Re-recording albums are generally hit and miss and often acoustic reworking of songs can be a little off the mark. What’s quite puzzling about Katatonia’s Dethroned And Uncrowned is that they have entirely re-recorded their latest album, Dead End Kings from 2012, in mostly acoustic form.
It begs the question why? Why re-record an album that came out just a year ago opposed to a collection of songs from your catalogue? It’s what Anathema did with Hindsight and it worked a treat. Nevertheless, Katatonia were determined to make this album, even venturing into crowd-funding to make it all happen. They even moved away from Peaceville to its sister label Kscope, one of modern prog rock’s most esteemed labels with Steven Wilson and Ulver on their roster. Given the tone and mood of Dethroned And Uncrowned, the move makes all the sense in the world.
Dethroned And Uncrowned is heavily laden with layers of acoustic guitars, spectral pianos and morose string sections. There are several nuances to be picked out of theses lush arrangement but like many a Katatonia album since their 1998 change of direction on The Discouraged Ones, the vocals of Jonas Renkse steals the show. Unsurprisingly, the best songs from Dead End Kings are the best songs from Dethroned And Uncrowned. ‘The Parting’ opens with Jonas’ imposing croon and the acoustic guitars begin to blossom from there into the rich chorus and the duet with The Gathering’s Silje Wergeland on ‘The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here’ makes for one of the early highlights of the record.
Dead End Kings’ midpoint was made up of largely filler tracks like ‘Leech’ and ‘Ambitions’ though. They inhibited much of the album’s momentum before picking up the impetus again ‘Undo You’. Sadly, these events are repeated on this album and it’s very much shaped as two hills and a trough.‘Lethean’ and ‘First Prayer’ are once again the ultimate standouts, where the former’s utterly gorgeous chorus sounds equally as affecting and powerful with mere acoustic guitars as it does with a grandiose electric.
Dethroned And Uncrowned is a fan’s album and it’s difficult to see its appeal reaching beyond someone that already owns every Katatonia record. Regardless, it can be enjoyable, just inessential.