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Interview: Katatonia’s Jonas Renske and Anders Nyström on the new album ‘City Burials’

Fans have waited three years and nine months for new Katatonia. It’s the longest time between albums in the band’s 29-year history – and there’s good reason for that. On March 4, 2018, every fan’s worst nightmare came true.  ‘On hold’ were the words posted to the band’s social media. The Swedish prog band had just finished their 2016-18 touring cycle in support of 2016’s ‘The Fall of Hearts’, so nothing else was on the cards.  There was no further explanation.

Then, on February 20, 2019, something happened.  The band announced they would be touring for the 10th anniversary of ‘Night Is the New Day’.  That kicked off in May and away the year went.  Then the album news came, and now they’re back with album number 11, ‘City Burials’. So what happened? “(We wanted) to have a bit of recharging; get some perspective to see if this is what we actually want to do full time,” founding member and vocalist Jonas Renske says.  “There’s a lot of touring and you sometimes miss your family a lot, so it was just nice to have a bit of a break. And I think we came back really hungry for more. Definitely everybody had missed touring with the band.  I think that’s a good thing to do because then you don’t get totally worn out and quit the band or something.    It’s better to have a bit of a break sometimes if you need it.”

The other founder and guitarist Anders Nyström echoes his friend’s sentiment. “It was a basically a time-out. We needed to get everyone attentive to address and solve issues we weren’t happy with and also get enough time to reflect on future direction. If it hadn’t been for the ‘Night Is The New Day’ anniversary we were eager to celebrate, I’m not really sure when the next motivation would have showed up. But we’re glad things unfolded this way eventually.”

Renske actually began writing City Burials during the hiatus, but not for Katatonia. “City Burials was at first supposed to become Jonas’ solo album, which he was already working on together with Anders Eriksson (contributed to ‘Night Is The New Day’, ‘Dead End Kings’ and various remixes) on guest keyboards under the Katatonia hiatus,” Nyström says. “However, he changed his mind at the very last stage, just before hitting the studio with other musicians implying he rather wanted it to become a Katatonia album. I listened to all the songs he had written and the Katatonia connection was already there in most of the material, so after some re-arrangements and touch ups, we hit the studio and co-produced it just like we’ve done for decades.”

In addition to having Eriksson on board, the group were inspired by an injection of fresh blood, with their most recent recruit, guitarist Roger Öjersson, debuting on this album. “Roger is a fantastic musician,” Renske says. “It’s a pleasure to have him in the band … He’s a great guitar player. He’s been with us for years actually, but this is the first album that he’s been featured on.” Öjersson joined in 2016, but just a year later, he was hospitalised by a serious back injury. His fellow guitarist says he’s still not 100 per cent but that hasn’t stopped him from shredding. “He still walks around with a cane and undergoes rehabilitation with extended medical prescriptions, but nonetheless, it didn’t prevent him from playing like a god all over the new album,” Nyström says. “I actually encouraged Roger to play more guitar than me as I’m more comfortable in the producer role these days. I only care about what will benefit the song in the best way possible. I love to focus on intricate details, but never losing the grip of seeing the bigger perspective.”

City Burials is 11 songs at its core, but those who buy certain mediums get access to two bonus tracks. It has been released on CD, deluxe mediabook CD with bonus tracks, black and coloured vinyl LPs with bonus track and digitally. “One is called Closing Of The Sky, which is our own song,” Renske says.  “It’s a very Katatonia song.  And then we did a cover song of a Swedish band called Enter The Hunt.  They only did one album a few years back, but we thought they had some really strong songs, so we have covered one of their songs called Fighters.  It’s a bit a little bit more metal based, but it’s really a strong song.  We wanted to do something just to pay some tribute to the band.”

When it came to lyric writing, remorse and the passing of time were the primary themes. “Time is stealing a lot of things from us all in terms of making things memories instead of something that’s in the present,” Renske says. And like many songwriters, he prefers to keep the origins of the lyrics close to his chest. “I really like to keep them very open because I don’t want to force people to think of the lyrics the exact same way as I do, because that takes away a lot of the value on them. It’s everyday life kind of bleakness; the darker side of things. It’s nothing too extraordinary. It’s just reflections on the bleak things in life.”

City Burials is out now via Peaceville

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