We Never Learned To Live – Silently, I Threw Them Skywards


It’s an unquantifiable, ethereal thing, is atmosphere. It is can be created accidentally, or cultivated with utmost planning and precision, and shattered and changed by the slightest inaccuracy being present. It’s clear from the shimmering clean guitar note that slips into understated vocal of intro/opener ‘Shadows In Hibernation’ that on their début album Silently, I Threw Them Skywards (Holy Roar) Brighton, UK, based quintet We Never Learned To Live are meticulously aiming for a pervading atmosphere of deep, immersive melancholy.

To achieve this, there is detail and precision at every step of their emo-meets-post-rock catharsis, and that an incredible amount of thought has gone into things, from the reflective and meditative backing and complimentary guitars to the connections and meanderings that link the songs. At their peak, such as on the jangling, progressive, Karnivool-esque ‘Vesalius’, WNLTL show not just an understanding of how to meld post-rock and depressive music into a meaningful output, but also that they are able to craft it into songs that provoke the desired response in the listener of drawing them away from the outside world into the introspection and immersion required to genuinely get something out of this music.

Yet, fastidiousness doesn’t always equal results, particularly not emotive ones, in the music field, and constancy is even harder to maintain than atmosphere. Sean Mahon’s vocals are inconsistent, jarring and grating as often as his flat cleans croon down another cul-de-sac. Alongside this, the creation of a continuous, similar soundscape serves to feed the feeling of monotony; as, alongside a re-occurring lack of vocal hooks – and I don’t necessarily mean choruses – there is a gaping hole in terms of dynamics (having a section that comes in with a bit of shouting and a some distorted chords is not a crescendo), and the song-writing element seems to have been lost in amongst the being neat (and boring).

Post-rock, particularly of the more morose, introverted kind, treads a fine line at the best of times, and despite moments of promise, We Never Learned To Live, more often than not, are unable to consistently produce the emotive, powerful compositions required to stand out in this field; fading, as with several of their tunes, into the background, defined as much by their inadequacies as their strengths.




Katatonia – Sanctitude


Initially pulled together as a tour to promote Dethroned & Uncrowned (KScope), which reworked the bands 2012 album Dead End Kings (Peaceville), the Katatonia acoustic tour of 2014 took on more significance with the decisions to expand the set to a full career-retrospective, booked in cathedrals, churches and chapels, and documented via Sanctitude (KScope), a live DVD (plus audio CD version) filmed at London’s Union Chapel.

With the reverent gothic backdrop of the inside of the chapel, and accompanied on the stage only by candle light and music stands, it is not only in the re-arrangements of the music that this is a different Katatonia, with vocalist Jonas Renske and guitarist Anders “Blakkheim” Nystrom the only remaining members from the band’s “classic” line ups. Even the group for Dead End Kings has been torn apart, with Per Eriksson replaced by Bruce Soord (The Pineapple Thief) and Daniel Moilanen filling in on percussion, for the tour.

Unsurprisingly, the focus of the film is Renske and his world-weary croons and Nystrom’s and his reworked guitar lines. The addition of Soord is beneficial, as his supporting strums, softened backing vocals and supplementary keyboard work swell and embellish the Swedes delicate framing of a selection of their back catalogue.

With the bonus features of the DVD extending to an overlong and, sadly, boring interview only (which is a shame, as Nystrom in particular has a passion for the band that glimpses out of some of his answers that is untapped by the lack of interaction with a presenter), the focus of Sanctitude is the live performance. Unobtrusively filmed so as to feel as though the watcher was front row of the show, the band are sat throughout with Renske displaying dry self-deprecating wit during his low key exchanges with the audience.

While the minimal staging and direction match the stripped down songs, there is a nagging feeling that a shorter set would have made a more striking impact as several of the songs, shorn of their apparel and original guitar lines, sound too similar and at 80 minutes, attention does wander, particularly early on, and it is interesting that the set draws you in as it unfurls rather than impressing from the outset. Indeed, the opening five songs pass by pleasantly and prettily enough, nice renditions that blur together, until ‘One Year From Now’, the first real standout moment, is unveiled, showing just how well an acoustic Katatonia track can be done.

Other notable moments include ‘Sleeper’ and a dark, melancholic ‘Undo You’, while ‘Lethean’ spreads out into an introspective chorus as Renske’s Maynard-esque harmonies lilt and drift with the song. ‘Omerta’ carries a folky edge and ‘The One You Are Looking For’, complete with guest performance from Silje Wergeland (The Gathering), is an understated and sparse ending to the performance. However, the true show-stopping moment is a bare version of the rarely visited ‘Day’ from Brave Murder Day (Avantgarde), the track that first showcased the real template for the Katatonia sound.

Where Renske and Nystrom take the band next will be interesting to see, but one can’t help feeling Katatonia are better with some oomph to their songs. Not one for the casual observer, this is a release for the dedicated as Sanctitude draws a beautiful, if not fully encapsulating, end to another chapter of the bands career.


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