Brave Yester Days, a two-disc set, covers Katatonia's progression from a growly underground beast that had promise but could have faded entirely from the radar just as easily as it could have continued on to its current crusade for mainstream success. Nothing here really matches last year's emotionally wrenching Viva Emptiness on either the musical or lyrical front but what Brave Yester Days does provide is a glimpse of the band's unbelievable evolution.
The band's 1992 EP Jhava Elohim Meth shows that Anders Nyström (AKA Blackheim) already had his signature billowing bed of guitars in place even if he and drummer/vocalist Jonas Renske (AKA Lord Seth) focused much more on creating an emotionally impenetrable fortress of darkness that stretched all the way, more or less, until 1997's Sounds Of Decay. That outing's "Inside The Fall" provided some hints of maturity, to the cracking of the youthful facade that kept listeners at a distance.
But the band still relied heavily on Metallica-influenced harmonies and hadn't found much it could call its own. At least not until the stunning (by contrast to all that had come before) Saw You Drown (1998). There, added touches sometimes reminiscent of psychedelia, sometimes reminiscent of Echo and the Bunneymen ("Scarlet Heavens"), creating the dreamlike landscape that would eventually more fully informing albums such as Viva Emptiness.
Brave Yester Days will most likely appeal mostly to rarity-seekers but fans of latter-day Katatonia would be wise to get in touch with the band's dark roots. Cool packaging, too.