Katatonia / Gost – December 9, 2023 – Level 13, Orlando, FL

Thursday, 28th December 2023

Photos by: Brittany Barkasi

Slated to be our final show of the year is a fittingly personal and perennial Dead Rhetoric favorite – the Swedish kings of dead ends, last fair deals gone down, hearts falling, city burials, and skies that are void of stars. We’re so sorry – that level of awful pun insanity was out of control and uncalled for, but nevertheless, we’re sure you picked up on who we’re speaking of – Katatonia.

Always vehemently pulling the heartstrings, Katatonia’s ability to create engaging, thoughtful music resonates deeply for myself and many others close to yours truly, and obviously, the large audience that they’ve cultivated throughout their over 30 years of existence. Having seen them many times since becoming a fan in the late 90s ever since stumbling upon Tonight’s Decision, Katatonia is a constant in these ears. Their live shows enhance their recorded output, and we always do our best to catch each time they make the trip over the Atlantic to our shores. Teaming up with the blackened synthwave phenomenon Gost made us even more excited, as we’ve yet to experience Gost live, shaping up for a hell of an evening of new and familiar. Atmospheric rockers SOM opened the first half of the tour, and unfortunately were not present on this stop for those wondering, as this was the very final show of this trek. We’ll catch them someday!

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My love for electronic music is no secret in these parts; especially for the heavier, darker, more abstract sort. Synthwave as a genre is known for neon-soaked visuals, nostalgically chill beats and earworm qualities – all of which we love dearly. Our most intriguing iterations, however, are the artists who put a sinister and menacing twist on those styles of soundscapes – aka Darksynth. Perturbator, Carpenter Brut, Dance with the Dead, and Mega Drive are all some of the forefathers for this movement, side-by-side with the mighty Gost. Having been plying his trade for over a decade now, he’s a producer who doesn’t hesitate to take risks with his music, incorporating many fresh elements with each subsequent release.

As previously stated, this was our first time seeing Gost, having sadly narrowly missed other opportunities to catch a live set. Gost’s stage presence has changed throughout the years – from a skull mask adorned by a hoodie, to black metal-ish corpse paint – and we were treated to the full skull mask, which was super cool. Thus, we were also treated to varied set from his impressive discography, with songs spanning each full-length, resulting in a comprehensive overview of Gost’s sonic journey.

Proceedings began with the blast beat heavy “Garruth” from Possessor, beginning on a quick and aggressive note. Joined on stage by a bassist, who has been a long-time collaborator with Gost, adds an energetic visual element and additional thumping heft that brings much dynamism to their performance. Transitioning to the macabre danceable vibes of “Maleficarum” off of personal favorite album of Non Paradisi was next, and a major treat for these ears.

With Gost’s stylings differing from that of the headliner, we wondered how they would be received. Having toured with black metal legends Mayhem and Gaahl’s Wyrd, as well as a one-off at Maryland Deathfest in the past, they’re no strangers to playing in front of an audience that would differ from who a headline run would attract. Those like us who have been long time admirers, and those who were likely hearing Gost for the first time, were quite noticeable. However, as the set continued, more of the previously unitiated were swaying along with the rest of us, providing lots of cheers during and between songs. Great to see, as we suspect Gost gained some new fans on this night.

Continuing on with “Master” from what may be their breakout album in Behemoth, that album also had the most tracks played with three – the others being the catchy “Bathory Bitch” and the monstrous title track, which put yours truly into a bit of a groove-induced frenzy. Not a good visual, we’re sure, but it is what it is! Also hearing “Cursed” from the debut 2013 full-length Skull, which includes a cool sample from the classic horror flick Christine, was a major highlight of which this writer considers a synth music masterclass.

Gost’s presence on stage is just as big as his music, orchestrating the crowd as he swayed his synth back and forth, while ritualistically interacting with a pentacle carefully laid out on the ground. Ominous and infectious, Gost brings a liveliness along with their trance-inducing aural landscapes that combine to form quite the potent wallop. The gothic touches of “Blessed Be” and “Coven” from Rites of Love and Reverence, along with Gost’s seldom utilized bellowing clean vocal delivery, were a well-placed change of pace that the crowd was definitely enjoying.

As the set winded down, Gost counted down the number of remaining songs on one hand as they neared the end. For us, they could have gone on for much longer, but the near 50 minute set that we got was a phenomenal sampling of the career thus far of the Texas-based producer. Finishing was the first single and title track from the upcoming new album Prophecy, by which if this track is any inclination, could be shaping up to be one of 2024’s best.

