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A Fair Warning... - 55%

IcemanJ256, November 5th, 2006

I love Katatonia as much as any fan. However, this box set is a bit disappointing. Here's why.

I like "Brave Yester Days" (a similar collection of early material) so much because it contains all the songs from now out-of-print EP's and singles and condenses them into a handy listening experience. It has the songs from full-length albums too, but only one or two from each album.

For this collection, there is not nearly enough "unreleased" material that Katatonia has done in these years to include on it. Honestly, there doesn't need to be two CD's of material. They throw half of "Tonight's Decision" on here (7 songs), three-fourths of "Last Fair Deal Gone Down" (7 out of 11 songs), five songs from "Discouraged Ones" and six songs from "Viva Emptiness." Now, I'll agree that there are so many good songs on these albums that it's hard to pick one or two favorites but that's why I (and any fan should) have the original album to listen to.

The Math

On 2 CD's there are 30 Songs.
2 are from "Tonight's Music" EP.
2 are from "Teargas" EP.
1 is previously unreleased from "Viva Emptiness" sessions.
That makes 5 that are unreleased or were only on EP's.
The other 25 are all on the albums mentioned above.

So in reality I'm spending money on one CD that I already have all the songs on originals, and one CD with only 25 minutes of music that I don't have. It is just a bunch of extra fluff so the record company to make more money. They could have at least waited to release this until "The Great Cold Distance" came out 9 months later and included the songs from the singles from that album. That would have been enough to make a double album I think. One may ask, "Then why did you go ahead and spend money on it?" Well, I didn't sit there and study the tracklisting before I bought it. I saw some songs I wasn't familiar with and some that I was. I also am content for buying it simply for the few unreleased songs anyways because Katatonia is one of my very favorite bands, and of course, the DVD is a little extra bonus. Dedicated fans will probably buy this reguardless (and most likely, have already - I waited a long time) so I would assume mostly casual fans or people just getting into the band are reading this and I would not particularly recommend it to either. Both casual and brand new fans are only getting five new songs that they can't get anywhere else and they really should eventually buy the four albums outlined here anyway.

I would also like to point out all the tracks are in completely random order, which I personally don't like... I would like to see how the band's sound has changed throughout the years by having the songs in order (just like on "Brave Yester Days").

As for the actual quality of the previously unreleased / EP only songs, they are pretty much just as good as any Katatonia material; nothing exceptionally outstanding for the band, but nothing to scoff at either. "Sulfur" is probably the best "new" song, and one of the band's longer songs; starting off with a very melodic, atmospheric clean riff and harmonization for a good minute and a half, before being bombarded with heaviness, switching between very mellow versus and quite powerful and melodic choruses, like many of their songs. This is a very good quality track that would have fit right into "Last Fair Deal Gone Down."

On a good note, the packaging is really nice, there's a booklet with all the song lyrics and tons of Travis Smith artwork. Each CD lists all the songs, their length, and what albums they're from, all contained in a nice quality "box."

Live DVD

The DVD is pretty good; decent cinematography, except for a few montages which have extremely quick cuts that are almost dizzying. Jonas could be a little more interactive, he doesn't look too excited to be there. Maybe he's always like that; it would explain the mood in the band's general sound... who knows. Near the end the band announces their last song is "Evidence," and when they are done the crowd urges them to continue, and they do so and add in "Deadhouse" and "Murder" which must have been somewhat a surprise. These last two songs seem to be the most energetic for both the band and the crowd and "Murder" is a much more appropriate ending to the set.

The sound quality is pretty good; I don't have any complaints about it. The set list is nice, very well-rounded, they've got at least something from each full album out at the time except "Dance of December Souls" which isn't surprising.

Honestly, I'm not a huge fan of Live DVD's in the first place; they don't have too much replay-value. I would rather have a live CD so I could listen to it anywhere instead of having to watch it (or at least, have a computer or DVD player nearby to listen to).

So, to sum up, a decent box set for dedicated fans, not something I would particularly recommend to new or casual fans, too much "fluff" from old albums unnecessarily making a double-disc set, and a pretty good live DVD.