If you haven't already heard Katatonia's 'Night Is the New Day,' hold off on compiling that top 10 list for the year. The Swedish metallers, who are coming up on their 20th anniversary, outdid themselves on their latest effort, which, in short, sounds like Opeth's 2001 classic 'Blackwater Park' with clean vocals. The follow-up to 2006's 'The Great Cold Distance' is a diverse offering that weaves death metal rage with melodious guitar godliness. And according to leader Jonas Renkse, the band has been getting the Opeth comparison "more so than before, but it doesn't really bother me."

While he doesn't claim Opeth as a "direct influence," Renkse agrees that Katatonia "share a lot with them." Perhaps not coincidentally, Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt handled growling vocals on the band's 'Brave Murder Day' and 'Sounds of Decay' LPs.

Beyond that, the band's lyrical focus tends to follow a similar path. Like the band's earlier work, 'Night Is the New Day' concentrates on "the bleak side of life, personal distress, urban exploration. I just have to try and vary myself a little on those subjects as I don't want the lyrics to be too alike on every record. Maybe they are a bit more poetic on this one," offers Renkse, who adds the band is planning a U.S. tour for 2010. Let's hope they do make it to the States, especially for the sake of all those lady metalheads out there.

"Recently, Nick [Holmes] from Paradise Lost managed to pull down [drummer Daniels Liljekvist's] underwear on stage in front of an unsuspecting audience," says Renkse. "Daniel is the guy who keeps the spirit. He's always fun to be on tour with."

The complete lack of growling on the disc was not some shameless attempt by Katatonia to cash in on any trend. It was a necessity, ever since Renkse's voice gave out some years ago. Renkse wasn't even "tempted [to growl] for this one. I felt the vocals managed to convey the whole spectrum of emotions that I had."

While some critics are calling 'Night Is the New Day' the band's crowning achievement, that doesn't intimidate Renkse one bit. In fact, its more motivation to make the next LP even better.

"That's the challenge," he says. "I honestly don't know, but we are very picky as well, so we won't release anything that isn't on par or better than any previous album."