Katatonia - The Great Cold Distance [Peaceville - 2006]Katatonia have for the last seven years been one of the most consistent bands around playing the style of dark emotional metal. Since 1999s Tonight’s Decision they have changed their approach very little and their subject matter even less. Jonas Renkse’ very personal and sometimes obscure lyrics adding a very human element to their technical sound.
The great cold distance continues with the more direct aggressive style found on Viva Emptiness and this is shown very clearly on the first two tracks Leaders and Deliberation. Both are cast iron heavy chorus driven songs with Katatonia’s trademark use of heavy bass and melodic reverbed lead guitar. The chorus to Deliberation is especially inspired with nice simple chord progressions mixing well with Renkse vocals. Soils song is perhaps just a slight glance back to the doomy riffage of Brave Murder Day as the grinding guitar sound repeats it’s mechanised throb over stabbed vocals uttering words like "Evauate..assemble here…future death….whos first". Like much of the bands recent material their use of light and shade is their main tool. Lovely melodic landscapes of minimal keyboards and guitar are crush beneath their epic choruses. I guess that’s something they have in common with Rammstein with their reliance on well crafted choruses to turn average songs into memorable ones. Soils song finishes with a swell of keyboard like a rising sun after the apocalypse.
My Twin is the "Hit single" of the album, very straightforward and catchy but it’s the production and use of space and melody that makes even the most pop like Katatonia song sound like pitch black gold. Renkse’ singing is brilliant on this track and really shows the development his voice has made since the whimpering on Tonight’s Decision, now he sings through with power and genuine passion.
Rusted is a lighter song among what is mostly a full on metal album. Acoustic guitar verses and understated vocal delivery with the crunchy chorus seeming more like an intruder than anything else.
On an album of twelve tracks for me there are less stand out songs than on previous albums. Most of the tracks have a pretty similar format and there is little of the discordant experiments in structure that you could find on Viva Emptiness or Last fair Deal Gone Down.
That isn’t to say there aren’t memorable songs throughout the album, July has all the pieces in the right place but you cant help but think that they are simply rearranging a tried and tested formulae. In the White could be a left over from the Viva Emptiness sessions, very alternative almost "Emo" and I hate to use that term but it seems to fit a lot of what Katatonia do these days.
Last year Opeth managed to surprise and delight many people by showing progress and quality with their new album. Katatonia on the other hand have chosen to stick with what they know and do well. After three albums the formulae just doesn’t excite like it used to. They are still master song smiths and cant half pen a great chorus but in truth they seriously need to do something new on their next album or run the risk of loosing the credibility they have spent a career building up.Duncan Simpson