Half-past two on a sunny Saturday afternoon is not the ideal scenario in which to be seeing Katatonia, the reigning kings of Swedish depresso-metal. Thankfully this is Download Festival and, dependably, five minutes before stage-time the rain descends to set the requisite gloomy atmosphere.
There’s a good-sized crowd at the Zippo Encore Stage, considering. Mastodon on the main stage provided the worst clash of the weekend, these two acts share space in the ‘Masters of Prog-Metal’ Venn diagram. Based on the Scandinavians’ performance at Islington Academy last year, however, this was an easy choice for me.
Drummer Daniel takes his throne and Jonas Renkse enters to a rapturous welcome. It’s not just the fact that Jonas possesses one of the most affecting voices in modern metal that endears him to fans, it’s his ability to channel the dark emotions in the music, embody them and project them outwards, as evidenced with the set opener, ‘Dead Letters’. A highlight of their current “Dead End Kings” album, its refrain ‘My dreams are getting darker and darker’ make it the perfect overture to thirty minutes of depression and misanthropy.
The set features three current tracks and three from 2007’s “The Great Cold Distance”. This song selection seems oddly skewed but half an hour can only offer a paltry primer of a back catalogue as strong as Katatonia’s. ‘My Twin’ and ‘July’ are inspired choices however and suit the occasion. Similarly, ‘Forsaker’ from “Night Is The New Day” is well-received.
It’s fair to say that Katatonia are not a natural festival band. Visually they offer little bar the prospect of seeing an extremely tight and disciplined outfit. No gimmicks, this is all about the music and today they are delivering.
Too soon the final track, ‘Leaders’, comes and goes and the ghost of a sun emerges from behind the rain clouds. It’s like it knew.