Katatonia is one of the few bands whose B-sides and rarities I've followed closely from early on. I actually started putting this piece together several years ago, but never finished it. So, when I learned this week that the band had announced Mnemosynean—a comprehensive 27-song two-CD or three-LP set of B-sides, rarities, remixes, etc. (pre-order links down below)—I figured now'd be the perfect time to dig this list out of my drafts and actually finish it up! I can't imagine there are many Katatonia fans out there who are unfamiliar with these astoundingly wonderful non-album masterpieces, but... if even one listener remains in the dark, maybe I'll do some good here with my rundown of personal favorites (in chronological order).
"No Devotion" (Tonight's Decision reissue bonus track, 2000)
From 1998 - 2008, Katatonia was essentially a perfect band, as far as I'm concerned, so this peak-era bonus track is dreary, mid-paced excellence that combines chugging rhythms and droning lead lines with some orchestral keyboard melodies during the outro.
"March 4" ("Teargas" B-side, 2001)
Another gem that's right in the pocket with that pulsing tempo, loaded with constant interplay between the lead and rhythm guitars—and maybe a dash of Mellotron buried in there, too? Also of note is the superb drumming performance that really adds to the overall impact of the piece.
"Help Me Disappear" ("Tonight's Music" B-side, 2001)
Even though it's from the following album's timeframe, "Help Me Disappear" has a lot in common with "Fractured" (another killer rarity from Tonight's Decision) in terms of how it ebbs and flows from the softer verses into the surging, quite-memorable chorus. The aggressive bits of dissonance that creep into this song also hint at where things would land on Viva Emptiness a couple of years later.
"Wait Outside" (Viva Emptiness sessions, 2003)
I believe this is the only rarity from the Viva Emptiness album, but holy shit, what a song! Another great chorus, waves of heaviness, emphatic melodies, sleek drum work, etc. Why the hell wasn't this on the original album!? (First appearing on 2005's The Black Sessions collection, a retouched version of "Wait Outside" appears on later reissues of Viva Emptiness, but it's not quite as impactful, so I prefer the original.)
"Dissolving Bonds" ("My Twin" B-side, 2006)
Katatonia started seriously crushing it with this era of B-sides. I mean, this is one of my all-time favorite Katatonia songs. I was pretty obsessed with The Great Cold Distance, and with this track—alongside stuff like "Soil's Song"—I would sit and listen over and over and over again. Just digest that amazingly emotional chorus—absolutely crushing. Daniel Liljekvist also cranked out a lot subtly complex and badass flourishes to the drumming during this time period, and you can definitely pick up on some of that herein.
"Code Against the Code" ("Deliberation" B-side, 2006)
Another splendidly hypnotic stunner. Like "Dissolving Bonds," "Code Against the Code" easily could've been at home on the album itself in terms of quality. So good.
"Second" (Dead End Kings special edition bonus track, 2012)
If I'm being completely honest, the atmospheric and subdued transition that took shape in the years following The Great Cold Distance started to "lose" me to some degree, although I love Katatonia so much that I always buy every album and continue trying to collect all of the assorted offshoot tracks floating around out there. "Second" proves that the group is still capable of dishing out some of the finest rarities out there. I actually enjoy this tune more than most of the songs on the standard edition of Dead End Kings.
And make no mistake, it was tough to narrow it down to just a handful of greats. There were a number of other choice contenders: "Quiet World," "Sulfur," "Unfurl," a cover of Judas Priest's "Night Comes Down," etc. All of which will also be included on Mnemosynean when it hits the streets via Peaceville in October.