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Redundant Record Store Day Gimmickry - 10%

SoundsofDecay, March 7th, 2016

If one were to judge this release purely on the basis of the songs contained within it, the score would surely be much higher. I am no great fan of Dead End Kings or it's immediate predecessor Night Is The New Day, but in typical recent Katatonia fashion the bonus tracks omitted from the initial releases of those albums are quite worthy. One, "Sold Heart", stands out as a nice chilled downtempo electronica dirge the likes of which should have been much more apparent on Night Is The New Day, instead of endless static chugging riffs that don't really go anywhere and pretty much zero lead guitars. It's a solo piece from Renkse, which would explain why it ended up on The Longest Year EP as opposed to the actual album.

As nice as "Sold Heart" may be, it's no "Unfurl". This brilliantly atypical track from The Great Cold Distance sessions demonstrated (along with the remixes of that album's tracks on the corresponding series of EPs) a change in direction that I wish, wish, wish, these guys had pursued at that time: essentially, downtempo electronica with guitars. The song stands as a unique high point among the band's recent work, with a slow trip-hop style beat, jangling clean guitars and weird bassy synths set to a great set of lyrics delivered in Renkse's trademark style of dichotomous intense apathy. "Code Against The Code" from the same sessions continues in a similar, more metallic dirgelike vein which functions admirably with more of a "band" feel. It's a very minimalist piece but it works really well, and Renkse's voice is particularly smooth on this one.

So why do I dislike this release so much? A collection of Katatonia B-sides and rare tracks is, in theory, a great idea given that they have such a rich and diverse body of work to draw from. Two reasons. One: it's nowhere near comprehensive enough. Two: it's a fucking gimmick.

First of all, where are all the other great songs which should be present in order to make the release more comprehensive? As it stands, Kocytean (cool title by the way) doesn't even draw fully from The Great Cold Distance. Where's "Displaced"? What about that awesome acoustic/dub remix of "In The White"? Where the fuck is "Dissolving Bonds", the one B-side track which outdoes just about all of The Great Cold Distance album itself? All of the B-sides and obscure tracks from the preceding albums (such as Last Fair Deal Gone Down and Tonight's Decision) have been gathered on their respective reissues and various compilations, but wouldn't have been too out of place here if only to pad out the record's pitiful 26-and a half-minute running time. Go back much further than around 1999 and a song like "Quiet World", as achingly painful and beautiful as it is, would start to maybe seem a bit too out of place here compared to what they've been doing since Last Fair Deal... and Viva Emptiness.

All of the above crimes pale in comparison to the gimmicky nature of this release. Vinyl only, released as a Record Store Day exclusive. I hate Record Store Day, I hate gimmicks, and RSD is essentially one gigantic fuck-you gimmick to music fans to make them spend far too much money on much too limited releases that are then promptly seen showing up on eBay for even more money. I could go on, but this isn't a review about Record Store Day.

So, a promising idea (and a cool title and nice sleeve art) let down by its gimmicky nature. What you're left with is a release that is for all intents and purposes, worthless. Try again with a more comprehensive tracklist, and not limiting it to one format and releasing it as a novelty, and you might be onto something. Until then...

From the river of wailing - 85%

Arkanus, December 23rd, 2015

Once the band released “Dead End Kings” in 2012, a prolific period of compilations, live recordings and rearrangements started. Some may say that this time should have been related to their death doom metal era, but reality is that they began to produce these different releases in their most popular times, taking into account different stages of those times. Katatonia had a glance over some good ideas they had during their recordings and decided to compile a couple of these ideas into one album, just before a more important release in their discography called “Sanctitude”.

Songs chosen to appear come from selected moments ranging since 2006, when they recorded “The Great Cold Distance”, going through “Night is the New Day” sessions, until bonus tracks created during the 2012 album. All songs are not found normally but in special editions, singles and similar; however, they have exactly the same production quality you can hear in any other release named. You will not come across flaws in musicianship, but in the first two tracks real instruments are going to be missed. Incredibly, if not seen with elitist metalhead critique, the band seems to be very talented to create atmospheres and sounds that conjure the emotions intended in every move.

As this is a compilation, it is difficult to discover a consistency throughout the six songs, although the feeling addressed is always the same; a combination of abandonment, grief and depression. Ambience is full of heavy weights on your back, introspection, and clueless search for a purpose. At the beginning, the slow, plastic songs will level your mood as low as it can get, as you sense nothing but your breathing. Suddenly, music gets harsher, but only in its skin, because the room still has that grey color that leaves you motionless, thinking about everything you regret. Listening to the lyrics is personal for anyone who hears them, although “Sold Heart” can be the only song guilty of appearing a bit cheesy.

Every person who likes Katatonia’s new face will like this collection of rare songs, but will find nothing completely new or law-breaking. The most negative point to have in mind with this cd is the absence of “Dissolving Bounds” (a single-exclusive song released in 2006 and recorded live in the “Last Fair Day Gone Night” production), which can easily be the best of the B-side songs ever created by the band. If you like this depressive rock movement, get this and play it in a monthly basis.