Backtrack – Katatonia – Last Fair Deal Gone Down
Posted by Reggie
Sweden’s Katatonia are about to crack the 20-year mark in December 2011. They will be playing all the major Scandinavian cities culminating with a headlining show in their hometown of Stockholm. Katatonia will perform with both current and former members. The collaboration is promising to be a spectacular Katatonia 20-year anniversary show.
If you have been a fan of Katatonia since the beginning, you know they were much different than they are today, especially in the vocals. What used to be harsh growling vocals has evolved into a range that is clean, crisp, and haunting. The transition happened around 1996 when Brave Murder Day was released. The harsh vocal range took its toll on singer Jonas Renkse. Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt stepped in to record the (harsh) vocals. The next Katatonia album, Discouraged Ones released in 1998, was where Renkse’s vocals made the transition to a much cleaner style, which was a big risk for the band at the time. I’d have to say, ultimately it paid off.
In 2001, Katatonia released Last Fair Deal Gone Down, their fifth studio album. This is where my backtrack review begins. I am enthralled by this album. I just recently purchased the 10-year anniversary edition which includes tracks from their Teargas EP plus two another tracks called “Oh How I Enjoy The Light” and “Help Me Disappear.” From start to finish, LFDGD is haunting, cold, and as dark as you might expect any Katatonia album to be.
The first song is Dispossession which means denial or withdrawal. It establishes the mood immediately with its enchanting melody and soft, clean vocals. Renkse’s vocals force you to feel the song. From this point on, LFDGD is captivating. Teargas is my favorite song on the album. It is a powerful song about emotional pain someone can inflict upon a person; the result is like teargas in your eyes. Renkse delivers powerful yet smooth vocals. Katatonia lyrics are not known to be perky.
The musicianship is clean and crisp. This is the kind of album that you can either headbang to or just sit and be captivated by the emotion you feel in the music. No single person dominates the overall sound. The guitar work couldn’t be better for this album; it’s impeccable. The music itself is poetry without words; however, Renkse’s vocals add the depth needed to make LFDGD a complete piece of work. Last Fair Deal Gone Down is top-notch Katatonia.
Last Fair Deal Gone Down is an album that is an experience. It is well balanced and even though Renkse’s vocals are far from harsh, they are far from boring. His range is very powerful and is reason I distinguish him as a premier vocalist. Even if you are just a casual Katatonia fan, this is the one album in their discography that you need to own. I wish it didn’t take me this long to figure that out. Enjoy!
Check out these live performances of Tonight’s Music and Teargas, and Chrome.