MetalReview: Many moons ago, the MetalReview team set out on a mission many deemed impossible: to single out the 100 Most Essential albums from extreme metal’s (arguably) golden era, the 1990s. The process required every drop of blood, sweat and tears we could spare, but we are proud of what we came up with. Moreover, we’re happy to tell you that Katatonia’s seminal Brave Murder Day was one of our picks. This isn’t the first time somebody has mentioned the album in a “best-of” context, but, still, how do you feel about the recognition?
Jonas Renkse: It’s flattering, of course; it always is!
MR: We know that the old-school department never stopped loving it, and new people still seem to be discovering the record, but how do you feel about it yourself? Do you still – after fifteen years and six consecutive full-lengths – think that Brave Murder Day is worth the praise and acknowledgement it gets?
Renkse: I do. I think it brought something new to a scene where everything had to be pompous, musically enthusiastic, dramatic. We did the opposite and to me it was refreshing at the time. Plus, it became the foundation on which we have built today’s Katatonia.
MR: Your discography – although very diverse – is also very consistent in quality, and people seem to have a hard time choosing their definitive favorite Katatonia record. Still, the majority of your fans seem to have a soft spot for Brave Murder Day. Why do you think it’s such a standout album?
Renkse: I hope it’s because it was different at the time, it would offer something that didn’t sound like anything else within the same genre. Plus, it had cool songs and great vocals!
MR: Katatonia’s status had been somewhat unclear for over a year before you started the recording of your sophomore full-length. Basically, the band was on hold or borderline disbanded before you began working on Brave Murder Day, so what inspired you to revive Katatonia for these sessions?
Renkse: I think we knew we had more to offer than just one full-length album, especially when we actually found the formula for the new songs. We had a responsibility, haha! We had a talk and just went for it. Today I am very happy that we didn’t split up for good.
MR: You had no songs ready before entering the studio. Those two weeks must have been pretty hectic with crafting songs during your nights and then recording that very newly written material during your days. So, it’s interesting that instead of relying on the old blueprint due to a busy schedule, you took a completely different direction on Brave Murder Day. For example, drawing inspiration from the likes of Kent. Anyway, did you have at least some kind of rudimentary idea for the songs before launching the recording or did you just write the music on a tabula rasa? Moreover, was this newfound style an important reason to continue with Katatonia, considering that the band had just been on the verge of calling it quits?
Renkse: Yes, we had some riffs written before, I think it was the opening riff on “Brave” and the same with “Rainroom.” So we had the plan, the formula. It was hectic as hell, but I think it only added to the certain atmosphere on the album. At least, that’s what I like to think these days. As mentioned before, I think this was a good enough reason to continue Katatonia.
MR: Also, in the liner notes of the re-release you explain that Dan Swanö didn’t really get into this new sound and took a back seat in the production department. What was the atmosphere like in the studio after this decision? In regard to the production, why was the original edition of the album not mastered?
Renkse: At first, when he found out what direction the music was taking, the atmosphere was really bad. He was complaining and we were stubborn. Not an ideal situation, but again I think the album benefitted from that. After he realized we weren’t going to make the album he was hoping for, he relaxed a little but took on the role of just an engineer rather than a producer, so he had very little impact on the music, if any. Regarding the non-mastering, I have no idea. I think Roberto from Avantgarde just sent off the DAT or a CD version of the DAT to the pressing plant.
MR: Generally speaking, the 90’s were a peculiar time for metal. On the other hand, the appreciation of the genre sunk to an all-time low due to the mysterious ways of group behavior in popular culture, but also many of the undeniable masterpieces of extreme music were recorded during those very same days. As somebody who really spread his wings in the beginning of that era, how do you remember its highs and lows?
Renkse: For me, the highs were definitely in the beginning of the 90’s. Still a lot of great death metal coming out. In the middle of the 90’s there were too many melodic “death” metal albums, watering out the whole genre. Of course, Katatonia‘s career started during the 90’s so I have a lot of memories connected to that.
MR: Now when everything is said and done, how much of a legacy did the 1990’s leave for the new millennium?
Renkse: A lot. Some bands definitely honed their style, like Morbid Angel, Paradise Lost etc. A bit of washing out during the mid-to-end though. But…it’s hard to stay on top I guess.
Thanks to Jonas for taking the time to answer our questions, and congratulations to Katatonia for their inclusion on MetalReview‘s The 100 Most Essential Album’s Of The 1990s! Please read Part One of the 90s Essentials interview series — David Ellefson of thrash legends Megadeth!