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Murdering - 95%

Manwaring, September 5th, 2008

Jonas Renske’s vocals on Dance Of December Souls were nothing short of amazing. At points it sounded as if he was tearing his own throat apart to achieve the sound they desired; in fact it appears my little metaphor has an element of truth to it, thus the absence of his harsh voice on this album. If you were to put a hypothetical scenario to me involving Mikael Åkerfeldt filling in for his close friend Jonas on vocals and asked me what I thought the musical outcome would be, I would probably respond rather pessimistically. I would expect some horrible mishmash of his monotonous voice, straining to keep up with building emotions of Dance of December era Katatonia, or at best a mediocre album compared to it‘s predecessor. But I would have had no idea what Katatonia had in mind for this album.

Åkerfeldt, whatever you may feel about his other musical endeavours, has an impressive amount of control as a vocalist, which is probably why he is still in functioning order and Renske is not. Control is indeed the order of the day on this album. There is a substantial amount of doom-metal added into the mix this time around, and because of this Åkerfeldt’s vocals work perfectly. The songs do not build into throat destroying climax as they did on the previous album, but rather plod along on what are essentially minimalistic chord structures, with Katatonia’s trademark melodic leads played on top. The problem with minimalism, especially in doom-death is you run the risk of simply being boring, two things save Brave Murder Day from ever approaching this fate.

The first is composition. Every song is very well put together, and I’ve yet to ever feel a single riff on the album was simply their to tied me over until the band got their act together. Another is the guitar tone. It might seem a bit anal to obsess over guitar tone as one of the major points of an album, but in the end it’s a much easier thing to quantify than the vague ghost of decent song writing. Somehow to me, especially on many doom-death albums, the guitar sounds as if it’s resigned to some empty sonic wasteland between the vocals above and the bass far below, but the guitar tone on this album does no such thing. It manages to fill the entire song in a wall a noise, in short the guitar is this album. Anyone who listens to Brave Murder Day and says “you know I really dig that bass line” is a liar.

Another factor that lets this album sit above the rest of Katatonia’s discography is the level of diversity. While it manages to be a fully ‘metal’ album, the band have begun to venture into the dangerous world of clean vocals - with surprisingly pleasing results. You can hear the beginnings of Discouraged Ones in songs like Day, or the clean passages in Rainroom, without the band letting go of their metal roots as they would later on.

It’s hard to discuss a Katatonia album without throwing around words like “emotion”, “atmosphere” and claiming that it sounds like “ the dark city streets of a post-apocalyptic dystopian netherworld” but no review can ever really convey those things, and it’s those very things that set this album up for such a high score.