Katatonia – Sky Void of Stars (Napalm)
Even though they moved away from it soon thereafter, Swedish group Katatonia will always remain synonymous with death-doom, the genre they helped pioneer in the early 1990s along with contemporaries Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, and Anathema. Metal purists will, of course, scoff at the idea, but there is something to be said about their later output is at least as good as their seminal early releases. Sky Void of Stars, their 12th studio record, continues on the path set by 2020’s City Burial, but channels that album’s varied stylistic influences into a more cohesive whole.
Led by Jonas Renkse, the band fuse progressive and gothic rock elements, electronic flourishes, and pop sensibilities into stellar miniatures complete with bluesy solos and sections of uncut lyricism. Despite the first-rate instrumental performance of the musicians, it is Renkse’s songwriting that steals the show. Each of the ten (plus one bonus) songs highlights his knack for writing tight, self-contained compositions that are simultaneously supremely catchy and intricately layered. Lovely album. – Antonio Poscic
Lord Mountain – The Oath (King Volume)
Considering that today traditional doom metal appears to be considered a known quantity and a generally straightforward style, one would think it would also be very simple to pull it off properly. Yet the general lack of quality on the scene suggests something different. This makes Lord Mountain’s debut all the more surprising, since it nails every single aspect of the genre, from the creativity found in Sean Serano’s riffs and Andy Chism and Pat Moore’s steady but pumping bass and drum rhythms to Jesse Swanson’s soaring, velvety delivery very much reminiscent of Ozzy Osbourne.
The links with Osbourne don’t stop there, either, as cuts such as “The Sacrifice” sound like lost Black Sabbath B-sides, in the best sense possible. Elsewhere, they give a nod towards trad doom titans Pentagram and Candlemass (“The Giant”) and incorporate progressive flourishes found within the opus of Slough Feg (“The Oath”). Altogether, this concoction of perspectives is fresh and woven around truly excellent songwriting. It turns out great doom metal really can be that simple! – Antonio Poscic
Natt – Natt (Edged Circle)
Debut record for the Bergen-based instrumentalists Natt, and it really hits the spot. Built around the duo of René Misje, and Roy Ole Førland and with the aid of bassist Lord Bård and Enslaved drummer Iver Sandøy, Natt embark on a cosmic journey. Their 45-minute-long debut is all about the magical essence of rock music. The pretty, mesmerizing quality of progressive rock makes the introductions in “Skillevei”, something that is further highlighted by the very welcome guitar solo—balancing between the melodic and the discordant, Natt drive into further territories.
Elements of post-rock define the structures, while at the same time, the touch of psychedelia is undeniable. “Skillevei” is drenched in this mesmerizing and otherworldly DNA, introducing a mysterious, dangerous, and yet enticing journey through the cosmos. That is completed with some krautrock extensions, becoming more apparent in “Appell”. Aided greatly by the repetitive motifs, Natt create an intricate mystical design through subtle build-ups and explosive crescendos. The cherry on top comes with the epic closer, “Etterslått”, a wondrous from ambient beginnings to full-on drone/doom majesty. – Spyros Stasis
Obituary – Dying of Everything (Relapse)
Compared to their brethren from Florida’s legendary 1980s death metal scene, Obituary are the only ones that stayed stubbornly true to that original sound across their career. While their recent LPs have been, sometimes validly, deemed stale and uninspired, on Dying of Everything the quintet feel rejuvenated and energetic, as if they had discovered some new hellish purpose. There is little to no filler to be found on the ten cuts here. They take everything that makes Obituary and push it to extreme: majestic grooves as if purpose-built for circle pits, slivers of melody embedded in bone-sawing riffs, aggressive, thrashing attacks, and haunted vocals that evoke a horde of demons on the loose. – Antonio Poscic