It has been thirty years since drummer / vocalist Jonas Renske and Anders “Blackheim” Nyström began a musical journey that would see them evolve from a studio-only project exploring their darker musical tastes to becoming one of the most respected purveyors of melancholic and post-Gothic music; always evolving with each album, embracing Gothic and progressive metal, and always distinctively Katatonia.
The bastion of progressive, challenging and heavy music in the world, Kscope is celebrating ten years in business in 2018! Cheers! To help us celebrate, music industry veteran Simon Glacken of For The Lost PR has shared his favourite releases from the Kscope label.Continue reading
If you are familiar with Ayreon, you will probably know that these collaborative works of music are the brainchild of the somewhat reclusive Arjen Anthony Lucassen, and are rarely – if ever – performed live. September 2015 saw the presentation of The Theater Equation, four shows in which the album The Human Equation (Inside Out) was performed in its entirety in front of a live audience. While this was a successful endeavour, we had been assured for years that there would never be a live ‘best of’ performance of Ayreon.Continue reading
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.
In the final part of 3 part feature on The Pineapple Thief and their excellent new album, Magnolia (KScope), songwriter Bruce Soord spoke to Ghost Cult Magazine about songwriting and side projects…
“It does take a long time, you can’t force it. I have a guitar lying around and when inspiration is dished out then I just pick up the guitar and go. The thing is if you don’t get that magic, that spark immediately then its not going to come if you work at it, you just have to put it aside and leave it for the time being.
“I think it was about 18 months, the song writing. It was a real labour of love.”
The song writing process for Magnolia in actual fact began shortly after the previous album All The Wars (Kscope) was finished giving an indication of how long the process is. Of course this period of time did also see the realisation of Soord’s long awaiting Wisdom Of Crowds side project with Jonas Renske of Katatonia fame. “That has been gestating for a long time, about four years, so that was something I was dipping in and out of with the guy I was writing with. That wasn’t so hard because they were pretty much finished, we just didn’t have the vocals, so getting Jonas down to sing was relatively easy.”
Speaking of Wisdom Of Crowds, and cementing Soord’s reputation was one of prog’s most active components, he confirms that there is more to come from that particular project: “There will be a WoC 2, hopefully next year depending on their time with Katatonia because I know they are planning on the new album… It’s going to be a different this time because Jonas is writing as well. He has already sent me some stuff and ideas, so it’s actually started.”
If this wasn’t enough to have surely earned Soord some time with a cup of tea and slippers, he has also recently finished touring with Katatonia as guitarist on their unplugged tour in support of their stripped down effort Dethroned And Uncrowned (Snapper), an experience that Soord is very appreciative of. “It was great fun, for one the Katatonia guys are hilarious to be on tour with and two, not being the frontman, just the guy at the back who does acoustics is just so easy. It was so relaxed, I could sleep easy.”
This experience touring with a band with a more overtly metal audience (one that is still shared with the prog crowd), plus expressing elsewhere his admiration and love for the likes of King Diamond and other extreme metal acts shows Soord as music lover with a wide taste. Unsurprisingly however it is clear that Prog is where his heart resides the most, and there is one musical venture that he is keen to explore. “The thing I am quite keen to do, whether it will ever see the light of day, is a solo album that’s just me but very much designed for the studio and is a lot more cinematic. Not symphonic, but something very progressive in the sense of long pieces not worried about the verse, chorus song structure and delving into the broad influences I have without worrying about how we are going to do this live.”
Clearly Soord is one of the most musically passionate presences in contemporary rock and prog, and this is perhaps why it is so easy to find that emotional connection to his music; not just because of the familiarity of his music’s tales and feeling, but because he is a hungry music lover, just like the rest of us.
Words by CHRIS TIPPELL
Read our review of Magnolia here
With their 10th album, Magnolia (Kscope), Brit prog rockers The Pineapple Thief have given quite possibly their strongest and certainly most instant and catchy album to date. In Part 1 of a 3 part series, Ghost Cult looked behind their new found immediacy and greater critical reception to find a darker undercurrent of loss and despair for frontman and creative leader Bruce Soord.
