Katatonia – Sky Void Of Stars (Album Review)

The past few years have been quite wild, and in 2023, Heavy Metal music of all types seems to be in a thriving position. Now nearly three months into the new year, one of the many strong new album releases within the Metal world thus far would have to be Katatonia’s Sky Void of Stars. Released on January 20th through Napalm Records, it is the Swedish band’s twelfth studio album, and arguably one of their most melodic, however, very true to their mindset at this moment in time.

A band which has been established for over three decades now, Katatonia has fluctuated with their sound over these years – from the Dark Death Metal, to doom and gloom, to Progressive Rock, to a more gothic melancholic sound that has overtones of depression. 

Overall, Katatonia has a very distinct sound that is like no other, and they have carried that sound through the decades, despite their sub-genre switch ups and explorations. Now, for those who are expecting that Death Metal vibe to carry through Sky Void of Stars… you will be setting yourself up for disappointment, but there is certainly value to be had. Sky Void of Stars certainly still bleeds the Katatonia signature sound throughout, and with eleven tracks, including the bonus cut “Absconder,” there is plenty to dig into. 

It all begins with “Austerity,” which is a pleasant opener picking up where Katatonia left off in progressive overtones, but not before adding a bit of a softer, deeper quality. It is a subtle changeover from what is yet to come, and it still features some of that special solo guitar work that they are known for. Next up, “Colossal Shade” brings in a mesmerizing touch of somber melody. This is before shifting forward in all aspects with “Opaline” which is a peaceful melody of beauty and sadness.

Beginning the mid-portion of the album, “Birds” soars into your heart and soul before smoothly sailing you into the calming “Drab Moon.” This is before beginning the descent towards the end of the album with the very compelling storytelling song “Impermanence.” At just over five minutes long it gravitates through some very creative moments that will intrigue any type of listener. Jumping over to “Atrium,” there is some great use of echoing to enhance the lyrics, and it fades away into “No Beacon to Illuminate Our Fall,” in a successfully connected way. The latter, as the longest track on the album, at over six minutes long, is a beautiful, creative piece that is a joy to listen to in a session of solitude.

All these factors in mind, the sadness and gloom that Jonas Renkse’s vocals portray remains very peaceful throughout Sky Void of Stars. Unique in his approach, Renkse’s voice has always had a calming effect in the way that they bleed out heartfelt emotion that can ease any broken heart. The rest of the crew – including co-founder Anders Nyström (guitar), newest member Roger Öjersson (guitar), Niklas Sandin (bass), and Daniel Moilanen (drums/backing vocals) – really dance extremely well with Renkse’s vocals, thus enhancing them into a relaxing essence throughout this album.

Katatonia’s diversity should be appreciated; rather than old school fan expecting them to stay heavy, when the world is crumbling before our eyes. They are staying true to their emotional journey through it all, and for this Cryptic Rock gives Sky Void of Stars 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

Katatonia – Sky Void of Stars / Napalm Records (2023)

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