Katatonia / Scar Symmetry / Insomnium / Swallow the Sun Funhaus, Toronto ON September 11, 2007

For many people this night at the Funhaus peaked early, with Finns Insomnium and Swallow the Sun making both their Toronto debuts and killer first impressions. Swallow the Sun, in particular, had a spellbinding effect — doom-y without the drudgery, a mix of growling with a little singing and some faster heavy parts to balance the weight of the intensity and delicious gloom they brought down on the room. Using the same keyboardist and gear, Insomnium followed up with some of their most upbeat and melodic material from all three albums; it wasn’t as mesmerising as Swallow the Sun but magic nonetheless. Repeated appearances in the city have earned Scar Symmetry their own small following, but their lighter-toned approach didn’t please everyone. As always, they delivered a tight performance with dead-on vocal harmonies, ear-catching riffs and lots of hooks, but they seem to be training for arena shows rather than focusing on the club around them. The venue’s dark intimacy worked well for the first two acts, but didn’t set Katatonia soaring. The atmospheric quality of Katatonia’s music never fully translates to a live setting, and although they clearly know how to rock, it’s not their greatest strength. Typically raw, the mix and the band’s performance (especially vocals) verged on hit ("Evidence”) or miss ("Don’t Tell a Soul”), although now and then Jonas Renkse and Anders Nyström achieved a wonderful moment of harmonic resonance. The set list was disappointingly typical, mostly songs from the three most recent albums ("Teargas” proved to be the biggest crowd-pleaser) and only a brief nod to the earlier records ("Deadhouse,” "Had to (Leave)”). For the one-song encore, Katatonia dug a little deeper into their back catalogue and brought out Renkse’s guttural growl, providing a somewhat anti-climactic treat and a chastely early finale.