Katatonia - _Tonight's Decision_
by: Pedro Azevedo (
If I knew every Katatonia album except their 1998 effort _Discouraged Ones_, I would have been seriously surprised, or even baffled, by _Tonight's Decision_. However, considering its predecessor _Discouraged Ones_, Katatonia's first album for Peaceville becomes a bit more of an expectable output, though that will most likely not be very clear during the first few listens. With guest Dan Swano somewhat unremarkably replacing Jonas Renske on drums, the biggest changes, or at least the most immediately apparent ones, concern Renske's vocals: still clean vox only, but different. These differences are quite hard to describe, as his vocals are rather varied throughout the album, but they're basically more "sung" than before; often less sombre, softer, apparently not as doomy. With time, though, a lot of it ends up sounding quite doomy after all; nevertheless, some of Renske's vocal delivery failed to convince me this time, some of his experiments didn't turn out so well and a few tracks suffer from that. As indicated by the once again superb and meaningful artwork, the album still carries an overall atmosphere of doom in its own way, differently but effectively, though perhaps not quite as much as before. But as I listened to _Tonight's Decision_ again and again, I gradually overcame most of the impression of strangeness and awkwardness I initially had. A few of the song structures are somewhat more complex than before, though the album is overall still mostly simple structure-wise. Several tracks tend to successively reveal themselves more worthy than initially suspected with each listen, but there are still enough less than brilliant choruses, passages and vocal arrangements here to keep the rating down to an 8 out of 10, as quality varies a lot within most tracks, from brilliant to somewhat unremarkable and misplaced-sounding. Instrumentally, Katatonia's current direction is hard to pinpoint, as it varies considerably from track to track: "Right Into the Bliss", for example, sounds quite like _Discouraged Ones_-era Katatonia; "A Darkness Coming" reminded me of present day Anathema; and a lot of the album reminded me of nothing in particular, not even earlier Katatonia. Not to say that this is all completely different, nor clearly less metallic than before -- typical Katatonia guitar elements still pervade a lot of the record --, but this -is- overall considerably different from _Discouraged Ones_ and after being given a generous enough chance it can prove itself a very good album. It's just that Katatonia have done better than "very good" several times in the past, and that's only occasionally the case here.
(article published 12/8/1999)
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