Katatonia - The Great Cold Distance
Peaceville Records
Dark Atmospheric Rock
13 songs (51:51)
Release year: 2006
Katatonia, Peaceville Records
Reviewed by Al
Album of the month

Once in a very long while, a person encounters a band or piece of music that just seems to strike them in such a powerful way that they make an emotional connection to it. I’d challenge any fan of serious music to say that this has not happened at least once over the course of their lives. Everyone has a band or song which may not necessarily be their favourite yet distils a feeling, event or place and time into an aural medium and experiencing it can rekindle the related emotions. This feeling or event does not necessarily have to be positive, but experiencing it again through music can oft times be therapeutic and a powerful experience in its own right. Personally, I could name a few bands whose music manages to ignite such a powerful reaction in my psyche and Katatonia ranks among them.

For those who are not familiar with the band they have gone through a rather drastic change over the course of their career. Starting out in the early nineties playing death metal their sound has morphed into something altogether far more unique and interesting. The Swedish five piece which at present retains it’s two founding members, vocalist Jonas Renkse and lead guitarist Anders Nyström has already released six full length albums prior to The Great Cold Distance. The music the band creates is a combination of melodic vocals which range from soft and dreamlike to biting and intense with incredible fluency. This is accompanied by vaguely doom inspired musical strains albeit at a much faster tempo and wailing, siren like guitar parts which lend a soaring quality to many of the choruses. The band excels at creating an atmosphere of exhilarating desolation, akin to the feeling you’d get standing in a usually busy place devoid of people and a sound that can feel both fragile and powerful.

For those familiar with the band, this is basically a natural evolution from Viva Emptiness. The overall sound of the band is very similar to the aforementioned record but there is more of an element of contrast on the album overall and even within particular songs. There is a mixture of more and less accessible material than the previous album, some songs such as the single My Twin verge on the catchy whilst others such as July take so many twists and turns over the course of their running time that appreciating them is impossible without repeated listening. Suffice to say if you enjoyed Viva Emptiness you will enjoy this and likewise the reverse is true.

There are many highlights, so I've picked out the following. The album opens with Leaders which sets the quality with which the album consistently achieves. It’s a familiar outing for Katatonia fans, with it’s brooding verse which steadily picks up pace until the chorus. The usual wailing guitars give way to an explosion of screams and heavy riffing, one of only two times on the album this is to be heard. This vocal approach is used very sparingly, lending it far more impact when it is utilised. Deliberation is one of my two favourite tracks on the album, it achieves a exhilarating mix of atmospheric verses and a soaring, intense chorus which left me in a state of awe the first time I heard it. Soil Song is an unusual track in terms of both sound and song structure and is one the most jarring and beautiful pieces of music on the album. Finally, my other favourite track July is basically a showcase of every aspect of Katatonia’s sound combined to create a banquet of musical delights. It takes a few listens to reveal itself completely but when it clicks, it really clicks. Without a doubt one of the finest tracks I’ve heard this year.

I’ve had a very hard time trying to find things to criticise on this release. Being lucky enough to be in possession of the album for a few months I can confidently say that it has never bored me or grated on me. The last two tracks, The Itch and Journey Through Pressure, while being enjoyable, don’t grab me as much as the rest of the album. They tend to drag a bit and don’t exhibit the same dynamic flow as the rest of the material. That said they don’t detract from the experience instead just don’t live up to the high standard of the rest of the album.

This is one of the best releases of year so far and I will be shocked if it doesn’t make my top 15 at the end of 2006. I would definitely recommend this to everyone who has not yet experienced Katatonia and at the same time stress that if you did not like the bands previous efforts, particularly Viva Emptiness, to steer clear. As I stated at the start of my review, this is one of those rare albums which had a profound effect on me and it’s unlikely that experience will be the same for many people, music being the awkward, personal thing that it is. If you are however looking for a tremendous slice of dark, atmospheric rock with top notch musicianship and song writing then look no futher.

MP3: Sample and Video for My Twin

Killing Songs :
All except The Itch and Journey Through Pressure,
Al quoted 93 / 100
Kayla quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Katatonia that we have reviewed:
Katatonia - City Burials reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
Katatonia - Night Is The New Day reviewed by Khelek and quoted 91 / 100
Katatonia - Viva Emptiness reviewed by Alex and quoted 91 / 100
Katatonia - Last Fair Deal Gone Down reviewed by Danny and quoted 82 / 100
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