Sky Void of Stars

Sky Void of Stars

“I was thinking about way back in time when people were navigating by the stars. If they were sailing a ship and the stars weren’t visible, that would mean you can’t go anywhere, really.” That’s how Katatonia vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter Jonas Renkse explains the title of the Swedish goth-metal titans’ 12th album. It’s this sense of being adrift that permeates Sky Void of Stars, helping to create a melancholy and introspective experience rich in metallic and electronic atmosphere. “I think it’s a very common feeling among humans,” Renkse tells Apple Music. “At some point in your life, you could feel you have no direction, or you don’t know where you’re going next.” It’s probably no surprise that the pandemic got Renkse thinking along these lines. “We released our previous album just in the beginning of the pandemic, and it sort of froze in time,” he explains. “We couldn’t go anywhere—no tours, no gigs to promote the album. And it made us feel, of course, kind of crippled.” Below, he details each track on Sky Void of Stars. “Austerity” “I think it’s a perfect opener for this record because it sets the tone. I see the song as very serious. I’m not sure why, but to me, it has a serious vibe. It’s kind of dark, but it still has a really nice flow to it. It has bits and pieces of some complex stuff in there, but most of all, I think it’s got a really huge chorus, which I’m very happy with.” “Colossal Shade” “It’s a funny one because my favorite Kiss album is Lick It Up, and I wanted to do a riff that resembled the kind of riffing they did on that. It was very hooky stuff, but it still had some kind of evil touch to it. So, I found this first intro riff and I thought, ‘This is heavy metal,’ but of course I wanted to do it in a Katatonia way, so I added a lot of textures and keyboards and stuff. It’s not an easy task to mix Lick It Up-era Kiss with Katatonia, but if you don’t try, you never know how it’s going to sound. This is how it sounds to me.” “Opaline” “I had the electronic intro thing lying around on a hard drive before I started writing for this album. I write stuff all the time and put it away and sometimes forget about it. But some stuff really sticks with me, and this was one of them. It’s a little bit influenced by a Swedish pop-rock band called Kent, so I wanted to expand that sound into a Katatonia song. It’s got a bit of an arena vibe, but it’s very melancholic as well. To me, it turned out to be one of the best songs on the album.” “Birds” “The main riff was something I wrote a while ago, but I put it aside because I thought it resembled the band Paradise Lost too much, which was one of our biggest influences when we started Katatonia 30 years ago. But when I looked back on it later, I thought, ‘Why not make a song out of it?’ Because it definitely has a hook, and what’s wrong with paying tribute to Paradise Lost? They’re a great band. But I think it also turns into more of a Katatonia song when the vocals kick in.” “Drab Moon” “I think the verse part that starts immediately is super atmospheric. It was a pleasure to just dig into. Once I got the rhythm of the drums and the bassline done, I was just so inspired to start working with the textures and the keyboards and the guitar parts, which are very sparse. But I think when the choruses kick in, they have a little bit of early 2000s kind of Katatonia. So, it’s got bits and pieces of everything—the more recent stuff mixed with some more direct stuff from what we were doing earlier. It’s not uptempo, but it still has a lot of energy, I think.” “Author” “This is the song I took the album title from. It just struck me that this little phrase, ‘sky void of stars,’ sounds like a good album title. As for the song itself, the verses have a very common rhythm that we use with the drums and the bass, but then it goes into a main riff that doesn’t have vocals on it—which we always refer to as ‘the Metallica riff.’ It’s heavy, but it’s still groovy in a way, and it’s got the right notes to still feel a bit melancholic. That riff always makes me happy when I listen back to it.” “Impermanence” “It’s one of the later songs I wrote for the album. It’s a heavy ballad with a really nice hook in the chorus. It’s got a feature from Joel [Ekelöf] from the Swedish band Soen. We’ve been talking about doing something together for some time, but it never really amounted to anything beyond just talk. But then, I was working on this song and thought it would be the perfect time. So, I got in touch with him, and I think the end result is perfect. I think our voices complement each other in a nice way.” “Sclera” “It’s one of the first songs I wrote for the album. I remember thinking the chorus part is really heavy, so we put a lot of emphasis on doing it as heavy as we could. I really like the verses because they’re built around the bass guitar, which is not something that I always do. But for this one, I felt I wanted a bassline that was solid but also a bit melodic, so I could build the vocals and guitars around it instead of the other way around. So, I was trying to do something a bit different.” “Atrium” “This turned out to be the first single because everybody we played it for said it was a bit of an earworm. It still has the melancholic touch, but it’s very memorable. The song itself is kind of basic. It’s not complex at all. It’s just about emotions. It’s not prog rock or anything. It’s very much how we used to sound 15 or 20 years ago.” “No Beacon to Illuminate Our Fall” “This is probably the most proggy song on the album. I would regard it as being very adventurous because there’s a lot of things happening. It’s very dynamic—it’s got very mellow parts but also some of the hardest parts on the album, and a couple of really nice guitar solos. It’s the longest song, well over six minutes, so we thought it would be the perfect ending to the album. There’s a bonus track featured on some formats, but this is the real ending to the album. “Absconder” (Bonus Track) “I wanted to do something a little bit different from what I usually do, so I thought about the band Muse. I wanted to do something a little bit in their style. I’m not sure I succeeded, but it’s definitely something different from what Katatonia usually does. It’s a very heavy opening, and then it goes into a really nice verse that blends a lot of different stuff in there. It’s got the ethereal quality that I like, but also some really jagged parts coming out of nowhere. It’s a very happening song.”

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