Katatonia: Sanctitude

The Swedes live and unplugged – just don’t call it death metal!

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As these Swedes strike up with A Darkness Coming, somebody in the audience is heard to enquire, “Who’s this?” When told it’s Katatonia, their reply is telling: “I thought they were some dodgy Swedish death metal band. This is great!”

While Katatonia might not have meant this album to be so far reaching, the fact is that going acoustic here has given them the chance to explore hitherto hidden corners, both of their material and their musicianship. Presented here as a DVD and CD set, Sanctitude was filmed and recorded at London’s Union Chapel during their Unplugged & Reworked tour last year. It’s an overpowering visual tapestry, with the band – augmented by Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord – playing in a candlelit atmosphere. This gives the whole concert an aura of majesty and mystery, and Katatonia rise supremely to the occasion with a set based around material from their Dethroned & Uncrowned album, but which also spins through much of their career to date. The hushed tones of the audience, who seem to listen intently to every note, could easily have given this performance the tone of a religious recital. But the sheer warmth and depth of the fans’ passion provides for an intimacy that can never be faked. People will inevitably latch on to The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here, because the band are joined by The Gathering vocalist Silje Wergeland, but the entire event, which has to be experienced in its entirety to have the fullest impact, is simply mesmerising. The DVD also contains a decent documentary, and there’s that CD copy of the gig. But really, you only need to watch what happened onstage that night to realise you are in the presence of a special band, one lifted up to new heights. Katatonia have now set themselves the daunting task of trying to follow this, but that’s a question for the future. Dodgy Swedish death metal? Never!

Malcolm Dome had an illustrious and celebrated career which stretched back to working for Record Mirror magazine in the late 70s and Metal Fury in the early 80s before joining Kerrang! at its launch in 1981. His first book, Encyclopedia Metallica (opens in new tab), published in 1981, may have been the inspiration for the name of a certain band formed that same year. Dome is also credited with inventing the term "thrash metal" while writing about the Anthrax song Metal Thrashing Mad in 1984. With the launch of Classic Rock magazine in 1998 he became involved with that title, sister magazine Metal Hammer, and was a contributor to Prog magazine since its inception in 2009.