The Great Cold Distance is the latest release from the Swedish quintet Katatonia, there 7th in fact. Beginning in 1991 Katatonia has ventured rather far from their death/doom metal roots with their most recent releases bordering on alternative rock. The Great Cold Distance on the surface seems like a rehash of the highly vocal driven Viva Emptiness but look deeper and it is another step for the band. Members of Katatonia have worked in the Swedish supergroup Bloodbath, a band focusing on the old-school Swedish death metal sound.
Katatonia on this album are:
Jonas Renkse - Vocals
Anders Nystrom - Guitar, backing vocals
Fredrik Norrman - Guitar
Mattias Norrman - Bass
Daniel Liljekvist - Drums
Mixed by Jens Borgen (who produced Ghost Reveries by Opeth and Nightmares Made Flesh by Bloodbath)
The first feature which stuck me was the excellent production on this album. Jonas Renkse's vocals are still very melancholy and haunting but they don't overpower everything else like Viva Emptiness. In fact they sound more emotional and more depressing than ever which I see pleasing fans of Tool and the Deftones as well as the typical doomheads. Unlike the previous album the songs are more instrumentally driven like Last Fair Deal Down or Tonight's Decision and are unlike Viva Emptiness where the vocals drowned out the instruments and tended to solely drive the songs.
The opening track Leaders
features Renkse crooning 'Come here, I split my heart in two but you don't have it in you' and this is followed by Anders Nystrom screaming 'Do you, do you... DO YOU!!!!!!'. Screams haven't been a main part of Katatonia's sound since he apparently lost his ability to scream early in Katatonia's career (this is why Mikael Akerfeldt recorded vocals on Brave Murder Day and Sounds of Decay). Vocal effects are used to add a tad of diversity e.g. after the extremely-headbangable behemoth riff which opens Consternation
his vocals are treated with a dissonant and muddy effect which work superbly in creating an atmosphere of misery. The Itch
utilises an unusual vocal effect similar to Mr Akerfeldt's favourite telephone effect and the song also features an amazing scream by Nystrom which lasts for under 20 seconds. Anders Nystrom also did backing a few screams on Viva Emptiness but they are more powerful and add alot to this new release even though they are mixed in a way that doesn't overpower the other instruments.
The guitars and bass sound thicker and denser than ever, while still allowing the drums to sound crisp and clean. The riffs on this album are more powerful and dynamic than ever and the lighter guitar parts are more ambient and sweet. Anders "Blakkheim" Nystrom & Fredrik Norrman are the guitarists for Katatonia. Instead of displaying overly technical wankery and riffage, they create impenetrable soundscapes, beautiful interludes and they give Katatonia its driving power. Three minutes into July
contains some tight chuggy riffs working together with nice syncopated drums - very reminiscent of the outro in the song Deliverance by Opeth. The lead guitar parts are mixed in a way that they flow seamlessly on top of the rhythm parts unlike their previous works where the lead tends to have a fair amount of spotlight, this use of layers gives the album a very blended natural guitar sound.
The bass is handled by Mattias "Kryptan" Norrman and remains very audible and defined in the mix. He works well with the guitarists to make their riffs pound even lower into the ground and displays a very smooth relaxed style when complementing the occasional soft sections notably in the opening of the album's single My Twin
. Daniel Liljekvist does an amazing job on The Great Cold Distance. Now Katatonia's drumming has never really amazed me, Dan Swano's drumming on Discouraged Ones is horrific. There's the distinctive tribal Katatonia sound but Daniel manages to build on this and create a nice feel to this album, he adds delicious fills and appealing cymbal work to the environment of Katatonia's sound. The drumming in In The White
has a very Toolesque feel and is one of the stronger songs of the album.
The Great Cold Distance is an almost flawless album, the only negatives is that they could've done more and expanded their sound farther from the Viva Emptiness and Last Fair Deal Gone Down blueprints. It's a far heavier step than Viva Emptiness (which I found almost too soft) and it doesn't seem to have the vulgar swearing which I found stood out alot in Viva Emptiness. Each song is great and this album is a masterwork of consistency which Katatonia seem to excel at. A few songs stand-out for me mainly because of wicked riffs and cool things.
In The White
-Perfect doomy atmosphere
-Excellent vocals from Renkse
-Some amazing riffs
-Not for purist metalheads
-They could've gone farther with their music
-Very depressing, may upset happy people
-My comp doesn't read the CD, so I can't put it on my mp3 player. ARGHHH!!