Photo by Olga Järvenpää

An atrium of melancholy: Katatonia and Sólstafir live at Kulttuuritalo, Helsinki

Author John Wins - 26.1.2023

It was another cold night in the capital of Finland, and outside it was already possible to see fans arriving at Kulttuuritalo to check out the trio of bands that make a mix of doom, ambient music and melodic metal, and the vast majority were present to witness our Swedish neighbors, the mighty Katatonia.

The first band of the night was the Americans from SOM, who already drew attention from those present in the audience, despite being the guest band of the current tour. Making a very experimental sound with emphasis on the ambience of the vocals, the group does not have an attractive stage presence, leaving the quartet focused on their instruments while green lights color a solid presentation.

The fact that it was a night with three bands allowed fans to take advantage of the breaks to talk, eat and buy merch from the bands, very beautiful and at affordable prices.

The second round had the Icelanders of Sólstafir adding more emotion and rhythm for everyone present, standing or sitting in their respective places. Also being a quartet with a sound very similar to the previous band, it is in the vocalist Aðalbjörn Tryggvason that the band has its great highlight. Walking, exploring the stage, with a guitar or without an instrument, it is in the way in which Addi expresses herself that he shows the musicality of the band founded in 1995. Tracks like “Ótta” and “Goddess of the Ages” show all the emotion of the lyrics, whether them in English or their local language.

Photo by Olga Järvenpää

The instrumental part also has moments that attract the eye, such as guitarist Sæþór Maríus Sæþórsson’s pickless technique or bassist Svavar Austmann’s bass lines followed by swinging his braids. With a tight instrumental, it allows the singer to enjoy the spotlight, especially in the final part of the show, where he walks along the border that separates fans from the stage, and holding the hands of some, ends his recital of feelings.

Fifteen minutes before the clock marked 22:00, the mood of mystery is in the air when Katatonia started with a very intense groove from drummer Daniel Moilanen. The first two songs of the night were “Austerity” and “Colossal Shade”, which are part of the new studio album by the band Sky Void of Stars, released on January 20th, both tunes are very groovy.

Despite the band singing about delicate themes that walk through different feelings, Jonas can be a funny artist on stage, when he comments that the band is from Sweden, followed by the phrase “ruotsi paskaa”, which made the audience share a good laugh. The lights change from green to blue, letting the singer’s vocals get a nice companion in Roger Öjersson’s harmonies of backing vocals.

Photo by Olga Järvenpää

Guitarist Anders Nyström could not be present on this tour, but Nico Elgstrand is a good replacement, as seen in “Deliberation” and “Ambitions”, which, in addition to the instrumental part, makes a perfect background for Jonas’s unique voice to shine one more time. Among the red flashes, the vocalist walks across the stage.

The new album already has a tracklist well appreciated by the fans, like “Birds” for example, which shows the strength of the most recent work. The filter effect for the voice on “Behind the Blood” from the excellent City Burials, is very cool, replicating the studio version, but during its execution and in the sequence with “Forsaker”, the singer had some problems with his in-ear monitor and microphone, which didn’t interfere with the band’s performance.

Although many fans were sitting down, “Opaline” had its intro celebrated with a sea of synchronized claps, in addition to having a very beautiful chorus. The sequence with “My Twin Play” and “Atrium” has Jonas’s stage presence as its strong point. His pose while singing is iconic, either because of the silhouette or details like his floating hand, as if trying to caress feelings.

The show also has beautiful moments instrumentally speaking, like bassist Niklas Sandin in “Old Heart Falls” or one of the best moments of the night, guitarist Roger’s solo in the track “Untrodden” that closes the setlist before the encore.

Photo by Olga Järvenpää

The return to the stage takes place with an atmosphere of mystery, not because of the fans who were enjoying it and some were even dancing alone, but because of the ambience of the song “July” and its melody. Nico Elgstrand was once again celebrated by the band and help on this tour. The end happened with the classic “Lethean” and its peculiar cadence, with a work of cymbals very well done by Daniel.

With red lights, the five members of Katatonia thank everyone, say goodbye and tell it’s just another “see you soon”. Until then, the songs of the Swedes continue to be the soundtrack of some moments in the lives of the fans who made it to the venue to check out a show that embraces the soul and brings hope.