KATATONIA — Discouraged Ones (review)

KATATONIA — Discouraged Ones album cover Album · 1998 · Gothic Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
UMUR
"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. It´s the successor to "Brave Murder Day" from 1996. There´s 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 band´s 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, it´s 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 it´s 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 you´ve listened to the opening track "I Break", you pretty much know what you´re in for on the rest of the album. In that respect "Discouraged Ones" is a slightly formulaic and one-dimensional affair. It´s not a major issue though, as Katatonia do what they do very well, and as a listener you´re immediately sucked into a world of dark depression and deep melancholia that´s 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 won´t 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. Renkse´s 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 Katatonia´s sound.

"Discouraged Ones" features a heavy and dark sound production, which suits the gloomy music well. So upon conclusion it´s a good quality release by Katatonia. It´s of course a fanbase divider as a consequence of the radical change in style since "Brave Murder Day (1996)", but to my ears it´s a bold move from the band. "Discouraged Ones" is clearly not an album featuring a fully developed sound, and in that respect it´s the definition of a transition album, but sometimes the journey is more interesting than the end destination, and while that analogy isn´t completely true when speaking of Katatonia´s discography (which features several great albums further down the line), it´s 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.
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