An album that put Katatonia on the map as brilliant innovators and visionaries hardly needs introduction. Jonas Renkse (drums, clean vocals) and Anders Nyström (guitars) both felt that they needed to take Katatonia’s sound beyond ordinary, by their standards, and launch their careers with one truly classic album. For the rest of us, 1993’s “Dance of December Soul” has already achieved top marks and was pretty much hailed as a masterpiece doom record by everyone. Nystrom who was only seventeen at the time definitely helped create some of the most brilliant, improvised and spontaneous doom riffs going around.
Brave Murder Day is a shorter than normal album and seems to be revolving around main groove riffs, hence was quicker to come up with (mere two weeks in the studio), but even so the band managed to capture the essence of melancholy state as the music introduces those trademark depressive yet brilliantly unique licks and mid paced riffing the band is now known for… and it works! This of course would not be any bit satisfactory without Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth guest appearing on vocals (growl) making this one of his tremendously more powerful vocal performances to date as is evident on all but one track. This means that Renkse did indeed sing (clean vocals) on track ‘Day’ by himself and although the song has an eerie feel to it (after 2 minutes onwards) it fails to impress as it is too mellow and wimpy sounding to hold any longevity of remembrance as far as this reviewer is concerned. ‘Dance of December Souls’ vocal magic was nowhere near felt nor seen.
Track ‘12’ has more of typical death metal riffs, killer harmonies and double kicking suggesting ‘what could have been’ had Katatonia pursued this direction with their later releases, unfortunately for most of us that scenario was short lived. This track has some clever guitar work, acoustic and otherwise, almost taunting vocal expressions and above all well thought out lyrical content:
“Black theatre of love
Violet dances cast their blood
The moon gave me flowers
For funerals to come”
Interestingly enough, the song ‘Endtime’ utilizes samples, featuring a short dialogue clip from the Stanley Kubrick film ‘The Shining’ during the latter half of the song's lengthy atmospheric intro. Here Renkse helps Akerfeldt with vocal duties as Nyström and Norrman deliver some haunting melodies, throughout the album no less.
The 2006 remastered version of this album comes with three bonus tracks normally found on 1997’s Sounds of Decay EP and one slight difference... you can actually understand Mikael’s singing on these bonus tracks (second and final guest appearance), something that wasn’t the case with Brave Murder Day songs. The sound production is also by far more superior to the original 1996 release (which was never mastered), and it comes with liner notes which give lengthy insight during album pre-production time. I would strongly urge any doom metal fan (even if you follow the goth scene), as would an Opeth fan, to get your hands on the remastered version if you haven’t already done so.
Personally I was more than impressed with Mikael’s performance and the fact that the album was engineered by Dan Swano (Marduk, Dark Funeral, Dissection), so that’s an added appreciation.