Katatonia's sound has always stood out in the heaviest of genres, distinct from the roots of metal and untouched by hooks and clichés. Co-founders Anders Nyström and Jonas Renkse's songwriting have been described as defying convention, with intricate riffs weaving in unexpected ways, and emotional crescendos transforming into moments of fragility. With their latest album, Sky Void of Stars, the band continues to showcase their unique approach to music, which has earned them a reputation as one of the most intriguing progressive bands in the industry. While the album pays homage to the band's doom metal past, it does so through the same remarkable songwriting that sets Katatonia apart.
When releasing their 12th studio album, “Sky Void of Stars,” they turned to the Napalm label and stepped into the spatial world by mixing their album for the first time in Dolby Atmos. Yet, the group has long since embraced immersive audio, having first dipped into the 5.1 surround sound realm way back in 2006 for the release of their now-classic album “The Great Cold Distance.” The group continued this trend over the next four studio releases, 2009’s “Night is the New Day,” 2012’s “Dead End Kings / Dethroned & Uncrowned,” and 2016’s “The Fall of Hearts,” plus the 2015 live album “Sanctitude.” However, that trend unfortunately ended with 2020’s “City Burials,” which left immersive fans wondering what was next.
Well, while this latest release is readily available on streaming sites in spatial audio, physical copies of the deluxe CD + Blu-ray edition were severely limited to 700 copies worldwide. Thus, having just been released in January of 2023, this edition is already out of print. Collectors who pre-ordered their copies have reported that the package is pretty spartan, appearing to have little thought going into making the physical product. While the 7x7 inch wood box is attractive, the contents include only a handful of trinkets inside in addition to the CD + Blu-Ray discs. One can already find the deluxe edition being scalped for anywhere from double to triple the original list price, which is disappointing for collectors who didn’t get in line in time to purchase their physical copy. In the past, standalone editions were made available, and fans can only hope for that option soon, or at least offering a digital download copy of the 5.1 and Atmos mixes.
Of further note, I assume the hi-res audio is all at 96kHz / 24-bit, as mixing engineer Bruce Soord has been selecting this sampling rate and bit depth for other releases, including his own group, The Pineapple Thief. Naturally, the Atmos version is 48kHz / 24-bit, as Dolby has set that as the sampling rate for all current Atmos mixes. Soord has become one of the top immersive mixing engineers in my opinion, and having listened to this released via Apple Music, the Atmos mix continues to showcase his mixing mastery. He makes excellent use of the back channels, allowing the music to flow all around the sweet spot and elevating into the heights. Likewise, the overall sound quality is vivid and well balanced, leading to a very musical mix that engages the listener, offering nice dynamics, punch, and power.
Certainly have a listen on your preferred streaming platform that offers the Dolby Atmos version, and hope for an alternative physical or digital edition to add into your library, if you are like me, and missed out on getting a deluxe copy.
Released January 20, 2023.
Limited edition CD + Blu-ray featuring Atmos and 5.1 mixes. Also available for streaming in Dolby Atmos, plus as a CD or Vinyl edition.