Live Reviews

Katatonia & Sólstafir w/ SOM – O2 Ritz, Manchester: Live Review

Katatonia & Sólstafir roll into Manchester with SOM to bring some shadowy sounds to the masses. We were there to witness a brilliant tour package.

Having just released their latest opus, Sky Void Of Stars (review here), Katatonia’s co-headline tour with Sólstafir was a must see proposition for At The Barrier. Throw into the mix, SOM, who released The Shape Of Everything last year (review here), this was a mouth-watering night of epic and emotive metal to be consumed.

Flanked by a wall of green and white lights, SOM deliver a gritty and sincere collection of songs from their back catalogue. SOM’s shadowy figures spend pretty much all of the time in the shrouds of the dark light making them pretty much faceless. They let the music do the talking. That being said, when the band converse with the Mancunian crowd, their words are thoughtful and full of humility. “Are you happy to be here? We’re VERY happy to be here?‘” This warms the growing crowd as they continue their flurry of chugging guitars and spacey soundscapes. There are flecks of Deftones and Tame Impala in amongst the sound. With a fist in the air, more thanks come from the stage as the band head to their crescendo to a wonderful ovation from the Manchester crowd.

With SOM staying in the shadows, Sólstafir are the polar opposite. The Icelandic black/post-metal band stride out in full view of the crowd to deliver an epic set that has this crowd always baying for more. Aðalbjörn “Addi” Tryggvason is as charismatic frontman as you’ll find. “Our gigs in Manchester just seem to get bigger and bigger!’“Addi remarks at the start of the set. He is not wrong. This band has grown immeasurably over the years and the mass amount of Sólstafir shirts in the crowd shows their fandom.

Náttmál opens the set before dipping back further into the catalogue with Köld, from the album of the same name. Köld is more of a black metal workout than most of the band’s more recent work. Throughout their set, Sólstafir represent most of their varied back catalogue. One of the only issues with Sólstafir is that their songs are so epic and long that you can’t fit too many into a 75-minute set!

Addi rouses the crowd as the band head through Rökkur from their most recent album, Endless Twilight of Codependent Love. Goddess Of The Ages finishes off the set with Addi taking himself into the crowd, much to the delight of the front rows. There is a sense of emphatic achievement as the band depart the stage with the obligatory picture with the crowd as the backdrop. The dynamic changes in Sólstafir’s sound is wonderful to hear and on this evidence, it only seeks to add new fans to the ranks.

As Katatonia take the stage, expectancy is unquestionably high given the acclaim for their latest album. The confidence is shown with an opening volley of Austerity and Colossal Shade. Quite apt actually as the state is engulfed in a dense aura of shadow as the latter powers relentlessly in contrast to its partner’s injections of classic Katatonia melodic guitar lines.

Emerging from the depths of the shadows, “There’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be on a Saturday night than in Manchester,’” declares Jonas Renkse. “I’m very happy,” he adds, not without a hint of irony; his humour as dark as the words that saturate his songs and almost as dark as the stage lighting. The emphasis on moody shadows pays homage to the introverted and withdrawn nature of the space they fill. No glaring spotlights or visual spectacle, the songs are left to carry the message. By contrast, that soundtrack is uplifting and often life-affirming although the words focus relentlessly on the struggles and battles that face the human condition.

As the new material provides many of the key points of the set, Birds too is outstanding, there are plenty of cherries picked from the Katatonia legacy. Behind The Blood highlights the best of the City Burials album. “You’re a torch to the temple of depression,” croons Renkse from beneath an impenetrable veil of jet black hair as we get the chance to marvel at the vastness of darkness that pours from him. The likes of Forsaker and My Twin show how longing and desperation are combined in bouts of depth charge riffing with ethereal passages that go beyond a simple rock song. They save a couple for an encore and as with Sólstafir, the 75-minute set feels not quite long enough. Maybe too much of a good thing can leave one wanting less.

For Jonas Renkse and his quartet of Katatonians (sadly missing Anders Nyström on this tour – personal things happening…) reluctant heroes they may be, but heroes with heroic music they certainly are.

The European tour for Katatonia & Sólstafir with SOM continues throughout February. Check out the dates here.

Katatonia: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / YouTube

Sólstafir: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

SOM: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram

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