There is very little in life that can offer as much emotional and nostalgic resonance as music. Even the most casual of fan will surely have an attachment to certain songs or albums for personal reasons, whether as a reminder of a past event or person, or perhaps as comfort through hardship and adversity; sometimes it seems like a band or artist can spell out our emotions better than ourselves. With their combination of melancholy but overriding positivity, modern progressive rockers The Pineapple Thief are a masterclass in creating music which has can hold poignant familiarity for all.
Latest album Magnolia makes a perfect archetype for their simultaneous blend of both the somber and the uplifting, from the punchiness of ‘Alone At Sea’ through to the closing, heart tugging ‘Bond’. In reality this album holds real emotional gravitas for frontman and main song writer Bruce Soord, written in the wake of the passing of his long and close friend Steve Coe, as Soord explains.
“Sometimes I’m tempted to apologise for the subject matter, the stuff that inspires me to write songs, I’ve made no secret that it’s the darkness that inspires me. When things happen that you can’t put into words, that’s when I pick up my guitar, and obviously when Steve passed away it wasn’t like ‘Wow I’m going to write some songs’ I just found myself writing and the best stuff unfortunately comes from then.”
The tragic passing of someone dear is an experience that anyone can affiliate to, and Soord offers that this is as much a reasoning for the making of such songs as his own healing process: “I think also these universal experiences that everyone goes through, this means they can relate to it. It’s not exceptional, unfortunately life can be pretty shit for people. The reason I write about that stuff is because it’s like therapy for me and I’d like to think its therapeutic for other people who listen to it.”
In hindsight, perhaps the most moving effort on Magnolia is the strikingly fragile closing ballad ‘Bond’, which is clearly Soord speaking directly to his friend. “When someone dies it’s such a strange feeling, there’s nothing you can do, it’s the most final thing in life. It’s that emotion that I found most intriguing, so the final song ‘Bond’ was me desperately trying to find something positive about the death of my friend, and that song is about taking everything, all the experiences he has given me, and taking it forward.”
Despite such tragedy however, 2014 sees The Pineapple Thief in their strongest position to date with Magnolia being received extremely well by both the media and an ever growing fanbase. With Magnolia being the band’s most direct and accessible album to date with only one song exceeding the five minute mark, the question is posed as to whether this album has been an eye opener for a wider audience?
“I think it has, and it will be a slow thing.” Soord offers, before clarifying that it wasn’t necessarily his intention to do so. “People always talk about crossing over as if people are desperate to do it but it really doesn’t cross my mind. I think some of the more cynical people will look at the album and think ‘Well, they are just trying to be more commercial and trying to sell more records’ but that honestly wasn’t the case. If by not scaring people away with ten minute songs, if that gets us more listeners then great, but it certainly wasn’t something that we did on purpose.”
Words by CHRIS TIPPELL
As far as supergroups go, few come more awesome than Stockholm’s Bloodbath. Formed as a hobby by Katatonia members Anders Nystrom and Jonas Renske along with Opeth mainman Mikael Akerfeldt and producer extraordinaire Dan Swano back in 1998 with the simple desire to pump out some filthy old school death metal, it’s unlikely they ever would have expected to become one of the biggest and most well respected bands in the scene, although given their combined status the result was pretty much a foregone conclusion.
After releasing three blood-splattered and evil sounding albums but having to deal with the departure of Akerfeldt and Swano, some might have expected these veterans to stop playing with the corpse and allow it to rot in peace. However the desire to riff fast and ugly is a strong one and a new vocalist has been found in Paradise Lost frontman Nick Holmes whose new role is elementary (I can’t believe you just did that – Ed [and I can’t believe you wrote an ‘Ed insert’ for me – Dep Ed]) given his growling performance on PL’s classic debut record Lost Paradise (Peaceville).
