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OneMetal.com music LIVE REVIEW: Katatonia & Agent Fresco @ O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 21/10/16

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This gig started early to make time for two Katatonia sets and a pair of support acts. Unfortunately this meant I saw about thirty seconds of VOLA‘s opening set, but the packed room and loud response suggested they had done a good job of warming the stage up. Still, the first band I actually saw was:

Agent Fresco – [4/5]

agent-frescoHow has Iceland produced so much great metal? Despite having a smaller population than Croydon, Agent Fresco are more proof that their music industry overperforms as much as their football team. They play complex music with strong pop sensibilities, resulting in a catchy mixture of almost every possible interpretation of progressive metal. Frontman Arnór Dan Arnarson is key to this versatility; he’s a fantastic rock vocalist who can also pull off a strong Jens Kidman impression for their heaviest material.

Also, points to Agent Fresco for treating sub-bass kicks exactly how a noise so loud it has a physical presence should be treated – they closed more than one song by hammering the audience with them repeatedly. Gratuitous, but definitely gleeful enough to make up for it.

Agent Fresco’s Facebook: www.facebook.com/agentfresco/

Katatonia – [4/5]

katatonia1Not wanting to keep their fans waiting, Katatonia appeared in quick succession for their first set. This celebrated the anniversary of 2006’s The Great Cold Distance by playing it in full. I wasn’t sure this would suit me since I got into Katatonia six years later with the excellent Dead End Kings. Conveniently enough, Distance is a pretty accessible album and a lot of fun to hear from start to finish. The looming aggression of ‘Consternation’ and weighty breakdown of ‘July’ gave this set a punch which kept me going during the intermission.

Katatonia worked out what they were best at a long time ago, so their second set was barely more diverse than the first. Despite spanning their discography you could hear the same structures and the same mellow verses bleeding into heavier, faster passages throughout. Even so, it was an excellent performance. Jonas Renkse’s voice, carefully chosen vocal harmonies and atmospheric guitars have made Katatonia one of doom’s biggest proponents. This was brought to the stage perfectly with bright, studio quality drums and a powerfully bass-driven sound.

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More than anything this was such a human performance, devoid of rock star posturing. When Jonas lied “We are just five guys from Sweden,” during one of his many rounds of thanking the crowd it was clear that he was being completely sincere. Instead of bathing in the audience’s adulation this was all about giving their all for their fans. Jonas even risked his voice to perform the growls of ‘Gateways of Bereavement’ for the sake of anyone in the crowd who remembered when Katatonia were a death metal band twenty years ago.

After all this, Katatonia returned to the stage for a seemingly unplanned encore of ‘Ghost of the Sun’. A great close to a night packed with treats and a worthy celebration of ten years since The Great Cold Distance and twenty-five since Katatonia formed.

Katatonia’s Facebook: www.facebook.com/katatonia

Bottom Line

If you love Katatonia you would have loved this night. There was still plenty for the casuals like me, and Jonas’ gentle and effortlessly warm stage presence was just so nice to experience.

4/5 - Great, recommended

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