The problems with tribute records can be narrowed down to two things: first, all the songs are straight covers, and two, most of them suck. You’d think if you were approached to pay tribute to a band you really respected you would want to do your song justice. Even so, not all straight covers are bad, sometimes they are even better than the original (see Emperor’s A Fine Day To Die). The only time a straight cover is bad is when the band plays it with lackluster musicianship. Hell, sometimes a band should have the balls to say they don’t have the right sound to offer a tribute. This is where song interpretations come in. To cover a song in this manner, you basically rewrite it in a different atmosphere, adding things, deleting things, changing tempos, etc. These are the covers bands want to hear, they want to hear what their songs would sound like when other people put their perspective behind them.
The aforementioned issues have seeped into this tribute compilation as well. Thankfully, there are enough worthwhile songs to make at least one listen worth your time with the songs assorted from Katatonia’s older era, from Jhva Elohim Meth to Discouraged Ones. According to the roster we have here, our generation’s black and gothic metal scenes apparently owe a lot to Katatonia, since that’s literally all there is here. Since these are covers I think it’s safe to skim over the highlights.
Foscor kicks things off with the nice intro and a very fast paced, double bass filled version of Gateways, or at least much faster than the original. It might take you by surprise, but it’s still quite an enjoyable track. Many know Xasthur as a leader in the US black metal scene. His basically straight cover is his own black metal adaptation of the doom-tinged Palace of Frost, using muffled harsh vocals to great effect. Wyrd’s appearance is also welcomed, for the vocals retain the agonizing sound of Jonas’ old shriek, and though it’s another straight cover it’s done to a decent result. Dark Fortress closes the first disc with their interpretation of Endtime. They leave out parts and still manage to make a longer version than the original. Still, the vocals are quality, filled with power and pain, and the added keyboards help make this the best track on the first disc by far.
Loss opens the next disc with a pretty bland cover of Brave, plus the vocals are poorly executed. It’s a shame since they’re a solid band, but oh well. Forest Of Shadows and Helevorn both do solid straight covers of Rainroom and 12, respectively, with Helevorn adding synths behind their highly distorted sound. However, Forgotten Tomb renders those bands obsolete with a fantastically played version of Nowhere from the Sounds of Decay EP. If you’re at all familiar with their vocalist you know he did a ***ing great job here. Fragile Hollow’s gothic rendition of Saw You Drown is somehow bleaker than the original, plus they added a weird ebow synth thing over everything, as well as branching the song out longer to play the main riffs in their own devastating way; an easy highlight. October Falls closes the second disc in a rather appropriate way with For Funerals To Come, a mostly acoustic instrumental, with added whispered harsh vocals near the end.
So there are the main highlights…however, there is one song that far surpasses any cover on here, let alone any cover I’ve ever heard. The pagan metal band Hel teams up with Winterheart (female vocalist) to deliver a most emotionally overwhelming rendition of Cold Ways; subtly self-destructive if you will. I won’t go into detail, because I urge you all to at least listen to this one track if not any of the others.
The compilation is more for the Katatonia fan obviously, but even so an alternate method to possibly get someone into Katatonia, or even any of the bands paying tribute. Hearing these interpretations is also a unique method of the bands showing how Katatonia influenced their own sound, and you really can’t witness evolution quite like this outside of the right accumulation of a true tribute.