Katatonia/Ghost Bath/The Great Discord – Manchester Sound Control, 11/05/17 (Live Review)

Katatonia UK Tour Poster

Well, it’s a fine Thursday evening in Manchester, and the wise and the lucky are gathered in Sound Control for a very exciting lineup.

The Great Discord

The Great Discord Live 1

The Great Discord’s 2015 release Duende is a stunning album. As such, the opportunity to catch the band live is too much to miss.

Appearing like some ancient, atavistic avian goddess, the singer looks, quite frankly, terrifying, but not without a certain allure. This is largely in contrast to her beautiful voice. Full of power and strength when needed, but fragility and softness at other times, her voice reaches deep into your soul…and attempts to break it. Her voice, taken together with her appearance, means that she utterly dominates the stage.

The whole band are animated and energetic throughout their opening slot, easily making it worth everyone’s time to be here early for them.

The Great Discord Live 2

Their songs easily translate into the live environment. Catchy and memorable hybrids that mainly fall between modern and Gothic-tinged metal, the band are utterly convincing from the very first note. The songs weave ephemeral light, streaks of colour, and a deep underlying darkness into rich tapestries that are more highly accessible than this description might suggest.

With a heavy, full sound and an imposing stage presence, The Great Discord belie their status as openers and put on a performance worthy of a headliner.

Loved every last minute of it.

Ghost Bath

Ghost Bath Live 2

And now for something completely different…

Nestled incongruously between the seductively jagged beauty of The Great Discord and the sophisticated rock/metal of Katatonia, Ghost Bath stand out with their distinctly non-standard brand of atmospheric, post-depressive, (or whatever), black metal.

Despite its hefty length and atypical approach to the style, I have resolutely fallen for Starmourner, big-time. Therefore, like The Great Discord, I have been greatly looking forward to seeing them tonight.

They don’t disappoint.

Opening with a blistering blast beat-fuelled wall of distortion that quickly gives way to melodies that are brighter than the sun, Ghost Bath immediately make their mark. Their three-guitar approach is occasionally lost in a slightly murky sound early on, but this is soon mostly rectified. Once it is, Ghost Bath are revealed in their full live splendour.

Appearing rougher and more aggressive in the live environment than they do on album, what the songs lack from their recorded counterparts in atmosphere they make up for with power and bite. Which is not to say that the former is completely missing, more that the latter aspects of their songs are emphasised. With that said, the atmospheric aspects and the effervescent melodies of the music are still present in spades, even with the more aggressive veneer, and there’s no denying the power of these songs.

The vocals are deeper and coarser live too, taking on a more brutal aspect that sees them become more prominent than normal, while still being the recognisably distinctive screams that we know and love.

Ghost Bath Live 1

I really like how obviously into it the whole band are too. The amount of energetic headbanging that goes on during their set is exhilarating, it’s just a shame that there’s not much of it replicated in the audience. Regardless, as far as intensity levels go, Ghost Bath are up there with the best of them. This is exactly what you want in a live show from this kind of band.

Leaving the stage one by one as each instrument withers away to nothing, we are left with just haunting piano and the memories of a band that are at the top of their game, one that they are shaping on their own terms, one album at a time.

Offering a completely different form of entertainment To The Great Discord, yet still strangely complementary, Ghost Bath offer an enthralling and very enjoyable performance prior to the main event.

Katatonia

Katatonia Live 1

It’s always amazed me how Katatonia never became way bigger than they are. Around the time of Tonight’s Decision and Last Fair Deal Gone Down they seemed marked with the potential to go stadium-sized, but somehow never did. They’re probably still too metal for the masses, I suppose. Ah well, the world’s loss is our gain, and getting to see them in a relatively intimate venue like this is a privilege not to be spurned.

The band write songs that are catchy and memorable, yet still highly emotive and filled with depth and substance. These are perfectly reproduced live with the professionalism of veterans who have been doing this for a long time. Don’t think that this means their performance lacks passion or energy though. Far from it, it’s just projected in a different form than that of the arty showmanship of The Great Discord or the colourful intensity of Ghost Bath. Katatonia embody assured confidence and mature power.

Touring in support of their latest and tenth album The Fall of Hearts, the songs off this release are arguably less immediate than those of a lot of their predecessors, but are no less powerful for this. Playing a good selection of tracks from both this and many others from across their lengthy career, Katatonia deliver a masterful and flawless performance.

From the start the band are greeted like returning kings, and they deserve it from the opening song onward, (Last Song Before the Fade, taken off their latest release).

The singer’s voice is clear and strong, and in fact the entire band have a powerful and clear mix from the moment they begin to play.

Katatonia are also the first band to verbally interact with the crowd. As the singer notes before the band launch into Dead Letters, Napalm Death are also playing in Manchester tonight, (which might at least partially explain the sparser than expected, (by me at least), turnout). He then goes on to thank everyone in attendance for choosing this show to come to. There’s still a decent-sized crowd, however, one that’s more than enthusiastic enough in their obvious adoration of the band.

Katatonia Live 2

With so many standout songs to choose from, almost every one they play is greeted with rapturous applause and palpable enthusiasm from a captivated crowd. Just as it should be.

It’s hard to pick a favourite, but the one-two hit of Teargas followed by Evidence┬áis definitely a highlight for me. At least it was, until Ghost of the Sun is unleashed and blows everything else so far away. In truth all of the songs they play are inmensely enjoyable though, and the entire set is well-chosen, gets better as the show progresses, and succeeds completely in demonstrating why the band are rightfully so loved. Forsaker nearly brings the house down. They fake-close with Passer, and the crowd love it. When the band inevitably return to finish the night off, the crowd love it even more.

It’s hard to fault any aspect of tonight’s show, and Katatonia are the epitome of a premium quality headlining band.

Yes, although it’s somewhat shocking that Katatonia never blew up to be arena-playing superstars, after witnessing tonight’s sweaty and intimate performance in a venue that’s probably half the size of where they deserve to be playing, I can’t help but be glad they didn’t.

Tonight they were simply amazing.

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