Katatonia
The Great Cold Distance


4.0
excellent

Review

by Xenorazr CONTRIBUTOR (120 Reviews)
January 27th, 2017 | 126 replies


Release Date: 2006 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Variety through familiarity.

The Great Cold Distance has something of a reputation in Katatonia’s discography. Not only is it a top recommendation for prospecting fans, but its songs frequently bathe the band’s setlists like drops of blood in an expanding pool of water. So much so, that guitarist Anders Nystrom recently mentioned “that there’s been no other album from which we’ve played more songs than The Great Cold Distance,” when announcing the album’s 10th anniversary edition. This then begs the question: what is it that makes The Great Cold Distance resonate as much as it does, both for Katatonia and their still-growing fanbase" Previous albums had already sparked hearts and minds aplenty, albeit in a bleak, disheartening manner, so what does The Great Cold Distance achieve that its predecessors apparently did not" Glancing listeners may contentedly argue that it simply refines select qualities from Viva Emptiness, ties them together with the band’s core elements, and repressively delivers the results in a tidy-to-a-fault package. But as with any Katatonia album (even the weaker ones), there’s more going on than the lampglow initially reveals.

One of the first items of note is the album’s striking art style, adorning a strict red-on-black color scheme with grim, messily drawn images. The use of black is self-explanatory, considering it’s mainly used as a background and suits Katatonia’s desolate nature. Red, however, draws a distinct level of attention to the album and its overarching themes. Out of the many subjects that red symbolizes amidst various cultures, sacrifice, aggression, heat and danger are among the more consistent with what The Great Cold Distance explores. The shade of hot red and the “cold distance” of black is reflected in the album’s positively anxiety-ridden soundscape. This particular anxiety can be likened to a proper horror film, the kind that breathes with a pulsating heartbeat during its overtly scary moments, only to still the air with a looming tension when things momentarily settle down. We’re constantly subjected to this treatment throughout the album, often within any given track; be it the nervous vocal passages that break the otherwise blaring “Consternation,” or the brief, violent uprising three minutes into “Follower.” Even with the shifting tones from section to section, The Great Cold Distance sticks to a mid-tempo pace, barely breaking rhythm for more than a few seconds at a time. Thus, every moment, be it a lull or escalation, feels grounded, as if to repress the music from getting out of hand. It’s a classic case of building atmosphere through contrast, and while Katatonia had certainly toyed with this approach in previous albums, The Great Cold Distance wields it with a newfound comfort and confidence.

Album titles are another tell-tale sign of things to come, and The Great Cold Distance is no different, particularly with regards to the recurring theme of distance. While this isn’t a concept album, there’s a definite pull and consistent momentum from track to track. Instrumentally speaking, The Great Cold Distance rests on the simple end of the spectrum, alternating soft guitar melodies with aggressive (though still palpable) power chords to drive the aforementioned moments of escalation. Though some songs indulge in being heavy ("Increase") while others lean towards a disquieting tranquility ("Follower"), the album rarely lets one dominate for more than a couple minutes at a time. Another consistency is the abstract nature of the lyrics, which Jonas Renkse often sings with either detachment or despair. His more passionate croons are in notably short supply here--one exception being the chorus to “In the White”, further reinforcing an overall sense of impartiality. The specifics of each song aren’t always apparent, which can make some of them feel rather cryptic. And considering the album isn’t fond of throwing musical curveballs, turning to its repressed sound for clues can ultimately lead to no avail. “Consternation” is among the more interesting songs to decipher, and an ideal example of the minimalist lyrics on display:

Wave back at me
Back is turned
If I fail once
Circuit burn

Saw you in the lampglow
You fade
Nothingness incarnate

Until I get there
Hidden
I will be


Some of the more instantly tangible tracks, by comparison, are those involving heartbreak, such as the relatively catchy “My Twin,” along with “In the White,” which seems to end on a surprisingly hopeful note. Since this is a Katatonia album, however, the closing track, “Journey Through Pressure,” is more appropriately depressing with its implications of suicide:

Pushing the will
Being alive
Well I have been
I came far
The process of trying
To act unharmed
It will fade out


