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Katatonia: The Great Cold Distance

Katatonia's previous album Viva Emptiness took a step further from the band's doom metal past towards more modern and accessible sounds. On their latest The Great Cold Distance, the band push their hard hitting and melancholy driven style one step further. Here, the riffs are a bit heavier in spots, the dark and atmospheric passages more ominous, and the vocals, while still catchy, mourn with anguish, anger, and despair.

After a few spins, the melodies and catchy guitar riffs of songs like "Soil's Song", "Leaders" and the alluring "My Twin" really stand out and stick in your head. Many have stated over the years that the tempo of most Katatonia songs tend to stay in a similar pattern, and that is true here on The Great Cold Distance as well for the most part, but there's just enough variance on each piece to keep you coming back for more initially till the songs each really start to open themselves up to the listener fully. A nice break from the lulling style can be heard on the Opeth sounding "Consternation", a tune with huge and cascading guitar passages that are pretty complex, as well as a varied vocal attack from Jonas Renske. The band mixes spacey prog rock with huge walls of doom riffs on "Follower", while "Rusted" has some pastoral folk influences to go along with the dark metal vibe. Drummer Daniel Liljekvist gets into some tricky rhythms on "In the White", a song that also sees a passionate vocal from Renske, while "The Itch" is one of the more brutally heavy numbers on the CD. However, the ending song, "Journey Through Pressure", is a psychedelic and progressive metal monster, with thick guitar chords, layers of spacey effects, and acid-soaked vocals. This song builds and builds in depressed intensity until it slowly fades out, a fitting way to end a monster album.

You get the feeling that Katatonia are close to breaking through to mainstream acceptance, although in the long run their dark and depressing style might still find it hard to catch on with the traditional metal audience. However, The Great Cold Distance is a major musical treat of dark, progressive, and psychedelic metal sounds that expands upon their smash Viva Emptiness even further. Let the accolades begin!

Track Listing
1 Leaders
2 Deliberation
3 Soil's Song
4 My Twin
5 Consternation
6 Follower
7 Rusted
8 Increase
9 July
10 In the White
11 The Itch
12 Journey Through Pressure

Added: April 4th 2006
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Katatonia Website
Hits: 7422
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Katatonia: The Great Cold Distance
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-04-04 09:19:59
My Score:

The Great Cold Distance is in many ways the best Katatonia album since their undisputed 1996 masterpiece Brave Murder Day. It was after this album when Katatonia decided to explore uncharted waters, opting for a more laidback yet perhaps darker and more depressing songwriting formula. With amazing records like Discouraged Ones and Last Fair Deal Gone Down, they have established themselves as one of the leading forces in the genre, rivaled by only a handful other bands, if any.

Despite the relatively compact songs, the new Katatonia album is an extremely demanding listen, the compositions being made up of complex arrangements, deliberately disfunctional rhythmic patterns, and often discordant riffs. Given songwriters Jonas Renkse and Anders Nystrom have cited Tool as one of their favourite bands, it comes as no secret that the main riff of the album opener "Leaders" bears a similarity with Tool's "The Grudge", not to mention vocalist Renkse's great vocal melodic progressions that bring to mind the great Maynard Keenan. Daniel Liljekvist provides some amazing screams on this track, contributing to the dark nature of the piece. However, it is his drumming on The Great Cold Distance that will leave many fans' jaws hanging. This guy is a monster and this album features without doubt the best Katatonia drumming in years. Same thing goes for Mattias Norrman's bass work. The song "Follower" seems like it was developed around his amazing bass groove, with powerful guitar work that entails tons of reverb rendering it perhaps the most atmospheric and depressive number on the album. The guitar theme that soars above the composition before the heavier final section sends shivers down the spine: melody and emotion unite in order to create magic during a ten second solo passage.

The album's first single "My Twin" is a suitable choice. Layers of subtle keys, rhythmic drumming and amazing vocal melodies all create a dreamy atmosphere as a dark acoustic guitar melody is played underneath the arrangement. "Deliberation" isn't too different in the way that it retains the trademark Katatonia atmosphere with thorough production and an infectious chorus, not to mention the amazing backing vocals by Anders Nystrom. Songs like "Rusted" and "Increase" feature cascading guitar swells, rising mellotron sounds, shifting dynamics that alternate between the band's love for depressing serene sections and grinding, riff-based textures.

There are also some great Opeth-like moments on the album. When I say Opeth, I'm strictly referring to their Ghost Reveries period. The third track "Soil's Song", considered a favourite by many, is formulated by distinct Opethian guitar work with its pull-offs and open strings, dictating a multi-layered arrangement with detailed production values. The guitars are thick and the keys at the end are sublime. "Consternation" is a heavier track, but still marked with creative Opeth traits. The chopped riff progression and constant use of ninth chords and triplets culminates in one of the heaviest and most dynamic songs on the album.

It could be argued that The Great Cold Distance, while compositionally strong, doesn't really reinvent the wheel, and is more of a continuation of their sounds achieved on Last Fair Deal Gone Down and Viva Emptiness. This may be true to an extent, but there are two songs on this album where Katatonia really break new ground: "July" and "In the White". The former finds the band pushing their melodic aspects a step further, utilising sparse drum beats and excellent vocals; while the other piece is a perfect harmony of bass, drums, acoustic guitars, and keyboards. Renkse's mournful vocals on the song are betrayed by thundering bass explosions and crashing cymbals. These songs are among the most progressive (in the truest meaning of the word) Katatonia songs ever.

Lyrically the album is equally complex. Though various interpretations could be made, such as coldness, nervous breakdown, and the contrast between light and dark, I firmly believe Renkse expresses ideas of freedom of speech (or lack thereof) or lack of freedom in general. Given lines that go like, "My mouth remains inactive" (Deliberation); "Keep your last words in your hand" (Soil's Song); or "My mouth was sewn" (Leaders), Jonas Renkse must have felt the need to write about these thoughts a lot. A more general outline could be made if you give the lyrics a closer attention, with the exception of the song "July" (which itself signifies a new direction for Katatonia).

If you decide to get the special edition box of the album, your copy will contain the band's first ever video of "My Twin", a poster, some postcards, and a special CD with both sides being black. Get this album immediately because it's going to be a top release for most listeners.

» Reader Comments:

Katatonia: The Great Cold Distance
Posted by Anonymous on 2006-02-12 14:33:30
My Score:

i give this album a 5 star rating, because this guys are so creative, and because they never let me down with each new album they release, one of the greatest bands nowadays, and i dont think its stepping away from the metal scene, this album is so powerfull, so emotional, and so depressing, the only thing a can do is listen to it over and over again.....katatonia rules.

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