Two years after the release of their debut album, Here There Is No Why, Katerwaul faced a difficult decision: with guitarist Sam Coleman leaving the band for pastures new, what would their future hold? Would they disband, leaving behind all they had worked on since forming in 2007, or would they forge a new path forward as a three-piece? The answer, thankfully, is the latter, and the first steps on that new path can be seen in forthcoming second album The Dirt & The Trees.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, losing a member has done nothing to shrink the band’s epic sound; in fact, it might even have gotten bigger. The loud parts are crushingly loud, dealing blow after blow of relentless musical ingenuity, while the quiet parts are devastatingly quiet, haunting and bereft of all but the tenderest of emotions. The word ‘rollercoaster’ is brought out all too often when describing albums, but The Dirt & The Trees transcends that notion: it's a journey, not a ride, that Katerwaul aim to take you, the listener, on.
Opener Silver City eases you into the record, shimmering cymbal rolls and sparse guitars underline vocalist Tim Courtney’s lingering vocals before the driving force of February erupts from nowhere. It’s telling that the band chose February as a preview of the album earlier this year, and it’s certainly one of the strongest tracks on an album of incredibly strong tracks.
The highlight of the album, though, is undoubtedly Fear and Symmetry. Almost an album in itself, it begins with an air of melancholic mystery, drawing the listener in, until a barrage of guitars and drums breaks free from the speakers, filling each and every corner of the room with a tumultuous, glorious noise. Ending with a beautifully picked acoustic guitar melody, it’s a stunning track and one that represents perfectly the highs and lows of the album as a whole.
The album continues on in this vein, rising to the highest peaks and sinking down to the deepest, darkest depths. The ominous introduction to Departures heralds a powerful, driven track; a peaceful tranquillity runs through Dwindle and Blaze; intense emotions are tapped on Please Go Home.
Throughout the album, loud and quiet – love and regret and aggression – are thrust together, manipulating the listener’s emotions, causing you not just to listen but to think about the music; think about the experiences and feelings behind the songs. Tim Courtney’s vocals brim with emotion across each and every track; haunting and resonant, they permeate the rich soundscapes created by fellow bandmates Graham Chalmers and Nick Morrice. Layer upon layer of instrumentation is built up in each song, from delicate acoustic guitars to thunderous drums, and powerful electric guitars to luxurious strings.
It soon becomes clear to the listener that The Dirt & The Trees is not a collection of songs merely thrown together. Rather, it is an entire work of art full of songs carefully crafted over a period of months until each and every piece of the puzzle has been meticulously put in its proper place. As such, The Dirt & The Trees is a stunning album; an album of cohesion and of deep meaning.
The Dirt & The Trees is out on the 22nd of October via BOI Records.