This album is, essentially, “Viva Emptiness” 2.0.
KATATONIA has never been a happy band and with an album title like “The Great Cold Distance” you shouldn’t expect it to change. In fact, you shouldn’t expect much change at all. “Viva Emptiness” was a great album, a masterful weight dragging you into a river of crushing self-doubt and sorrow. “The Great Cold Distance” sees the band return to the same well, to continue the water metaphors.
Okay, let’s do what changed first. The sound is more modern, more contemporary both in production and in some of the aspects of the music itself. The band makes the occasional reference to their more extreme past; in opener “Leaders” there are a couple repeated screams lurking deep in the mix.
What’s the same? Everything else. The guitars alternate between pseudo-acoustic and heavy power chords, Jonas Renske’s vocals are as plaintive, morose and spiteful as ever and programming hangs around in the background. The song structures are startlingly similar to “Viva Emptiness”—it was pretty common that listening to “The Great Cold Distance” I found myself trying to figure out which was the song on “Viva Emptiness” where I’d heard the riff or bridge before.
This review sounds a bit more negative than I want it to. KATATONIA still writes good songs and has a strong sense for darkness and depression. Everyone is obviously talented at putting together dark songs. I probably would like this album a lot more if I hadn’t heard “Viva Emptiness.” And maybe after a few more spins I will.
If you didn’t like “Viva Emptiness,” avoid “The Great Cold Distance.” If you liked it, check this out. Hopefully you’re mileage will be better than mine. (Online February 24, 2006)