But is Old Nick’s presence behind the mike enough to ensure Bloodbath remain deadly in a scene rife with sharp-eyed competition? One listen to Grand Morbid Funeral (Peaceville) proves the answer is an emphatic, bellowed yes!
As the serrated riffs of opening track ‘Let the Stillborn Come to Me’ tear out of the speakers like an escaped serial killer on his way to a nearby summer camp, the primal fury of Death Metal is fully revealed in full-blooded, hate-filled form and as the track settles into a disgusting Dismember-esque groove, you’re reminded just how much this music kicks ass and lops off heads with abandon. The buzzsaw guitar sound, as much a part of the Swe-death scene as any notable record you could care to mention, is heavily evident in the marching attack of ‘Total Death Exhumed’ which also features some suitably gloomy lead-work, while the ramshackle chugging of ‘Anne’ evokes images of a demented butcher manically hacking apart corpses in some benighted slaughterhouse.
Bloodbath records have always relied on frantic pace and aggression to get their gruesome message across and while they may lack the precision of Cannibal Corpse or the bad-time grooves of latter day Entombed, their modus operandi is built on a basis of seeing how many people they can kill in the room with a rusty chainsaw before the police take them down, rather than methodically picking off victims. It’s a messy approach, aided by a suitably grimy production but which gives proceedings a rabid and unclean feel, and when they do slow things down slightly such as on the gut-wrenching crawl of ‘Church of Vastitas’ and the grotesque melodies of the title track, the atmosphere drops to especially ghastly levels of hopelessness.
Nystrom and fellow axeman Per Eriksson focus more on tearing our minds apart with a seemingly endless selection of slashing riffs, gloomy melodies and frantic solos while drummer Martin Axenrot flays the skins with an unfussy, methodical determination. Holmes may not have the deepest growl and he is buried too deep in the mix to have a massive impact but his sinister tones give the music a depraved grandeur and when all of these elements combine like on the unrestrained ferocity of ‘Famine of God’s World’ and the monstrous ‘Beyond Cremation’ you’ll be wishing that all the members quit their day jobs and focus on pumping out more of this filth every other year.
There’s enough elements of the US death metal scene to ensure that this isn’t just a caricature of the Stockholm sound, but it’s undeniable that Bloodbath are to all intents and purposes a nostalgia act and a way for a bunch of blokes nearing their 40s to act like they were teenagers again. But some of the best death metal albums were made by whippersnappers so as long as this bunch of morbid Swedes and one ghoulish Brit keep failing to act their age, the world of extreme metal will stay suitably macabre.
A release that serves both as a bridge from 2013’s An Old Storm Brewing and also as a celebration of the tenth anniversary of Arcturon, Expect Us (both Supreme Chaos) sees the Swiss melo-deathsters take a step further into the melodic.
Despite an ascending introductory riff that nods to NWOAHM, Expect Us has at its’ core a celebration of all things mid-90’s Century Media with the groove of Samael (Passages/Eternal era), the uptempo drive of Love and Death Sentenced and the gothic splashes of Irreligious Moonspell.
Opener ‘Treasure’ is the gold off the EP, with its cousins not coming up to the same level, lacking its spunk. Vocalist Aljosha Gasser’s gruff delivery suits the more uptempo kick off, snarling like Taneli Jarva, but is a clashing juxtaposition with the more reflective gothic tracks that follow; the two lines of Jonas Renske-style vocals that appear out of the blue on ‘A Restless Soul’ suit the sound of the rest of the EP much more, and it’s a shame they are only used once.
The other issue with Escape Us is that, while well played and boasting a production that recaptures the gothic warmth that Waldemar Sorychta used to excel at, little sticks in the mind as, ‘Treasure’ aside, this is a fairly lukewarm offering.
Happy 10th birthday, though, Arcturon. Hopefully decade #2 will see them find that missing something.