January 20, 2023 we in Tampere, Finland were lucky enough to catch not only the first show of an epic European tour, but also the first ones to hear Katatonia‘s much anticipated 13th full-length album Sky Void of Stars live, on its release day! Pakkahuone was sold out long before the gig in Helsinki, although that too was eventually a sold out show.
Hailing all the way from across the pond, SOM from the US opened the night with a flurry of ethereal doom-pop-shoe-gaze sounds emanating from a smoke clad stage. It felt as if their sound pulled those still trickling in slowly forward as if on a string. Their sound and presence gave me similar vibes to Hangmans Chair…. but replace the grit and grime with fluffy clouds and you get SOM. Hangmans Chair meets Deftones.
Next up was Icelandic cowboys of metal Sólstafir. Although it has been over two years since their last release, it was still fresh and new to see live. We all know why. Their gig flew far beyond my expectations. I could never have imagined such an attention grabbing, spectacle of a show after years of listening to their music. It was intriguing to see how all the members have their own style and pace on stage, yet it all blends together seamlessly. At times it felt as natural as if watching them during a jam session in someones garage. Sæþór with his chiller than chill guitar playing in the shadows, to Aðalbjörn’s most eccentric front man agility, there was not one single dull moment. They also had a special (local?) guest come on stage to play the saxophone live.
Katatonia was another first for me. It was really astonishing how all three bands had a totally different sound and stage presence yet they fit together in one lineup. Katatonia was more of a performance. All the members flowed together on the same page, not as if over rehearsed but just incredibly in sync and with the same level of passion. That dry Swedish stage humor that is becoming more and more familiar to me was hidden a bit under, maybe nerves, of playing all this new material for the first time, but it was there. Jonas’s vocals have such unimaginable soul and yet a subtle flare of eccentric charisma (fueled by his walking around the stage as if arguing with himself, and classy wine glass). The backing vocals also added a beautiful undercurrent of raw emotion that the recorded versions of these songs just couldn’t portrey. It was an honor to be the first to see these new songs live, and a real pleasure to finally be able to hear a few old classics live (not to mention to achieve the impossible of photographing Mr. Renkse’s face on stage!)