Brave Yester Days

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As the only major non-English contributors to the development of doom/death metal in the early '90s, Sweden's Katatonia were clearly a dark horse what must surely have been one of the slowest races ever staged in the metal realm. And yet, the dark horse has prevailed, or at least kept pace with the odds-on favorites, in a career that now spans almost two decades. Brave Yester Days takes a stab at chronicling the first half of that career through the unique perspective of Katatonia's numerous EP releases, many of which contained material of equal quality to their well-loved albums, and are now assembled into this amazingly handy two-disc collection. Starting at the beginning, with the band's first, remarkably vital-sounding debut EP, 1992's Jhva Elohim Meth...The Revival, disc one then samples two epics from 1993's Dance of December Souls album, and two, truly obscure gems from the War Compilation, Vol. 1 (the haunting "Black Erotica" and "Love of the Swan") before culminating in inspired fashion with all four excellent cuts from 1995's For Funerals to Come... EP. Disc two opens with a tandem of highlights from 1996's widely acclaimed, and surprisingly energetic, sophomore album, Brave Murder Day, followed by the next year's similarly styled Sounds of Decay EP -- both featuring the vocals of future Opeth legend Mikael Ã…kerfeldt, and serving notice that Katatonia's doom tendencies were fast giving way to straight-up death metal. Brave Yester Days' fascinating display of sonic evolution is then brought to a close with 1998's Saw You Drown EP, whereupon Katatonia's gradual shift away from their doom/death origins was, at last, brought to a clear resolution by the sound of lighter guitars, incremental keyboards, and the replacement of deathly growls with clean-sung, melodic vocals. All told, this collection serves not only as an astoundingly well-conceived summary of Katatonia's purely metallic career, but also a frankly unbeatable bang-for-buck proposition when it comes to housing so many scattered releases under one roof.

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