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Mellotron Storm
4 stars Some words from the liner notes paraphrased at times. After the European tour for "Brave Murder Day" in the Fall of 1996 the band felt the instant signs of stagnation and all attempts of writing new material came to a halt out of frustration. They just weren't able to develope a new album under the same circumstances and formulas that worked in the past. They came to the conclusion that things had just grown different as their prospects had changed. It was time for the big change and as Jonas once said he was a "wreck" about the thoughts of singing in that clean style plus what would their fans think of this new sound as they would leave Doom Metal in their past. Certainly the song "Day" from the previous album with Jonas singing clean vocals was the inspiration for this new direction. Jonas couldn't do the growls any more as his throat was damaged from singing in that style and they didn't feel comfortable bringing in a new singer. Also they knew they couldn't count on friend Mikael Akerfeldt to be available to sing in the studio or on tour as he was busy with OPETH. Nice of Mikael to come in though and help Jonas with his singing by being the vocal producer on this album, no doubt giving Jonas many tips along the way. They decided to drop the twin lead guitars, double bass drumming, extreme vocals, excessive song lengths and even their old pentagram tinged logo which now didn't seem appropriate for this new direction they were going. So in came harmonic vocals paving the way for a tremendously emotional lyrical delivery and traditional song structures to keep the songs more precise and intense.

"Discouraged Ones" is an album about despair, loneliness, loss, desolation and fear as the album's title would suggest. Jonas sings and plays drums here and he won't be the main drummer again in the studio until 2012's "Dead End Kings" as he would focus on being the singer. I can't get over how much better Jonas' vocals sound on this album when compared to his singing on the track "Day" from the previous album. Of course it's shocking hearing how different the band sounds too with these catchy yet melancholic tracks. Early fans for the most part were not happy with this new direction but I am so glad they went this way. In fact this album is one of my all time favourite KATATONIA albums. There was a creative new birth as it were when they decided on this new path and so "Discouraged Ones" benefits from this new found energy and excitement from the band. I can't just pick my usual top three songs because the first four tracks along with "Saw you Drown" and "Instrumental" are all so amazing.

"I Break" is a heavy song with those down-tuned guitars and sound but it's really uplifting to me. Check out the line "The weakness of hope is the strength of decline". "Stalemate" is again heavy, melodic and mid-paced. The vocals once again shine as does the atmospheric guitar. I really dig the atmospheric instrumental section starting at 2 1/2 minutes. So good! "Deadhouse" is another classic track and I adore the sound here. It does settle right down before a minute with vocals but then it picks back up as vocals continue. Contrasts continue. Killer tune. "Relention" is that a word? Anyway it is a moving song including the guitar melodies as the drums and bass beat and throb. A calm as the vocals arrive around a minute. Great chorus too as contrasts continue.

"Cold Ways" features grinding guitars and pounding drums to start as the vocals come in as it settles after a minute. Vocals impress 3 1/2 minutes in. Catchy, heavy with plenty of low end sounds as usual. "Gone" reminds me of ANATHEMA around the "Judgment" era. "When I was thinking this was something permanent you were already thinking of going away". Gulp. "Last Resort" has this great sound before 2 minutes. Some strong lyrics here and interesting sounds after 2 1/2 minutes. "Nerve" has some nice deep sounds instrumentally.

"Saw You Drown" is heavy with guitars and drums standing out. It calms right down when the reserved vocals arrive. It becomes so uplifting before 1 1/2 minutes and contrasts will continue. This would be the title track for the EP teaser they would release before this album. The band really liked it and it deals with the obsession of drowning in water or mentally. "Instrumental" is what it says and man I'm so into this one. It sounds like synths, actually mellotron and it's so melancholic. Guitar to the fore around 2 minutes. "Distrust" ends it and it opens with perhaps the heaviest section on the album as the vocals join in singing "Running my way towards oblivion". It's lighter on the chorus and I like the guitar solo 3 1/2 minutes in that goes on for some time.

There are two bonus tracks on my issue, first "Quiet World" that didn't make it onto this album but was good enough to be added here. It's one of the few KATATONIA tracks to be written by Nystrom the guitarist. It conveys the lonely and uneventful feeling of trying to get on with life during a useless stage of your life. "Scarlet Heavens" is 10 1/2 minutes long and it reminds me a lot of PARADISE LOST. It's surprisingly uptempo. It was recorded on a very cold day in February of 1994 as the band took the train for a free recording session at Dan Swano's studio. This was after the success of their debut album when they were looking for a new label. Nystrom says "This song was our one and only unique attempt of dressing KATATONIA in a frilly white shirt stained with red wine".

Man I highly recommend this album, one of KATATONIA's best in my opinion.

Report this review (#1612162)
Posted Saturday, September 17, 2016 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Discouraged Ones" is the 3rd full-length studio album by Swedish alternative/doom/progressive metal act Katatonia. The album was released through Avantgarde Music in April 1998. Itīs the successor to "Brave Murder Day" from 1996. Thereīs been one lineup change since the predecessor as bassist Micke Oretoft has joined the lineup.

Katatonia are known to shift gears and change style between albums, but the change in musical style from "Brave Murder Day (1996)" to "Discouraged Ones" is the most radical stylistic change between releases in the bandīs discography. While "Brave Murder Day (1996)" was obviously a move away from the blackened death/doom of "Dance of December Souls (1993)", and featured a track like "Day, which solely featured clean vocals, itīs still predominantly a death/doom metal release. "Discouraged Ones" features nothing even remotely connected to death metal. The music is still dark, melancholic, and at times relatively heavy, but itīs not really doom metal either. Instead a sedated shoegaze influence has sneaked in and also a couple of goth rock elements. Jonas Renkse has now fully taken over the lead vocal duties in addition to his drumming role, and all vocals on the album are clean. So no growling vocals on this one.

Once youīve listened to the opening track "I Break", you pretty much know what youīre in for on the rest of the album. In that respect "Discouraged Ones" is a slightly formulaic and one-dimensional affair. Itīs not a major issue though, as Katatonia do what they do very well, and as a listener youīre immediately sucked into a world of dark depression and deep melancholia thatīs quite engaging. Renkse has a heartfelt and honest emotional delivery and paired with the heavy riffs and overall bleak atmosphere of the instrumental part of the music, "Discouraged Ones" comes off as a pretty convincing release.

The musicianship is decent, although Renkse wonīt win any prizes for hitting the notes clean and his drumming is also almost painfully simple at times, but the sometimes rough and unpolished delivery is actually what makes "Discouraged Ones" such an interesting release. Renkseīs restrained and almost shy vocal approach makes him sound so sad and alone in the world, that the deep melancholy of the music sounds frightingly authentic. He is wearing his feelings on the outside here, and we as listeners are invited to share his pain. To some that may sound a bit pretentious, and Renkse voice and vocal style is probably an aquired taste, but he is defining for Katatoniaīs sound.

"Discouraged Ones" features a heavy and dark sound production, which suits the gloomy music well. So upon conclusion itīs a good quality release by Katatonia. Itīs of course a fanbase divider as a consequence of the radical change in style since "Brave Murder Day (1996)", but to my ears itīs a bold move from the band. "Discouraged Ones" is clearly not an album featuring a fully developed sound, and in that respect itīs the definition of a transition album, but sometimes the journey is more interesting than the end destination, and while that analogy isnīt completely true when speaking of Katatoniaīs discography (which features several great albums further down the line), itīs still true to the extent that "Discouraged Ones" works well as an album in its own right. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

Report this review (#2305894)
Posted Saturday, January 11, 2020 | Review Permalink

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