Katatonia Last Fair Deal Gone Down

Starting out as another faceless Eurodeath act, Katatonia finally found their niche as another faceless Eurogoth act - that is, until now. Infusing their patented drear with genuine rock touches, this Swedish quintet has fully realised their place at the top of the metal heap. With a titular reference to blues man Robert Johnson, Last Fair Deal Gone Down is not only an undeniable album of the year, but it is also one of the most finely crafted darkwave records of all time. Instead of the usual depressive trappings, Katatonia choose hope over hostility while tempering their melancholy with maturity. Tapping into the loneliness of life, each composition emotes moods of other exemplary bands: the sparing acoustics of "Tear Gas" and "Tonight's Music" beckon the listener back to the sadly forgotten the Moon Seven Times; the ragged riffage in "Clean Today" recalls A Perfect Circle (though the album was written before Mer De Noms); the electronic applications of "We Must Bury You" invoke the ethno-ambience of Muslimgauze; and the magnificent Moody Blues are channelled through the flawless vocal harmonies of singer Jonas Renske in "I Transpire." The loose classical intro of "Don't Tell A Soul" conceals one of the album's more assertive tracks, along with heavyweights "Chrome" and "Dispossession." Mesmerising fretwork by long-time axe man Anders Nyström and superior percussion (with lots of cymbal bell tings and simple yet tasteful jazzy fills) by new drummer Daniel Liljekvist only add to this magnum opus. As genre-bending as Cave In's Jupiter, this record sets the precedent in demonstrating both magic and loss, and with an engaging four-fold CD package, Katatonia invite all metal fans to unlock their secrets. (Peaceville)