The idea of a band sounding comfortable is often likened to sounding safe or lazy, but it can also suggest that said band is in their natural element. Katatonia, for better or for worse, had long felt like travelers navigating a weathered map to reach a destination where they could fully prosper from. The Great Cold Distance is that destination. By toning the dials back on Viva Emptiness’ lingering aspects and taking charge with a more defined direction, Katatonia delivered arguably the most consistent album of their career. It’s not a particularly venturous affair, but even the greatest adventurers need time to collect themselves before greeting the new, coming day. Or night.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
January 27th 2017


1437 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Hopefully this is an improvement over my VE review, the more I re-read it, the more I dislike it. As I say in my conclusion, this album is consistent to a tee. Picking favorite tracks is so difficult, because I think they're all equally competent. If I had to try really hard, I'd probably go with "Leaders," "Deliberation," "Follower," "Rusted," "July" and "In the White."

omgbecky
January 27th 2017


479 Comments


How similar is this to last fair deal?


Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
January 27th 2017


1437 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

The production is crisper and more distinct, guitars and drumming are more aggressive as a whole, but maybe not as involved. The vocals are improved but not nearly as impassioned. I'd say this is less catchy, but still has plenty of chorus-driven moments.



I'd probably compare the two albums to a break-up; LFDGD is like living the break-up in slow motion, TGCD is like reflecting on the break-up and trying to overcome it in any way possible.

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
January 27th 2017


8882 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review for my favorite Katatonia

Digging: Ni - Pantophobie

Sabrutin
January 28th 2017


5970 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Pos'd. Honestly I don't find this one particularly interesting, they found the accessible formula and milked it, but it's good if a bit too repetitive. My favorite track is by far Soil's Song, but I also love the first verse of My Twin. Leaders and July too.



Wish I could get my hands on the new 5.1 mix but it's steeper than I thought

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
January 28th 2017


1437 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I can understand that. It's funny, the Katatonia albums I like the most I can totally see why some people don't like them, but the albums I'm not too crazy about I struggle to see what people enjoy so much. I wouldn't say they milked the accessible formula here so much as they had yet to fully explore it. What we have here is something I'd describe as matured but lacking ambition, something Viva Emptiness actually possessed.



Apparently the deluxe edition, which I'm interested in, got pushed back to next week. $40 is pretty steep, but compared to some other expenses I have, it's not too bad. I'm just wondering how different the new 5.1 mix is, since I'd consider the one we currently have as simply less compressed. I think NITND is far more deserving a 5.1 release.

Sabrutin
January 29th 2017


5970 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I can see why this became their battle horse, but that coincides with why I'm not crazy for it. I stand by my "good album" rating, which is still a positive rating even though it often seems frowned upon.



"$40 is pretty steep"

Problem is that there is the shipping cost too. I just noticed that it's been added to EMP... for €55. Lunacy. Loving the new artwork, at least.



"I think NITND is far more deserving a 5.1 release."

I bet they will do it in a few years

FullOfSounds
January 29th 2017


15770 Comments


My Twin is so damn good

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
January 29th 2017


15095 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah man, fave Kataton track right there.

Digging: Deafkids - Metaprogramao

Sabrutin
January 29th 2017


5970 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The neck...

FullOfSounds
January 29th 2017


15770 Comments


And then the chain...

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
January 29th 2017


1437 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

The head...

Sabrutin
January 31st 2017


5970 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Is hung in shame

Hellscythe
March 12th 2017


3436 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

got the 10th anniversary 4-disc edition of this, and to my surprise they actually remastered the main album. it's way more dynamic now, peaks at like 91% and has a DR rating of 12 as opposed to the like 7 of the original. sounds really good.

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
March 12th 2017


15095 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Ummm tempting Scythe, tempting!

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
March 12th 2017


1437 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Yeah, I would definitely like to get it myself, but $60+ is a tall order for an album I'd say I admire more than I actually enjoy frequently listening to (the movie Road to Perdition has the same effect on me).

GhandhiLion
April 18th 2017


3862 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I really don't get how this is more popular than their doom albums.

Digging: Ozric Tentacles - Pungent Effulgent

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
April 18th 2017


15095 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Because it's way better.

GhandhiLion
April 18th 2017


3862 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Brave murder day pioneered a unique style of Death Doom metal. What did this do? I really struggle to see value in their alt rock albums (not that i dont enjoy them).

GhandhiLion
April 18th 2017


3862 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Tried listening to their 2003 + output for a year now hoping I will have a revelation.



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