Updated January 9, 2022.
Katatonia has release "Dethroned and Uncrowned," a radical reinterpretation of their 2012 release, "Dead End Kings." Fans have been mixed over the album which finds Katatonia exploring the more ambient and Progressive elements of Dead End Kings, while remaining truthful to the core of the album's songs. Katatonia says, "The album is foremost stripped down rather than 'pimped', it's also semi-acoustic and most things have been turned around, completely! The album title doesn't lie, the drums have been dethroned and distorted rhythm guitars have been uncrowned! We've placed the emphasis on the many layers of ambience, with the melodies staying central and the vocal harmonies representing the heart of the album."
Yet this isn't the first time the band has toned down, their 2010 EP "The Longest Year" has many similarities to their latest release "Dethroned and Uncrowned." Over the years many artists have reinterpreted their own works, but more commonly select songs from their career rather than creating a second version of an album in its entirety. The stripped down versions while bearing many similarities are truly a unique version expanding the sound of Katatonia. Listeners who enjoy Anathema, No sound, and acoustic music in general will find this release to be compelling. The drums and electric guitars have been replaced with acoustic guitar and piano with additional vocals and orchestral embellishments pushed to the foreground.
The sound is smooth and relaxing throughout the album with parts punching through to carry the listener from start to finish. With an identical running order to their original album the Dead End Kings, the release opens with "The Parting." Vocals echo from the front dissipating in the rear channels with a very psychedelic effect. Listeners will immediately notice that mixing engineer David Costillo has dropped the center channel, opting for a 4.1 surround mix, rather than the more common 5.1 found on most music mixes. Instrumentation falls around the four channels with an extremely lumpy bass rounding out the low end. There is no brittle sizzle, rather a sultry crisp presentation of the guitars and keyboards, and an ethereal ambience that spreads across all four corners of the sound stage. While some conformity is apparent in the surround mix, there is also a wonderful amount of creativity in the placement of instruments and voices from track to track. Each song stands on its own within the surround soundscape. "Building" is a great example of the artistic use of the 4.1 channels with keyboard runs trickling down a scale from the rear right channel, and orchestral swells falling slightly forward of the back channels. Unlike other mixes "Ambitions" starts with the orchestration at the rear before the vocals arrive in between the front channels. However, the bulk of the aural energy of the song still remains at the rear and only leans forward with the introduction of keyboards and during the guitar solo. Nothing against Steven Wilson, but it is fantastic to hear surround sound mixes from other engineers, lest we get stuck in a rut with a well-treaded formula that Wilson commonly falls into.
While a clear departure from the norm for Katatonia, separating oneself completely from their preceding album is the best way to listen to "Dethroned and Uncrowned." This is a very good release and an extremely pleasurable surround sound mix. Both MLP Lossless 4.1 surround and stereo mixes along with DTS 96/24 4.1 surround and LPCM stereo are contained on the DVD disc. Recommended for progressive music fans, those who seek energetic acoustic pieces, and fans fascinated by the evolution and reinterpretation of material by this formidable band.
UPDATE: Now available as a download 5.1 FLAC edition. It is assumed that the center channel is silent to mirror the original 4.1 mix as reviewed above.
Audio CD and a region free DVD with a 4.1 surround sound mix. Also available in Vinyl. Plus a 5.1 FLAC download edition has become available at the end of 2021.
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About the Author
Wesley is a lifelong music enthusiast. He started his career in the recording industry in New York City as an audio engineer, producer, and studio manager. Subsequently he toured across America as a guitarist with the short-lived band Land's Crossing. After many years in the technology sector and amassing a substantial vinyl and CD collection, he delved into immersive audio and created Hi-Res Edition to share with other listeners about the sound quality and discrete mixes available on many formats. He recently upgraded his system to 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos and continues to seek out and share about the best sounding releases.