evident across the more facile end of the metal spectrum, this band is doing better than ever.
Dead End Kings marks another progression for this outfit - in terms of album structure, anyway. While their previous effort was a sumptuous effort with a sum greater than its parts, this ninth album is a collection of fantastic, searching songs that stand alone as well as they do together. It's still completely and utterly miserable, though… so very, very miserable.
The cellos in opening track The Parting add solemn layers to music that is already laden with sorrow and introspection. It's a multifarious affair from then on in. The slightly sinister Hypnone adds strength before the album succumbs to the mellow, emotive The Racing Heart.
Buildings is the most resolutely metal track here. Its humungous riffs are positioned at exactly the moment where the listener may have been lulled into a false sense of security, bludgeoning guitars swelling the song's belly with a fiercely charged beauty. There are other moments of grandiose, majestic beauty breaking up the murkiness, but Buildings is the only piece of metal you're going to get.
Dead Letters is massively reminiscent of Tool - and while the American prog-grungers remain at work on their overdue fifth LP, it's a very welcome sound. It doesn't last though. As with everything Katatonia do, the song wanders off into another direction, atmospheric moments splintering into sparse orchestration, Jonas Renkse's murmured voice flying across the top throughout.
The closer is certainly the finest standalone song here, bringing Dead End Kings to a glorious and complex end. There's no grand climax. It just fades to dust, allowing you to reflect upon yet another excellent album from Katatonia.