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Katatonia has soldiered on through the years despite some bumps in the road, creating quality album after quality album. Having taken an unexpected hiatus in 2018, we thought that one of metal’s most influential creative forces may never return. Thankfully, they did a year later with City Burials soon following in 2020; an album that only got better with each spin. Singer Jonas Renske has also taken on primary writing duties on the last few records, as the other remaining founding member and guitarist/programmer Anders Nyström has seemingly taken more of a back seat. Nyström wasn’t present on the previous tour last year with The Ocean Collective, and he wasn’t on this run either, this time instead performing as a four piece. An unusual setup for Katatonia, which no doubt necessitated some guitar portions to be instead present via backing tracks. We do hope all is good with Mr. Nyström, and hope to see him in the live setup again in the future.

Known for emotive and soulful performances, this evening was no different than the many past times we’ve had the pleasure to take in a Katatonia performance. Kicking off with the opening entries from their most recent opus Sky Void of Stars in “Austerity” and “Colossal Shade” worked nicely, with these songs sounding just as powerful and impactful in a live setting as one could hope. Something about Katatonia in person hits slightly differently than on record, both being exquisite but differing experiences. Live, it’s as if the crowd is one, sharing a bevy of emotions together in a communal setting. These new songs fit that mold to a tee.

Going back to Dead End Kings, the stirring “Lethean” and “Dead Letters” were presented to much fanfare, with several not-so-dry eyes being evident throughout the crowd. That album is one we go back to often, and anything from it is always welcomed. Going back to the new record, standout “Opaline” melancholically put onlookers into a haze, with the crunchy and harder edged “Forsaker” from Night is the New Day knocking everyone into a more forthright state. Axe wielder Roger Öjersson continues to do a fine job, capturing the mood required to portray this type of music in the right way.

The band’s setlist seems to have differed slightly throughout this North American run, with some evenings including “The Racing Heart” and “No Beacon to Illuminate Our Fall” and others with “Lacquer” and the aforementioned “Austerity.” We obviously were part of the latter, and while we did not get to hear personal favorite “The Racing Heart,” hearing the downbeat “Lacquer” was an incredible moment, with Renske’s soulful crooning vocalizations cutting some proverbial onions on what is City Burials’ top track in our estimation. Renske still has that indefinable quality of sorrow and calming beauty in his voice, making evident that he’s still at the height of his powers.

The doom-etched past of Katatonia is heavily present in “Nephilim,” with many necks swaying slowly to this multifaceted late 00’s classic. This led into two more newbies in “Birds” and “Atrium,” both fitting in well within the mixture – the former especially thumping profoundly in a concert setting. Songs like these display the rhythm section’s chemistry, seamlessly working in tandem to set the tone; a credit to the smoothness of drummer Daniel Moilanen and bassist Niklas Sandin. A healthy dose of The Great Cold Distance via live staple “July” is always always welcome, along with “Journey Through Pressure” to wrap up the pre-encore presentation.

Katatonia had a strong finish planned, with the guitar heavy “Behind the Blood” infusing plenty of energy to get over the line. Crowd pleasers “My Twin” – which evoked an audience sing-along for the chorus, unsurprisingly – and the brooding “Evidence” left this darkened soul thrilled. Viva Emptiness is the penultimate Katatonia album for this fellow, with said selection being an all-timer.

An unfortunate aspect to note is that the sound throughout Katatonia’s set was relatively imbalanced, with the guitars buried behind a wall of bass drums being the most obvious offender. The acoustics of the venue also weren’t great to start with, and this certainly didn’t help, especially on the heavier songs. It’s also difficult to please my selfish whim of hoping for at least a song or two from Last Fair Deal Gone Down, but alas, as the more recent stuff understandably takes precedent, though there were definitely some fragments of “Teargas” in my eyes. Despite the aforementioned qualms (some of which are the nitpicking of an admitted fanboy), Katatonia persevered; enveloping every ear like only they can, providing a memorable and top quality concert experience that remains unique and a can’t miss.


This show was quite the differentiation of styles, yet they melded together like opposites tend to attract, giving the audience a tour finale that lived up to lofty expectation. Gost are innovators and one of the best examples of their synth-driven stylizations, and we’re glad to be able to take them off the list of band’s we’ve yet to experience but needed to. We absolutely will see Gost again.

Katatonia are one of the best musical acts in the world; not that they need to prove it to anybody, however, they’re constantly showing to be in a genre unto themselves, with a live presence that’s undeniable. It’s hard to believe that they’ve been going for over three decades now. It goes to show that time waits for nobody. It’s been quite the career, and thankfully, they’re still on a trajectory of still being a leader in creative melancholic sounds that soothe this and many other restless souls. All we can do is continue to watch in awe and enjoy being witness to the masters at work.

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