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The beginning of the end - 73%

Sean16, June 10th, 2006

The proper classification of Brave Murder Day is a bit of an issue. It’s still not the depressive rock of Discouraged Ones, but it nonetheless sounds closer to this album than to Dance of December souls. It reminds a bit of Opeth as well, presumably because of the presence of Mikael Akerfeldt on vocals. If Dance of December Souls was black-ish doom/death metal, this time Brave Murder Day could be called slow doom-ish melodeath, because it’s basically what it is, without any judgement value. The band in the same move got rid of all the esoteric, anti-religious imagery, and if Anders Nyström is still “Blackheim” for another album, “Lord Seth” has already become the respectable Mr Jonas Renske, now writing lyrics about depression and loss rather than on “tomb spirits marching in the fields of eternal life” and the likes.

As far-fetched as it may sound to some, this album actually shows some similarities with Agalloch’s works. That means, slow beautiful music with a strong atmospheric feeling but without many variations, and only mild aggressiveness in spite of the predominant use of harsh vocals. All the songs are slow to mid-paced, faster than on the previous album, mainly built on the 4/4 beat the band will use and abuse of on their following releases. With the difference that most of the tracks still exhibit slower doom-ish breaks which add some thickness to the work and prevent it from totally falling into sheer monotony. And once again one can only bow down to some of these beautiful, utterly sad semi-acoustic atmospheric moments which were amongst the highlights of Dance of December Souls and are still amongst the ones of this release.

The icy keyboards have vanished into oblivion as well, and while some freaks who can only stand fully guitar-driven albums will rejoice, the band probably lost another of its former strengths with them.

So now, Mikael Akerfeldt took all the harsh vocals duties here, and while he’s undoubtedly a talented singer, he lives up to nothing compared to Jonas Renske on the previous album. Objectively “Lord Seth” was a far worse singer, but managed to inject passion, slight hatred, and more importantly an incredible amount of LIFE in his voice, which was occasionally more reminiscent of black metal high-pitched screams than genuine growls. By contrast Akerfeldt does some good professional growling work – nothing more. And listening to the pitiful pop-ish whining which will from now on be Renske’s trademark one can’t prevent himself from crying. Yes, this track called Day is heartbreaking, not because it is moving by any mean – it is, actually, exceptionally bad -, but because it sums well how the mighty will soon fall.

However, though lacking a bit of substance this record can still be fully enjoyed, and is still one hundred times better than anything Katatonia is releasing nowadays. Don’t expect another Without God or Velvet Thorns Of Drynwhyl, nothing on this album would ever match the crushing, cold beauty of the band’s previous works, but the longest tracks, if not stunning masterpieces, are pretty interesting to listen to. 12 especially, by far the slowest song here, carries a strong both melodic and depressive feeling, in a soft hybrid between doom and melodeath. By far my favourite track, with the opening Brave, which starts kind of boring but rapidly redeems itself as soon as the wailing doom parts begin.

... nonetheless Katatonia would have had better definitely split up after this release.

Highlights: Brave, 12