There is an album that’s simple and direct. There is an album displaying series of depression and numbness. There is an album that shuns alive’n’breathing sound productions but welcomes soundscapes of drowsiness. There is an album with a bleak yellow cover that shows a discouraged person and has pictures of trees and melancholic landscapes...
This is the pale work of Sweden’s KATATONIA on “Discouraged Ones”, a CD which demanded change after the crestfallen masterpiece that was “Brave Murder Day”. KATATONIA are one of my many favourite bands from the Swedish Metal scene, but it wasn’t until “Tonight’s Decision” I started to follow their career; it’s a good thing I searched backwards in their catalogue and discovered “Brave Murder Day” and this album, both very good albums.
“Discouraged Ones” is a natural move; the mournful lead melodies, heavy riffing (brought to you by Nyström/Norrman enterprises) is still there but the song writing has been simplified. The band focuses more on writing very simple songs, so it’s sort of a breakaway from the their older material. The best example is the godly hymn “Relention”; the song writing on this song is so simple, but it’s the quality that’s so damn excellent, you know the old saying “quality instead of quantity”, well that’s what the band does here.
But don’t think the band doesn’t have variety in their compositions; sure “I Break”, “Cold Ways” and “Last Resort” are traditional KATATONIA songs, but the addition of gothic keyboards in the middle section of “Stalemate” and a dolphin’s cry in “Deadhouse”, just goes to show the band also tries to do the unexpected sometimes and isn’t that traces of Black Rock I hear in the song “Nerve”, very eerie guitars. I have to mention “Distrust”, the final song; a dirge so sad and weepy, has a very depressive chorus and the guitar solo is so emotional and moody, approach with caution if you’re in a good mood.
Renkse plays the guitars and drums, plus he handles the vocals. About his vocals: I don’t think he has found the right approach to his clean singing here, it fits very well with the music though. His singing paints a sorrowful scene of loss and despair, he can sing with such emotion but he’s more awake on albums like “Tonight’s Decision” and “Last Fair Deal Gone Down”. I could ask for more variation in the drums since they are pretty simple and straightforward.
The sound is ok with a subtle rawness on the guitars, not the most euphoric sound to come out of Sunlight Studios but I think the production works for the songs instead working against them.
Later on KATATONIA would experiment with technology but I’m happy that they have never lost the interest in making atmospheric music, thus remaining faithful to their roots. “Discouraged Ones” is a moody album, an album for the autumn and winter seasons when the soul wants its peace. (Online February 21, 2004)