Katatonia - The Great Cold Distance
Katatonia must be considered one of Sweden's best-kept secrets. Time to discover why. They originally started out as a doom/death metal band on their much-praised albums Dance Of December Souls (1993) and Brave Murder Day (1996), with well-respected names like Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth) and Dan Swanö (Edge Of Sanity) in their line-up at the time. But at the time of Brave Murder Day's release, the vocalist Jonas Renkse suffered problems with his voice, and was unable to do harsh vocals anymore. After a one year long hiatus the band decided to leave their pseudonyms (including names like Lord Seth and Blackheim) and death metal behind, and take their music to a new direction.
The Great Cold Distance keeps building from the foundation of its predecessor Viva Emptiness (2003), by many fans considered to be Katatonia's finest hour. There have been complains about the new album being more accessible than the others, and the first single My Twin has indeed had its share of air play on the radio. I certainly don't count myself as one of the whiners, since the first half of The Great Cold Distance is perhaps the best I have heard so far this year. It's simply Katatonia and what they do best; depressing and melancholic rock with a few gothic influences here and there.
A track like Soil's Song would fit splendidly with the material on Opeth's masterpiece Damnation, and it also seems like Renkse has picked up a few advices from Mikael Åkerfeldt when it comes to the clean vocals. The opener Leaders gets my vote for the song of the album, thanks to its in-your-face-approach, as well as the aggressive screams and the addictive guitar-line. The second single Deliberation is more mainstream put, but almost as good.
But what comes up always must go down, as you all know. When listening to the second half of the album, it becomes apparent that Katatonia aren't able to maintain the high quality found on the first handful of songs. They aren't bad by any means (Rusted blends beauty with ugliness in a remarkable way, for example), but since we all know what they guys are capable of it's slightly disappointing that all songs aren't of the same high calibre. One impressing aspect is the consistent flow of the album, even if the calmer parts don't always get on very well with the rhythmic, more aggressive moments. But I'm very fond of the production, especially the brooding keyboards that breathes life into each and every composition.
Even if a few tracks perhaps should have been dropped, this is a strong release that will be given many more spins this fall. And since it's probably the most accessible Katatonia-album yet, it should be the perfect ticket to their rich back-catalogue.
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