Some fans were extremely disappointed after Katatonia decided to explore more alternative yet equally dark areas after releasing the Sounds of Decay EP (which was basically the counterpart of Brave Murder Day). I personally believe after creating a masterpiece like this, there was nothing left for them to achieve in this genre, so they decided to pursue more depressing music with all clean vocals, distinguishing themselves from hundreds of other bands. It would be best to think of Katatonia in two phases: their earlier doom-death period with albums like Dance of December Souls and Brave Murder Day as well as several EPs, and their more recent starting with the release of Discouraged Ones. Both eras of the bands are amazing, though I feel Brave Murder Day will always remain as most people's number one album.
For their second full-length album, the band decided to enlist the help of their friend Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth to do the vocals, since Jonas Renkse was unable to produce any harsh vocals at the time. I've always argued that Brave Murder Day contains Mikael Akerfeldt's best vocal peformance (outside Opeth that is), as he's never sung with so much pain and emotion before or after. He sure has improved a lot over the years, both as a growler and clean singer, but his vocals on this album are unparalleled.
The album starts with the 10-minute "Brave", perhaps the most definitive Brave Murder Day song. Grey guitar lines slowly dissolve during tense, mournful passages thanks to the distant, simple production of Opeth's and Katatonia's earlier producer Dan Swano. The whole album is laced with repeated key themes, which show little variation on the following songs, giving the impression that they are just parts of a huge composition a la Edge of Sanity's Crimson (also featuring Mikael Akerfeldt as a guest). The growls on the piece are low and sound extremely tortured, climaxing during the line that says, "Wherever you are I am not". That is possibly Mikael Akerfeldt's longest and most emotional scream ever recorded. Add to this Blackheim's haunting guitar melody that keeps churning forever. Thus, a doom-death metal masterpiece is complete. "Murder" is perhaps the most simple cut on the album. Only half as long, slowly strummed guitar chords and a repetitive melody bring the piece an added clarity while Akerfeldt delivers the lyrics with utmost conviction.
"Day" features Jonas Renkse's clean voice from start to finish. Since Renkse played the drums on Brave Murder Day, they decided to use a static drum machine for this particular song. The guitars are repetitive in a hypnotic fashion. Granted Renkse has come a long way as singer over the last years (particularly from Last Fair Deal Gone Down onwards), his vocals on this track are very emotive and the "Let's stay here for a while" chorus is infectious. On the final track "Endtime", Renkse and Akerfeldt sing together, with Akerfeldt doing the growls (do I have to repeat you've never heard him growl like this before?) and Renkse the clean vocals. Mostly acoustic, the song bears effective guitar waves and a solemn, gloomy pace. On the other hand, "Rainroom" has a nice yet dark acoustic interlude and a very powerful guitar theme. "12" is the album's most progressive number, and in many ways similar to the first two Opeth albums, particularly Morningrise. The Dan Swano influence is impossible to overlook here, as the song goes through several movements, ignoring any conventional songwriting formulas. The intro of this song is simply fantastic: utterly dark, it even destroys the smallest glimpse of hope. Huge, cascading doom riffs explode only to reinvent themselves with ever-changing chord progressions (though it's all done so subtly that you may not understand anything upon first listen).
If you get the re-release of Brave Murder Day, you'll also hear the For Funerals to Come EP, consisting of four tracks, featuring original singer Jonas Renkse. This is a great EP with some great songs, but Renkse's harsh vocals simply pale in comparison to Akerfeldt's, both on this album and its successor: the Sounds of Decay EP.
All in all, this album is easily a milestone in doom-death and quite possibly the favourite album of most Katatonia fans.