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A Crow Left Of The Murder - 84%

OzzyApu, July 2nd, 2009

For a few years I had this album on my computer in all it’s richness, but the second I popped in my copy of the original in the car, I was pissed. Not only did I have to crank the volume at twice the level to hear it at the same capacity as my other CDs, but it still sounded thinner than a strip of gum. The drums were metallic and icy, the distortion of the guitars cut like knives, and the opulence was quite lacking. I won’t entirely bog down the review to bitch about how bad the original production was, but let me just get it out of the way and recommend that you pick up the remastered copy. It isn’t anything to die over, but the remastered release just brings out the music much more than the original.

You see that dead bird on the cover drenched in purple monochrome? Let that sum up the album for you (doubles for tone): dead, dreary, decayed, reflective, and melancholic. Åkerfeldt of Opeth accompanies the songs on vocals. He doesn’t pussify the music by trying to make it sound more like Opeth. He merely handles growling duties and I applaud him for how much effort he puts forth to make these growls sound tortured, mutilated, gutted, and very complementary towards the aforementioned tone of the album. Renkse provides the clean vocals, which are rather off-key, amateurish, and passionless compared to his later performances. Renske handles it timidly, since they only appear on one song in their entirety and in rare occasions elsewhere. It’s suitable for the music on paper, but the album could have been characterized perfectly without them as well. He’d focus them completely later, but compared to the growls, they only play a minor role in the outlook of things this album wishes to resurrect.

I keep forgetting that this album has two guitarists, since I always figured Blackheim performed the best part of the music all by himself like on the debut. Bass duties he handles like a pro – on the original pressing it’s hard to hear his lines, but on the remastered version it sounds as thick as chocolate and helps give more power back to the guitars while filling the air with more vibrance. I’m pretty sure I’m not mistaken when I calculate the amount of riffs per song ranging from two to five. Katatonia churns out these riffs (“Day” just has showering clean guitars) all day, painting a picture of gloom the entire time. They string them out quite well, and they go on and on but somehow I don’t really get tired of them. The first track may be ten minutes, but it won't feel endless since the same pattern and the riffs begin to blend competently to the point where the music becomes medicinal. The sound isn’t evil, but remorseful, mournful, and of a forlorn guilt.

The cold fact is that the guitars don’t need to go beyond their simplicity, since this method works. The result of Blackheim and Norrman’s doomy / melodic playing style has brought into the fold an atmosphere worth keeping and a state of mind worth visiting. Hearing “Brave,” “Rainroom,” and the intro to “12” are moments of bliss and tranquility that I find myself headbanging to with the same compliance as most top-tier thrash bands. Even the drumming can be considered typical of novices in their rather routine playing, but it works in the environment created by the guitars – let nature develop itself without ruination. I’m particularly fond of the double bass, which even on the original sounds beefy and addictive. However, the cymbals and toms on the original sound vastly inferior, since they’re very thin, metallic, and hollow sounding.

I know Burzum kind of brought the repetitive / hypnotic riff pattern into frame, but I really see this album as the one that solidified it. Anyway, this is a step-down from Katatonia’s debut, but it excels in departments where that one fell short. For one, it’s much more entrancing - putting you in mindset makes you lazier than you should be. My own copy is the Avantgarde pressing, so the production is way shittier than the remastered one released a decade later. Get the remastered version and start loving this.