Saturday, October 9, 2010

Katatonia brings taste of Swedish Metal to the Masquerade

There’s something about a metal concert that words just can’t quite capture.

There’s the thump that you feel in your heart every time the drummer hits the kick pedal. The basslines that you could never seem to make out on the CD become so dynamic and fluid as it pulses through the crowd. And then, there is the decibel factor. When you leave a show, your ears will still be ringing when you wake up in the morning.

I got a chance to witness three great bands perform at The Masquerade in Atlanta Monday night, each with their own distinctive style and background. Progressive Rockers Orphaned Land, hailing from Israel, Finnish Doom metallers Swallow the Sun, and Swedish hard rockers Katatonia. It was an unbelievable night of metal that I won’t soon forget.

Hell Hath no Fury Like a Concert Goer Cramped

First, a little about the venue. The Masquerade consists of two concert arenas; the upper level is called Heaven and down below is Hell. Makes sense, right? Heaven, from what I’m told, is a spacious venue where the major bands play. I got to witness these fine bands straight from the jaws of Hell.

Hell is smaller and much more cramped, but you get a chance to get closer to the bands. If you go up the ramp on the right hand side there’s a seating area to the side of the stage, and there’s literally nothing but a rail separating you from where the band plays. You can slap fives with the band, etc., between songs and sets, and it makes for a great atmosphere.

Everybody jump for Orphaned Land!

The show kicked off with Orphaned Land, whose influences range from Iron Maiden and Depeche Mode to the more traditional Middle Eastern music of their homeland. On their albums, they’re well known for using a diversity of instruments, but here they went with strictly a guitar/drums/bass setup.

They interacted with the crowd very well. The guys looked like they were having a great time on stage, and that energy transferred into the crowd – It was something they could feed off of.  Their vocalist, Kobi Farhl, would instruct the crowd to jump while the band played, trying to get them into it even more.

I also thought it was cool how the drummer really got into it to. He would stand up behind his kit and try to get the audience into it. 

Orphaned Land brings a taste of the Middle East to Atlanta

Swallow the Sun Swallows the Tempo

Next up was Swallow the Sun, a band I had the privilege to see perform at the Muse in Nashville in 2009, and I also met their vocalist, Mikko Kotamäki there. When they took the stage the lights dimmed which made for a more gloomy atmosphere. 

Swallow the Sun slowed down the pace from the frenetic, bouncing around tempo that Orphaned Land established, but it helped set the mood for their style: a much more slow, heavy , doom type metal vibe. They do a fantastic job of creating atmosphere. 

Vocalist Kotamäki is capable of pretty melodic vocals, but can also deliver deep growls – picture Mikael Akerfeldt type growls. And he also pulls off bloodcurdling shrieks. They have great melodic guitar leads and expert arrangements on keyboard . 

Drummer Kai Hahto was also impressive. He was keeping some complex beats on the drum pads while employing lightning fast double bass. 

Myself and Josh Rogers with Juha, Mikko and Aleksi from Swallow the Sun

Chill Out: It’s Time for Katatonia!

The last band of the night was the headliner, Katatonia. What amazed me about them was how they were able to go from having a very mellow, chillout vibe one minute to being heavy as hell the next. I can’t think of many bands who can combine that as well as Katatonia. 

Their sound is based on pretty, melodic guitar leads and flowing bass lines, while still bringing the intensity of a metal band. Katatonia was playing without guitarist Fredrik Norrman and bassist Mattias Norrman, who left in 2009.

Katatonia’s appearance got the crowd even more engaged than before; The audience began  energetically chanting for “Forsaker.”  Somebody threw a bra onstage. And then the moshing broke out. 

The last major metal concert I went to gave me the chance to get my first brush in a mosh pit. It was neat; I got a major scrape right under my chest. The moshing didn’t really get started until Katatonia got into the meat of their setlist, but when it did it became frenetic.

Katatonia brings down the house at the Masquerade Monday night.
After a short encore, Katatonia was done and it was time to head home. I mingled with members of Orphaned Land and Swallow the Sun, who had gathered down by the merchandise table. I also snagged some merchandise, took photos, and got an album signed. The experience put a considerable drain on my bank account, but it was worth it for the great time and memories made.

I said there are things about a metal concert that can’t be put into words, although I guess I tried my best here. The best thing I can say is get out to your local venue and support some bands if you get the chance. You’ll see what all the fuss is about.

Katatonia has officially achieved Rock God status.

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