Katatonia - Discouraged Ones review
|Release date:||April 1998|
01. I Break
05. Cold Ways
07. Last Resort
09. Saw You Drown
12. Quiet World [bonus]
13. Scarlet Heavens [bonus]
It's albums like Discouraged Ones, Katatonia's third full-length recording, that have me questioning the act of writing about music. There are just no words that could give complete justice to an album like this. No amount of persuasive adjectives or descriptive analysis could ever truly define what Katatonia's music has become and the effect it has on me. In any case, the band has taken the minimalist approach first showcased on their previous album, Brave Murder Day, even further into the realms of hypnotic repetition.
This "less is more" concept has by now become the major theme for Katatonia's songwriting approach and it has reached full effect this time around. While other bands attempting to express themes of depression and melancholia within a metal framework embellish their material with female vocals, symphonic keyboards and overblown orchestral maneuvers, Katatonia do the opposite. The sound is very stripped down and devoid of clich? elements that define their peers, allowing one to succumb to a hypnotic trance the likes of which does not let go until the final note is played. The biggest change in the band's sound is in the vocal department, as they are all delivered in Jonas Renkse's clean, somber tone.
Musically, the songs have become shorter and even simpler than before, with Anders Nystrom's now trademark weeping guitar melodies laid over a usually mid-paced rhythmic foundation. New bassist Micke Oretoft gives the band a permanent fixture at the position, which has been vacant since the For Funerals To Come EP (1995). It is really not all that different from Brave Murder Day, as had that album been done with all clean vocals and shorter songs, not to mention a much thicker and heavier production, the progression would not seem so drastic. Jonas's vocals are very reminiscent of The Cure's Robert Smith, delivered in a despondent manner that is deeply convincing of the man's emotional state. His lyrics are simple and honest, yet shrouded in themes of emotional isolation and seclusion from the outside world.
Songs like "I Break," "DeadHouse," "Nerve" and "Saw You Drown" could have only been born from a spirit that carries with it much sadness through a life of slow motion silence. "Cold Ways" is the one that really hits home with me, with Jonas's impassioned cries of "...must carry on one last time, cannot end what has begun..." and it's chorus of "...in your eyes you're alive, but in my eyes you're a lie...." "Gone" is the closest the band gets to gothic tragedy, a short yet soul-piercing number that speaks of unfulfilled dreams and false hope. The simply titled "Instrumental" explores a serene, tranquil atmosphere, a soul soothing venture decorated by Anders's fragile solo which takes it to its' final silence. His solo in "Distrust" is similar and is one of the highlights of the album for me.
Never has a metal band expressed melancholy like this. Taking inspiration from the shoe gazer scene, along with The Cure and Red House Painters, Katatonia do not abandon their metal roots. They know exactly where they come from. What they have done that very few bands from the metal world have managed to find success with is take influence and inspiration from non-metal genres and effectively incorporate them into their own sound without forsaking their true essence.
Isolation, solitude, and the desire to not want to be a part of the outside world. The stillness of night. The heaviness of lonely silence. These things are the essence of Katatonia and Discouraged Ones is the soundtrack.
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