By Andrew Bansal
(photos by Andrew Hernandez)
March 31st 2017, The Glass House, Pomona CA: Nearly 10 months after the release of their tenth studio album ‘The Fall of Hearts’, Swedish progressive rock/metal stalwarts Katatonia finally brought their current touring cycle to North America and arrived here for a headline run, with support acts Caspian and Uncured. The tour made its way to Southern California for two shows, at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles and the Glass House in Pomona. The latter took place last Friday March 31st 2017, and plenty gathered in high anticipation of this eclectic three-pronged prog avalanche. Katatonia has never put a foot wrong on their past visits to the Los Angeles area, and fans expected their first gig in Pomona to live up to the band’s solid reputation, but perhaps no one predicted this show to be as spellbinding as it turned out to be, not only during the headliner’s set, but from start to finish.
Doors opened at 7 PM, and an hour later, New York quartet Uncured started proceedings with a highly impressive set that garnered the unanimous approval of the crowd, a vast majority being first-timers to all things Uncured. The talent in musical composition and song arrangement was vastly evident right from the outset, and it never ceased to engage and compel. Uncured’s roots are firmly planted in prog, but also in Scandinavian death metal, and the manner in which they moved from crushing heavy grooves to break into smooth, sexy interludes was beyond exemplary and forced the onlookers to smile in admiration. While their music does feature some vocals, the focus is heavily on the instrumental passages, as it should be. Formed in 2014, this extremely young group released their debut EP in 2016 and first full-length in March 2017, and have are doing themselves a massive favor by opening this tour. Attendees had high expectations from Katatonia, and from Caspian to a lesser extent, but Uncured sure was the pleasant surprise for one and all.
The American East Coast representation continued with the main support act, the all-instrumental group Caspian from Beverly, Massachusetts, who played a 45-minute set. This band, in existence for 12 years and counting, first landed on Metal Assault’s radar in 2016 when this same writer went out on a whim to see Caspian play a headline show at the Teragram Ballroom and was instantly captivated. This set was no different in its impact, and in fact it was even better. Caspian had something to prove to the Katatonia fans, which they sure did, splendidly encapsulating their best work within the time allotted to them. With very minimal stage lighting, no vocals, and no talking to the audience, Caspian’s set was all about the music. It was a stellar combination of intense buildup periods and explosively rich and heavy segments. Every time they went into a buildup, you could just sense something epic was coming soon, and it did, every time. Call it prog rock, call it post-metal, call it whatever you think fits them best, but the bottom line is, Caspian is an undeniably brilliant live band that beckons your attention, and makes you regret not having known about them all these years.
And lastly at 9:55, headliners Katatonia hit the stage, the five members appearing like silhouettes because of the lighting setup they had adopted for the performance, thereby enhancing the power and impact of the music. Photographers may have been cursing them for the backlit approach, but it certainly fits the dark, dreary, intense, epic vibes of the band’s music, and these feelings were further amplified as a result of this setup. It is not very often that they tour North America as the headline act, which makes every such tour that much more of a special event, and Katatonia sure know how to make best use of the opportunity. They played a full 17-song set here, with selections from the newest album ‘The Fall of Hearts’, as expected, but also decorated the performance with gems from the rest of their discography, going back to the 2001 fan-favorite, ‘Teargas’, which was one of the highlights, as were tunes off of the incredible 2006 album ‘The Great Cold Distance’.
Jonas Renkse is very much one-of-a-kind in his clean, melodic vocal delivery. At the same time, Katatonia is, hands down, the heaviest live prog band, revolving around Anders Nyström’s riffs, and the combination of these two standout qualities makes them one of the finest live bands in rock and metal. Their brand of prog when played on stage is capable of leaving any audience overwhelmed and ecstatic, and they proved as much here by holding the Pomona audience captive. Anyone that claims Katatonia to be too mellow to be categorized as metal clearly has not been to a show of theirs, because the truth is quite the opposite where Katatonia, through constantly exploring and expanding their progressive and melodic tendencies yet staying firmly grounded in their heavy riff oriented creative foundation, have not only maintained their reputation but have surpassed and leapfrogged many of their Scandinavian contemporaries.
Pomona was sent to prog heaven by Katatonia, Caspian and Uncured, and if you have a chance to see this tour in your town, you can be too.
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More Katatonia photos:
Katatonia set list:
01. Last Song Before the Fade
04. Dead Letters
06. Old Heart Falls
09. Ghost of the Sun
10. Soil’s Song
15. My Twin
Remaining Tour Dates:
04/03/2017 – Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theatre
04/04/2017 – Seattle, WA @ Studio Seven
04/05/2017 – Vancouver, BC @ Venue
04/07/2017 – Calgary, AB @ The Gateway
04/08/2017 – Edmonton, AB @ Starlite Room
04/10/2017 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Complex
04/11/2017 – Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall
04/12/2017 – Lincoln, NE @ Bourbon Theatre
04/14/2017 – Minneapolis, MN @ Fine Line
04/15/2017 – Chicago, IL @ Metro
04/16/2017 – Detroit, MI @ Majestic Theater
04/17/2017 – Toronto, ON @ The Opera House
04/19/2017 – Montreal, QC @ Club Soda
04/20/2017 – Philadelphia, PA @ The TLA
04/21/2017 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza