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Brave Murder Day represents a major progression in Katatonia's pioneering sound of depressive doom/death, and while much imitated it has never been equalled. Sounding mournful and despondent, simplistic distorted cords are played over straightforward drumbeats, overlaid with tortured and lamenting screams and growls courtesy of Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt. The mid to slow tempo songs manage to be minimalist and repetitive without ever becoming dull, and the composition is excellent, with each song ebbing and flowing in an emotionally stark manner, with desolate, distorted riffs underlining forlorn clean guitar cords. The hypnotic drone-like guitars often recall Burzum, and guitar solos reminiscient of 'Gothic' era Paradise Lost blossom forth occasionally from the mire. As with Opeth, much of the emotional power of the album is due to its masterful use of contrasts, with the songs managing to be at once delicate and aggressive; defeated and defiant. The lyrics are also excellent, fitting the mood of the music very well. Jonas Renske performs haunting clean vocals on the third track, and again on the fourth track, Rainroom, where they complement Akerfeldt's screams brilliantly. Bleak, distorted riffs are employed alongside ethereal semi-acoustic passages, reminiscent of more recent efforts by bands such as Forgotten Tomb and Xasthur, and there is the odd harmonised twin guitar reminiscent of My Dying Bride.
The album combines elements from black metal, doom and gothic metal to create a masterpiece that is far greater than the sum of its parts. The Peaceville reissue also contains the excellent "Sounds of Decay" EP as a bonus, so there really is no excuse not to get hold of this if you enjoy depressive metal. Essential.
Fans would also do well to check out Katatonia side-project October Tide.
Returning from the dead, Katatonia released one of the iconic doom metal albums of the 1990s, the much-imitated 'Brave Murder Day.' Enlisting the aid of Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt to provide the death metal growls that Jonas Renkse apparently decided he could no longer handle, this is nevertheless a departure from the band's previous Anathema-style doom, making a significant step towards the depressive rock that would characterise their subsequent releases. For coming right in the centre, this album boasts a distinctive sound, or at least it did until numerous other bands started to copy it.
The style here is based largely around repetition, and is thus reminiscent of both modern post-rock and eighties gothic rock, especially in the plodding drum beats. Blackheim dispenses with keyboards to concentrate on minimalistic yet effective guitar chords, and the songs are all effective at creating a sparse, cold and mournful atmosphere. It doesn't even matter too much that 'Brave' is at least twice as long as it needs to be, nor that 'Rainroom' is almost an exact copy of 'Brave,' as this is a perfect album to chill out to when contemplating life's woes, throwing out the occasional guitar solo to keep your mind from wandering in more depressive directions.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
8 At Last
9 Inside The Fall