Imagine you are in a different world. A world where colour has not yet been invented, and everything you see is in shades of gray, black and white. Rain is pouring down from the clouds above and suddenly you have gone back in life, and maybe even switched gender. You are walking down a badly lit road with some of the only things you possess in your hands. If you know where you've ended up right now, please raise your hand.
No? You don't?
Well, you've just ended up on the front cover of Katatonia's Viva Emptiness album. And sure enough you remember the days of misery and depression that beset you at some period in your life. The days when nothing felt good anymore. Nothing seemed to be good. Every thing you did seemed like it had no purpose. Every move you made seemed to be the wrong one. Every bridge you saw prompted you to look over the edge to check out just how deep the fall was. Every crevice and overhanging protruding rock you walked under, hoping that it would collapse on you and take you out and away from the pain inside your heart.
If you've ever felt like that, the cover of the album, and in fact the album itself, are going to appeal to you to no end. The gloomy atmospheres, the melodic, whining vocals, the terrifying lyrics, it's all on this record. I will admit that this has a bit more edge and grit than Last Fair Deal Gone Down, but nevertheless that atmosphere is the one the album conveys, and it does a great job. Perhaps the best evidence of the atmosphere is the closing track, Inside The City Of Glass, a genuinely terrifying instrumental that puts the chills on you from beginning to end. This melancholy song may not rank among the death/doom favourites of "True Doom", and Katatonia have moved away into a more alternative direction, but nevertheless the gloom and melancholy surrounding the music creates here is worthy of the doom metal tag.
"Ghost of the Sun" is the opening rocker, however, and it basically sums up the whole record. Gritty, yet downcast and moody, it sets the tone for the rest of the album in a grandiose way that will leave you shattered for the remainder of the record. The lyrics are a little more profane than we are accustomed to from Mr Renkse, but perhaps it just serves to enhance the feeling, and lyrics like the following excerpt just hit home on all counts.
"I trusted you, you lied, it's all I hear, a ***ing lie
Don't give a ***, it's over now, it's all I know, you broke the vow"
"Sleeper" is another standout track, providing the listener with yet another dose of heavy guitars, biting vocals, and lyrics that will haunt your brains for days to come. Every track is in a similar vein, changing tempos from slow to slower, and shifting the guitars from electric to acoustic, but never does the band stop pelting you with their nigh-on fifty-three minute long slab of dense, layered, depressing music. Every song is another part of the fragmented soul of Mr Renkse, and every track seems to underline another aspect of the dark side of the mind. It may get slightly repetitive at times, and a certain mindset is indeed required to appreciate the album fully.
But if you are into this style of music, Katatonia gives you what you ask for, and a great deal more. This album is the best of their discography, and will pay an insane amount of repeat listens for the ones who are willing to invest in it. So put on this disc and be led into a world where grace is impossible, love is an illusion and every sense of redemption is the utter definition of a fata morgana. Highly recommended.