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No Sleep Til Katatonia

Katatonia are yet another Scandinavian – and more specifically, Swedish – heavy band who have been around for seemingly years , who have an illustrious body of work behind them and play a strictly high calibre brand of metal. Forming way back in 1991, Katatonia have released eight quality albums and have toured the world many times over, although it’s their sound that sets them a little bit a part from that of their contemporaries. Coming across as somewhat of a ‘mellow Opeth’, their music is considerably more ambient, controlled and considered than what you would normally associate with Swedish metal bands and, in a similar way to the aforementioned Opeth, they seem to stand alone in a genre of one.
 
Again in contrast to many of their peers, over the course of almost two decades in existence and so many tours, Katatonia have actually never made it to Australia. This is about to change however, as the band hit our shores very shortly with the massive No Sleep Til festival, which kicks off in Auckland on December 10, and takes in every Australian state capital over the course of the ensuing nine days, landing in Melbourne on December 17. The festival bill is absolutely enormous, featuring everyone in heavy music from Megadeth to Gwar to Dropkick Murphys, and Katatonia lead singer and founding member Jonas Renske and the band cannot wait to come and lose their Australian virginity… so to speak.
 
“Yeah, it’s our first trip (to Australia)” he confirms, “and everybody’s really, really looking forward to it. It’s such a huge thing for us because Australia is so far from Sweden; it’s not a place you play very often. At least, not for where we are right now. So it’s a dream come true, absolutely,” he grins.
“(The plane ride) is the bad part of it,” he laughs, “I think we have something like 40 hours to get there, but it comes with the job I guess.”
 
Being that it’s the band’s first ever trip down under, Jonas and the band are unsure as to what to expect from Aussie audiences when they come down here, especially for a band whose sound is a little less ‘in your face’ than what a lot of the crowd at No Sleep Til might be expecting. A band such as Katatonia, with their unique qualities, are always going to be a little different to most of the other acts on such a tour. One would like to hope that audiences will keep an open mind for a band of their ilk.
 
“Umm, I’m, not sure yet,” Jonas considers, regarding the expectations of Australian audiences, “because it’s a very different type of tour, and the lineup is kind of different from what we have done before. So the audience will probably differ as well. I just hope that we have some kind of following that will actually show up and maybe we can win over some new fans too!”
 
As for the band’s more dulcet tones, “Yes, that’s completely true,” he states, “even since we started the band back in ’91, we always wanted to create atmosphere, rather than just making a lot of noise!” Jonas laughs. “And even though it’s different from the beginning, nowadays we try to – even in the live setting – create the atmosphere and just ‘go with the flow’, I guess. So what the audience will react like, I’m not sure. But of course, we’re still a metal band so we still have that heavy edge to everything we do. I think it’s fine to be more of an atmospheric act, while all the other ‘real’ metal bands do what they do. So I think we have our own spot, in whatever we do live.
 
“Metal music has expanded a lot since we started playing, back in the early nineties,” he points out, “and I think that’s good, because there’s something for everybody. Especially on a festival like this one, where you can choose what kind of bands you want to see, what kind of mood you are in etc.”
With the band clocking up an epic two decades of existence next year, the band still feel heavily inspired to create their own brand of epic and atmospheric metal, with their latest album, 2009’s Night Is The New Day, arguably their best and most complete album yet. “I’m extremely happy with it,” he states, “every song needs to be a standout song, and blend well with the rest of the songs. It’s a difficult task but I think we pulled it off very well.”
 
So much so that the band don’t feel like it’s been so long since they brought the band together. “Not really,” Jonas agrees, “it’s something that I often think about, especially when we’re on tour and stuff. I still feel a lot of hunger for doing this; making music, playing music. It does not seem like twenty years have passed,” he grins. “But it’s just an amazing amount of time. I’m really happy that I still have the drive to make music and to go out there and play. I don’t feel like an old man!” he laughs again, “so I’m very happy with the situation still.”
 
The band intend to mark their 20 year anniversary with some special celebrations, in a similar way to how Opeth did this year to commemorate their own two decades as a band. “Yeah, we’re planning it now,” he reveals, “it will be some kind of celebration, with some special dates and stuff, but we haven’t started to make more concrete plans yet. So it’s just in the first stage, but it will be a fun thing. I’m looking forward to that.”
 
Hard core Katatonia fans are obviously going to check out the band’s set at No Sleep Til, but punters not as familiar with them should avail themselves of a look at this band too, for something just a little different. Just remember, the mind is like a parachute, it only works when it’s open…
 
KATATONIA play the NO SLEEP TIL festival at the Melbourne Showgrounds on Friday December 17, alongside Megadeth, Descendents, NOFX, A Day To Remember, Gwar, Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, Atreyu, Parkway Drive, Suicide Silence, 3 Inches Of Blood and heaps more. Tickets and info through nosleeptil.com.au. Night Is The New Day is out now through Stomp.