Katatonia’s Dead End Kings was my 10th favorite album from 2012. To my ear, it sounded as if the band had progressed and matured their sounds and themes. Yet, here we are again with the remixed and stripped down versions of the albums. Produced through a crowdfunded campaign, Dethroned & Uncrowned was released September 3, 2013. Feelings aside on remixed products, after having listened to Bruce Soord and Jonas Renske’s album, I had hoped to hear a very different genre approach to the album.
I heard, driving home from work on Friday, that a good song or album should not be tied alone to genre standards. This statement cemented how I felt about their approach to this album, turning it from an easily perceived cash grab into an emphatic statement from the band that they can easily do more and demonstrate a far higher degree of subtlety than they had showed previously.
Dethroned and Uncrowned offers an entirely different perspective: they guitars are acoustic, the vocals are out front, keys and synths are mixed higher. Comparing to the original mixes, the music presented in this fashion has more of an emotional connection to me because the metal guitars don’t drown the mix in their sound. Songs from Dead End Kings that I tended to let play without much thought became very focused in their remixed versions. “The One You Are Looking For” is the best example of this as the Dethroned and Uncrowned version creates an air of fragility with the female vocals followed by a dancing synth. The chorus, a duet between the male and female voice, is backed with hand clapping percussion.
The song “Leech” which I entirely don’t consider when thinking of Dead End Kings sounds richer and fuller with the inclusion of strings; its lead into “Ambitions” drew me back into the more pensive half of the album. Both mixes of “Ambition” are wonderful, but how it’s particularly tied into the remixed album is the most interesting part. The 25 minutes of run from “Leech” through “Dead Letters” feel like movements within a greater composition; something I’ve not much heard from Katatonia to this point.
“First Prayer” is their most successful remix, especially in that it feels more organic than in comparison to its metallic version. The original interpretation of the song came through as describing and focusing on the anger and hurt with not having a prayer answered; this interpretation focuses on emptiness and longing and is quite possibly one of the best songs of the year.
Katatonia offers a fresh look at 2012’s Dead End Kings with this album, and in some ways, they outdo the original. If you’re a fan of quiet, introspective music, then you will enjoy Dethroned & Uncrowned, especially if you enjoyed Wisdom of Crowds. These remixes offer a more organic, less aggressive vision of the particular brand of melancholy. The music become more vocal driven, and my original complaint of Renske’s voice being the weakest point of Katatonia is no more. I would pay $20 for each of their successive releases if they include a metal version and an acoustic version.