Katatonia b-sides/rarities collection Mnemosynean reviewed
Katatonia have worn many cloaks in their 30-year career. Roots in the world of doom – and death-doom – saw them steadily evolve their gothic inclinations, stripping away some of the early extremity while discovering the oceans-deep pool of prog in which to immerse themselves. This new b-sides and oddities collection explores their three-decade span in an enormous two-disc collection culled from EPs, singles, bonus tracks and outtakes across their career.
Astonishingly, it makes a remarkably cohesive collection. Rather than feeling like disjointed odds’n’sods have been parcelled together and pushed out for the hardcore fans, Mnemosynean serves as an alternative roadmap through the band’s expansive career. Kicking off with bonus tracks from 2016’s The Fall Of Hearts, the album runs in backwards chronology, capturing the major beats of Katatonia’s career while shining a light on some lesser-loved gems.
While there is no dearth of quality to be found across the two-disc set, there are nonetheless standout songs that command attention. Wide Awake In Quietus comes off like an intersection of Damnation-era Opeth and romantic goth rockers Him. Elsewhere, Ashen, Sulfur and Fractured are thunderous reminders of Katatonia’s ties to the 90s Peaceville doom scene, every bit as crushing as recent Paradise Lost or My Dying Bride releases.
Enormous stylistic left-turns are rare. Scarlet Heavens is as directly Sisters Of Mercy-style goth as the band get, but otherwise Mnemosynean mostly switches between the use of roaring guitar, thrumming electronica, as on Unfurl, or light synth/symphonics (Second, The Act Of Darkening) to establish the evolution in sound. Ultimately, Mnemosynean is less interested in uncovering stylistic curios as it is reclaiming the songs that were never got their chance to shine. If Katatonia’s 11-album discography feels daunting, consider this a backdoor ‘Greatest Hits’ for fan-favourites that never were.
Mnemosynean is out October 1 via Peaceville