Katatonia
Viva Emptiness


3.0
good

Review

by Xenorazr CONTRIBUTOR (120 Reviews)
January 24th, 2017 | 19 replies


Release Date: 2003 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Take it as a promise, this is different.

Viva Emptiness is a bizarre collection of tracks. In many ways, it feels like two albums strung together through colliding interests. The bulk of the album appears to depict a tale of crime, likely involving the mafia, as indicated by track names such as “Criminals,” “Evidence” and “Omerta.” Other parts, however, break this pattern and rhythm by, ironically enough, being thematically par for the course by Katatonia’s standards. This scattered narrative seems to be born out of a desire to try something different and thereby justify the twisting of an established formula. And while Viva Emptiness tries its damnedest to fully commit, there remains an underlying sense of conflict and uncertainty throughout, one that the band probably hoped to hide or otherwise avoid.

Signs immediately light up on opener “Ghost of the Sun,” tingling the senses with crisp instrumental work, from the aggressive guitar leads to the clear, involved drumming. Not to be outdone, Jonas Renkse unassumingly joins the fray as if he’s always sounded this comfortable with his traditional singing voice. His bursts of passion are smooth and natural enough to look past the chorus’ otherwise distracting lyrics, which reinforce the album’s generally hostile and angst-ridden tone. We often see this driven through the occasional use of swearing, which often feels laughably forced, namely Renkse’s enunciation in the line “he went too far the ***er/It’s not like I owe him money” from “Criminals,” which features an otherwise enjoyable bassline to build a creepy, noir-like atmosphere. The good news is moments like this are few and far between; the bad news is that Viva Emptiness struggles to consistently deliver wholly worthwhile moments. Possibly the greatest stretch of detriment to the album happens after the first two tracks, going from odd and laughable to boring and then, finally, disorienting.

For better or for worse, Viva Emptiness quickly runs the gamut in its first few tracks. We get a full taste of what the entire album technically sounds like, but the impressions they leave are scattered like a shattered mirror. "Will I Arrive" forgoes tangible guitar work for incoherent noise laced with vague glimpses of tension while "A Premonition" is content to casually serve as a lull in the runtime, despite coming fresh off the relatively upbeat heels of "Criminals." Needless to say, Viva Emptiness is quite a mess in its opening minutes, almost to the point it could lose listeners looking for something grounded and engaging.

Slowly but surely, however, Katatonia begin to find their bearings and, come the album’s final moments, deliver some truly compelling material. Foreboding keyboards lead us into “Complicity,” which gradually transforms into an increasingly suspenseful account, assuring we’re hooked in for the dangerously catchy climax, “Evidence.” By the time we’ve been graced by the album’s instrumental closer, “Inside of the City of Glass,” chills have effectively set in to clench us like a dark, ghastly serpent. It’s a fiendish way to wrap things up, especially since it makes you want to revisit and hopefully gain a newfound appreciation for the whole album. And though this can happen, the first batch of tracks are such a contrast to the following 30 or so minutes, that it can just as easily turn one off from finishing that repeat listen. The track “Omerta” and its role in the album are a perfect way to exemplify this conflict of impression. Where “Evidence” acts as a climax and “Inside the City of Glass” can be likened to a credits song, “Omerta is the actual ending. However, Viva Emptiness isn’t a true concept album, so the fact it jumps in and out of the same narrative makes this ending hit like a punch to the chest instead of the face; you’ll definitely feel some impact, but to say it’s a knockout would be a gross overstatement.

Viva Emptiness feels like a tragedy in disguise. For all the grievances and shortcomings, Katatonia did bring some interesting ideas to the table and even managed to occasionally succeed with this strange mix of doom and alternative metal. One gets the impression that after a host of repressed-sounding records, Viva Emptiness was the inevitable, overdue awakening. And while this awakening was a challenge to face--lacking cohesion and long-term maturity, it would ultimately serve as a moment of catharsis for Katatonia, allowing them to rise to something greater.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
January 24th 2017


1438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Sometimes I can put this album on and really enjoy it, but generally I find myself either bored or conflicted by it. There are some great moments here, but they get bogged down by the more boring and questionable moments. Favorite tracks are "Ghost of the Sun" and the last four tracks. "Burn the Remembrance," "Wealth" and "Walking by a Wire" are enjoyable but they don't leave much of an impression on me.

Hawks
January 24th 2017


73110 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Damn.

Digging: Erang - Kingdom Of Erang

Hovse
January 24th 2017


2717 Comments


This is pretty boring

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
January 24th 2017


1438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Parts of it are, yeah. But I do like the whole thing more than I dislike it.

pollastrerostit
January 24th 2017


46 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Will I Arrive is one of my favourite songs in here

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
January 24th 2017


1438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

I'm probably in the minority with this album, the vast majority of opinions I see shower it with praise, many call it their favorite Katatonia album, which for me is quite puzzling. Maybe part of it is the fact it's one of their more unique albums?

Sabrutin
January 24th 2017


6280 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I made a little bit of peace with this album while waiting for your review, so no more 2.5 risk from me. Still, it's tied with TGCD for weakest Katatonia imo (I like TGCD a bit more), can't feel the hype at all. There's no Katatonia magic, just a faint resemblance covered with angst. Which works occasionally but pales compared to the rest. Perhaps I could like it more if the album sounded better, can't say I really like neither the original nor the remix.



