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Latest Episode #45

Alan Averill

● Why no new anthems
● The recording stresses
● The real story of 'Storm Before Calm'
● "I wont play computer games with fans"

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Must reads:    All Albums Of The Month   ●   From The Vaults!   ●  The Forums Hall Of Fame   ●   Irish Metal - Reviews Archive
Album Of The Month December 2005
Katatonia | ‘The Great Cold Distance’

In terms of the band’s musical progression, and the ultimate grasp of the 5 minute dark metal anthem acquired and refined across the three albums since ‘Brave Murder Day’, it is my own opinion that ‘Viva Emptiness’ was a let down.

Depsite selected excellent cuts, it was somewhat bulbous, and overloaded with a murky ambivalence that served no real purpose.

People nowadays, largely an entirely different generation from those who valued their previous incarnation, like and value their ability to write great, simple songs, rather than the hypnotic and insistent sinewy material of times gone by.

All well and good.

But the more one listens to this new album, the more it becomes apparent that it is here that the synthesis between old and new has finally taken place, and where an entirely new identity has been found by the band from which to build future successes.

This is so much more of a metal album than the last four, all snappy time changes and stop on a pinhead riffing, and their decision to take their latest promo photo at the hallowed ground of Entombed’s famous photo says much.

This is Swedish metal in a modern context that adheres to the original intents of the form while being contemporary and relevant.

Given the glut that the country has given us this last decade it is no mean achivement.

One senses they know this, and hence the statement of intent photoshoot. They deserve to stamp down their new identity like this.

The album that initially sounds safe, formulaic by their own standards and a simple follow on from ‘Viva’ rapidly reveals itself to be nothing of the sort.

This is music that has audibly been fretted over, worked over, and reworked to attain the perfect balance of invention and familiarity. You can literally hear the effort.

Though Renkse is doing little new by now, his simple but effective vocal is as plaintive as always. This however is Blakkheim’s album; it is a guitar album, through and through.

Tracks like ‘Soil Song’ and ‘Rusted’ are a feast of pummelling rhythmic invention that one would not have previously dreamed of hearing from Katatonia, all strange turns and odd interjections of slamming riffwork.

Top this with those famously catatonic and timeless Paradise Lost inspired lead lines and the band’s identity couldnt be clearer.

With an even greater Cure influence than ever (‘Follower’), the band allow free rein to all facets of their personality in here.

Almost as labyrinthine as the Swedish classics of yore, but just in a different expression, this really is quite the essential purchase for long term and recent fans alike.

This album may have no obvious ‘Teargas’ for the new, nor a ‘Brave’ for the old. But their consummate ear for the hit rings as clear and concise as ever in the form of ‘My Twin’ and the absolutely spectacular ‘July’.

As usual these songs gain weight and size through their unashamed directness, their unflinching ability to pen great music.

What continues to attract people to this band, long after they have left the shackles of the underground and romantic days behind, is their ability to express pathos in a potent and uncomplicated manner.

Shed of flowery language and drawn out musical structures, their blunt riffing and memorable lines make them what they are.

This album is as full of it as ever, but balanced by a new compositional invention and more of the thumping agression that they began to acquire on ‘Viva’.

Much of this is down to their drummer who gives his very all for this record, and who in cahoots with Blakkheim has produced a stompingly creative machine in here.

Personally, as a fan of the old, I thought it was all downhill from ‘Last Fair Deal’.

But the band are smarter than that, and it is massively heartening to see both them and long time colleagues Opeth come out of their respective ruts this year.

This is an excellent, surprising outing that after several spins becomes lodged firmly like all the best albums do.

At twelve tracks it’s a whopper, but given the quality and force of its best material, it’s largely above too much reproach.

Any band that has the balls to reassert themselves as deep into their career as this deserves much credit.

Then again, they’re nothing if not reliable.

4.6 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 17/12/05

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