For a long time my interest in KATATONIA had more or less ended with “Brave Murder Day”, as my audio taste buds did not seem to have been developed enough yet to embrace a band taking a quite big step forward in their musical evolution and becoming even more pioneering than they already had been. I had briefly listened into “Discouraged Ones”, but I was exactly that: Discouraged. Almost nine years later my path crosses this album again, this time as a remastered version with two bonus tracks and it seems as if the many years since I had originally heard it gave me he chance to now fully appreciate the changes in the band.
Marking the band’s step from melancholic Doom/Death Metal into the Suicide Rock of “Discouraged Ones” and the ensuing albums, this long player has been a gateway album for the band, adopting often very simple and straight rhythms and mixing them with catchy melodies and a very bleak atmosphere, which partly was carried over from the previous album, but through the more basic musical approach here seems enhanced manifold, being the focal point of the whole album, which also is manifested in the desolate lyrics that round off this album.
Tracks like “I Break”, “Relention” or “Cold Ways” are good examples for the Gothic-tinged, Alternative-influenced new sound of the Swedes, having completely abandoned the harsh vocals and solely concentrating on these mournful vocals, which match the bleak and desolate atmosphere to a tee, thus creating this feeling of utter hopelessness and, showing that the album title has been well chosen, discouraging, which would be able to make a sunny day seem drab and a grey, foggy day like today even worse than it already is. Surely the listener will not be challenged by technical quirks and intricacies, but that was neither the intention of the band nor would it really work to express what they are trying to convey, instead the instant catchiness of almost all the tunes lets down your guard and lets the melancholy seep into your brain and body.
As with the re-release of “Brave Murder Day”, “Discouraged Ones” also contains two bonus tracks, namely “Quiet World” and the 10+ epos “Scarlet Heavens”.
If you still think that “Brave Murder Day” was their pinnacle and that the albums after failed to create the same kind of intense atmosphere, try to approach “Discouraged Ones” with an open mind and try to detach yourself as much as you can. Only then you will be able to embrace this as a completely new era in the KATATONIA history that is no less ground breaking for a whole genre than it was before. But I still like the previous album better…
(Online March 29, 2007)