Faves: Ghost of the Sun, Sleeper, Wealth

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
January 24th 2017


1438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Wow, no love for the closing tracks, Sabaton? They essentially saved the album for me.

Sabrutin
January 24th 2017


6280 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'm definitely more into the first half, though I quite like Omerta too. There isn't anything that I flat out dislike.



First I've been called Sabaton haha, ironically I'm seeing them tomorrow because Accept is an opening act! Which is a disgusting thought, it should be the other way around damn

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
January 24th 2017


1438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Seems like we disagree even when we agree. And you can thank my phone (SwiftKey more specifically) for that. I saw Sabaton last year, they and Delain were supporting Nightwish. I'd see them this year if TLS wasn't so bland. They were so fun.

72haha72
January 24th 2017


489 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I feel your rating is too low, but I understand your views. I personally like this album a lot more than the 4 albums that came after. This is probably my 3rd favorite Katatonia album. I love the guitar work of songs like Sleeper, Wealth, Will I Arrive, Complicity and Burn the Rememberance. Katatonia eventually ceased using those tense chords which I love.



Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
January 24th 2017


1438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Seems someone else does too, got a neggy Nancy here lol. The only one of those I'm not a fan of the guitars on is "Will I Arrive." Believe me, I wanted to like this album a lot, but when I first heard it I found myself grimacing more than I'm comfortable with. It did eventually grow on me bit by bit, and I came close to bumping it to a 3.5, but for me there's too much interference going on. Half the tracks are enticing enough for me to return and skip to them, the rest I have little to no desire to hear again.

72haha72
January 24th 2017


489 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I actually pos'd. I like the way you express your views even if we don't agree 100%. Will I Arrive was actually the first Katatonia song I ever heard. I heard it on a 'Heavy Metal' channel I had on DirecTV back in 2003. I got Tonight's Decision a few weeks after that (I know, odd choice for a Katatonia starting point). I was in junior high back then, and I can safely say this band changed my way of appreciating music. The only song here I'd skip depending on my mood is One Year From Now, the rest I really love. There's a Viva Emptiness b-side called Wait Outside, it's probably one of the catchiest songs they've written.

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
January 25th 2017


1438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Thanks, I'm glad you enjoy reading them. I've said it before, but Katatonia are a tough band to find the words to do justice for, makes for a nice personal challenge. I was incredibly late to the Katatonia bandwagon, like most bands I've been getting into. I only heard of them when I saw Opeth after they released Heritage (Katatonia were the supporting band), and even then I didn't actually look into them until a year later. Dead End Kings was my introduction and I couldn't put it down. I occasionally dipped into The Great Cold Distance, but around the same time I began to get into Dream Theater, which was like having a relationship with my music player(s).

72haha72
January 25th 2017


489 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'd love to see Katatonia live, I saw Opeth live last year for the first time and they were awesome. The only times Katatonia have played in my city (2 or 3 times if I'm not mistaken) I've been out of town for some reason . I hope I can get to see them live someday soon.

Dead End Kings is a really good album, but the reason why I don't like their last 4 albums as much as the previous 4 ones (except for Tonight's Decision) is because of the guitar work. Songs like Passing Bird, Stalemate, Nerve, Complicity, Sleeper and Wealth are full to the brim with complex, dissonant chords that are very hard to decipher. On the other hand, songs like My Twin, July, In the White, The Longest Year, Liberation, New Night, The Parting, Buildings and many more; despite being really great songs, most of them are mainly driven by heavy downtuned power chords, emotional arpeggio leads and keyboards. Nothing wrong with that when you manage to pull it off like Katatonia does, but I personally miss those tense, messy moments where it's really hard to tell what's going on (think of the chrous from Sleeper, or the main riff from Chrome).

72haha72
January 25th 2017


489 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

There's an awesome (and sadly defunct) band from Sweden called Burst. If you like Opeth and Katatonia, you'll probably like that band. I recommend you check them out, their last 2 albums are really great stuff, especially Origo.

Maco097
January 25th 2017


3088 Comments


And Burst has nothing to do with Opeth or Katatonia.

72haha72
January 25th 2017


489 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I don't mean to say they sound similar, but I guess their last 2 albums would appeal to pretty much anybody who is into Katatonia and Opeth.

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
January 25th 2017


1438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

I'm fine with messy music if it at least sounds pleasing. One album that came out last year which instantly springs to mind is the eponymous debut from Trees, Clouds & Silence, which you might like if you're into older Alcest material.



I'll admit, Katatonia are a band that, when they go for a more noisy approach, can benefit from being messy and tense (as you put it), but I guess part of it comes down to how each of us got into the band. You got introduced with this, which I'd consider their most aggressive album, while I got introduced with an album that's more relaxed and tame, by comparison. Expectation through initiation. Funny you mention "Sleeper" and "Chrome," because the part I like about the chorus in "Sleeper" is the vocals and ominous lyrics, while "Chrome" is probably one of my favorite tracks on LFDGD.



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