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Intense - 97%

unholymastersatan, March 21st, 2013

If I were ever to make one of those "flowcharts" for people who never listened to Katatonia, I'd begin with this album, even though it has almost nothing to do with their other works. In their very next album they lose almost completely that more "extreme" doom/death aspects of their music, and their previous works are more "crude", even though it's instrumental proposal is very similar. So why would I begin the flowchart with Brave Murder Day?

Definitely, it's not because of "entry level" characteristics. Songs as Teargas and For My Demons are much more popular and "normally enjoyable" than ten-minute-long death/doom metal songs like Brave. The majority of gutturals by Mikael Åkerfeldt doesn't help in popularity either. But Åkerfeldt's presence seems to add much more to this album than good gutturals: it adds maturity. Katatonia's instrumentals were already excellent, providing beautiful harmonies without losing weight and presence in its songs. Leaving aside keyboards to focus on enhancing the lyrical level and music progression made an almost "minimalist" approach to its former style allowing much more attention to the creativity of its musicians. The aforementioned ten-minute Brave song is not dull or repetitive without having to appeal to progressive methods (what one would think Åkerfeldt would bring, but fortunately didn't), and feels like its much shorter.

Lyrically speaking, it's impossible not to find a great contrast with their other albuns. I'm not much of a fan of poetry, but the difference is too evident. The angry-young-antichristianism on "The spirit is free/Satan laughs/Jhva Elohim Meth" is completely abandoned, and the angry-emo-teenager theme as in Teargas (seriously, using a teargas metaphor for crying for a chick is just childish) and every other post-BMD recordings is taken to a whole other level. It deals with the pains of loss (death or abandonment of a loved one) with a much more stoic approach. Of course, it doesn't stop being "emotional" in a way, but instead of complaining about lost girlfriends in childish anger, it portraits the lack of hope and existential crisis of the absence of loved ones - whether your valentine left you or your parents are deceased - in a truly "catatonic state".

The album production leaves a bit to desire, noticeable on the acoustic parts, specially on the guitars on "Day". But we're talking about a death/doom metal band in 1996, so even though one can't avoid to think "how would it be produced nowadays", it's still a great work. Other than that, it's interesting how its "could-be-better" production adds up to the decaying ambient proposed.

So finally answering the question: why begin with Brave Murder Day? Because if you want more of its doom/death weight and great instrumental harmonics, you can look for their previous works. If you liked the atmosphere, but it was much too heavy for you (basically if you think "Day" is the best song of the album), just go on and listen to their more recent albums. Unfortunately, if like me you find this their best album, the only alternative is its "leftovers" EP Sounds of Decay.