REVIEW: Katatonia - The Great Cold Distance Peaceville Records, 2006
Katatonia are, with Tiamat, one of Sweden’s leading doom metal bands. In fact, like their compatriots Tiamat, they are also one of those bands who switched from good wholesome death metal with a mediocre production to clean and polished doom metal. Quite interestingly, the bands’ logo followed the same path, going from grim images of the occult to clean easy-to-read fonts. Not to mention both bands’ lyrics. It seems that the two have calmed down a lot, and instead of focusing only on obscure deities and such are now mentioning more down to earth topics. I’m not here to discuss whether or not the change in Katatonia’s orientation is a good thing, but it may raise certain questions, to which I have no answer. Did the band get bored and think that death metal is too limited? Are they trying to reach a different/wider/more mainstream audience? Have they evolved/matured, or is this the result of pressure from the audience? Will they succeed in their new style?
After great work like Viva Emptiness and the delightful Brave Murder Day, it appears that the new record would have to be something truly exceptional to compete. Now don’t get me wrong, the elements of the ‘new’ Katatonia are still there, the monotonous spoken voice, the constant echoes, the slow drums and wawa guitars, doom chords and what I call the “little something from Sweden”, in the album’s atmosphere. However, although the whole album is very consistent, apart from the good rhymes, and a few catchy refrains, I remain a little hungry after listening to the record. It seems that there are fewer changes in rhythm and it just doesn't hit home.
The first few songs on the album are great. ‘Leaders’ is very much similar to the last Katatonia releases, and it’s one of the catchiest songs on the record, altogether an instantly pleasing song, great for driving on the highway, if you know what I mean. It’s one of those songs that just ‘get you in the mood’. Track number 2, “deliberation” has a very Depeche Mode color to it, both in the intro and in the vocals, and then some of that sad singing that we like so much in Katatonia. Track number 4, ‘my twin’ which was released as a single, was designed to be a song that embodies 'the essence of Katatonia' as put by it's composer. The second half of the record has impressed me less. I suspect that the 3 months spent in the studio recording the album and trying to get it right may have actually had the opposite effect and made some parts a little unnatural… However this is a nice record to buy if you are a fan of Tool and A Perfect Circle.