Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Katatonia - Jhva Elohim Meth (1993)

Jhva Elohim Meth... the Revival, was basically the reissue of a previous demo tape, now released on CD in a limited slimcase version by Vic Records. The material had been recorded a year prior, in the summer of 1992. At the time, this must have been quite a peculiar release. While the cover art is vague enough to have suited several different sub-genres of Metal, the overall aesthetics would seem to indicate that this was meant to have some relation to the Black Metal scene, which was growing in popularity throughout the region. There is a pentagram in the logo, the band members have pseudonyms (Lord Seth and Blackheim), and they are photographed wearing corpse paint. Even the song titles seemed to fall in line with this manner of presentation, and it all comes off as very odd. Of course, it is all merely a minor curiosity now. However, at the time of its release, this E.P. must have confused some people. Despite this misrepresentation, this isn't a bad release of Paradise Lost-influenced Doom/Death.

It opens with the brief intro, "Midwinter Gates (prologue)". The acoustic guitar and keyboard effects (handled by producer, Dan Swanö) do well to set a somber tone.

"Without God" is the first proper song. The mid-paced doom riffs are very reminiscent of Gothic-era Paradise Lost. There's also a bit of keyboards, which are louder than they need to be. This was corrected on the version that was recorded for the full-length. There is a hopeless feeling running through this, which would have been accentuated even more had the band slowed the song down a bit or done away with the more upbeat sections. This was always one of the drawbacks of early Katatonia, as the feeling wasn't always consistent. It may have been for the purpose of showing contrast between the two and making the more down-tempo riffs stand out that much more, but the execution of this idea was flawed. All in all, the song is memorable and possesses some nice riffs, but it leaves something to be desired regarding the oppressive feeling of doom that should have been the primary focus.

The next song is "Palace of Frost", and the influence of The Cure is quite evident in the first riff. It works well to create a sorrowful atmosphere, which is promptly interrupted by the riffs that follow. They're not bad, but they have no real feeling either way. Near the middle, another doom-laden riff appear, accompanied by a small touch of keyboards. There's a brief transitional riff that leads into a much more hopeless melody. Unfortunately, these moments are all too ephemeral. Where the band truly shines are the moments of despondency and utter despair. Instead of capitalizing on this, they are too quick to jump from one riff to another, losing the overall cohesion in the feeling of the song.

"The Northern Silence" is another track that could have added to the mistaken thought that this might be some Black Metal release, based on the title. A slow, depressive riff begins the song, before things speed up. The bass is loud in the mix, needlessly so. Again, the song goes from something with the potential to be dark and gloomy and morphs into something rather pointless. There is a dreary section where Lord Seth's raspy, near-Black Metal, vocals have a nice contrast with the clean singing of Dan Swanö. Unfortunately, the song is too brief and the actual doom element is not the dominant theme.

The E.P. ends with an outro, "Crimson Tears (epilogue)". This is a decent way to end the release, similar to the way it began. Ultimately, it doesn't add a great deal to the proceedings.

Jhva Elohim Meth... the Revival is a strange release, for a number of reasons. It has potential and is enjoyable. However, it lacks focus in several key areas. The aesthetics of their presentation are reaching for a Black Metal audience, for some reason. The music has its moments, but fails to make the most of the true moments of darkness and misery found here. The rifs are passed over too quickly, in favour of others that are infinitely inferior and serve only to disrupt the flow. They would go on to learn from their mistakes and to come much closer to making brilliant Doom/Death Metal on Dance of December Souls, though the same faults are found on that release as well, only somewhat contained.