My long review of The Great Cold Distance


Sea of Tranquility
Nov 1, 2001
Okay, here's my looong review of the new Katatonia album I've reviewed at Sea of Tranquility. I hope it helps spread the word a bit.

Comments are welcome.
The Great Cold Distance is in many ways the best Katatonia album since their undisputed 1996 masterpiece Brave Murder Day. It was after this album when Katatonia decided to explore uncharted waters, opting for a more laidback yet perhaps darker and more depressing songwriting formula. With amazing records like Discouraged Ones and Last Fair Deal Gone Down, they have established themselves as one of the leading forces in the genre, rivaled by only a handful other bands, if any.

Despite the relatively compact songs, the new Katatonia album is an extremely demanding listen, the compositions being made up of complex arrangements, deliberately disfunctional rhythmic patterns, and often discordant riffs. Given songwriters Jonas Renkse and Anders Nystrom have cited Tool as one of their favourite bands, it comes as no secret that the main riff of the album opener "Leaders" bears a similarity with Tool's "The Grudge", not to mention vocalist Renkse's great vocal melodic progressions that bring to mind the great Maynard Keenan. Daniel Liljekvist provides some amazing screams on this track, contributing to the dark nature of the piece. However, it is his drumming on The Great Cold Distance that will leave many fans' jaws hanging. This guy is a monster and this album features without doubt the best Katatonia drumming in years. Same thing goes for Mattias Norrman's bass work. The song "Follower" seems like it was developed around his amazing bass groove, with powerful guitar work that entails tons of reverb rendering it perhaps the most atmospheric and depressive number on the album. The guitar theme that soars above the composition before the heavier final section sends shivers down the spine: melody and emotion unite in order to create magic during a ten second solo passage.

The album's first single "My Twin" is a suitable choice. Layers of subtle keys, rhythmic drumming and amazing vocal melodies all create a dreamy atmosphere as a dark acoustic guitar melody is played underneath the arrangement. "Deliberation" isn't too different in the way that it retains the trademark Katatonia atmosphere with thorough production and an infectious chorus, not to mention the amazing backing vocals by Anders Nystrom. Songs like "Rusted" and "Increase" feature cascading guitar swells, rising mellotron sounds, shifting dynamics that alternate between the band's love for depressing serene sections and grinding, riff-based textures.

There are also some great Opeth-like moments on the album. When I say Opeth, I'm strictly referring to their Ghost Reveries period. The third track "Soil's Song", considered a favourite by many, is formulated by distinct Opethian guitar work with its pull-offs and open strings, dictating a multi-layered arrangement with detailed production values. The guitars are thick and the keys at the end are sublime. "Consternation" is a heavier track, but still marked with creative Opeth traits. The chopped riff progression and constant use of ninth chords and triplets culminates in one of the heaviest and most dynamic songs on the album.

It could be argued that The Great Cold Distance, while compositionally strong, doesn't really reinvent the wheel, and is more of a continuation of their sounds achieved on Last Fair Deal Gone Down and Viva Emptiness. This may be true to an extent, but there are two songs on this album where Katatonia really break new ground: "July" and "In the White". The former finds the band pushing their melodic aspects a step further, utilising sparse drum beats and excellent vocals; while the other piece is a perfect harmony of bass, drums, acoustic guitars, and keyboards. Renkse's mournful vocals on the song are betrayed by thundering bass explosions and crashing cymbals. These songs are among the most progressive (in the truest meaning of the word) Katatonia songs ever.

Lyrically the album is equally complex. Though various interpretations could be made, such as coldness, nervous breakdown, and the contrast between light and dark, I firmly believe Renkse expresses ideas of freedom of speech (or lack thereof) or lack of freedom in general. Given lines that go like, "My mouth remains inactive" (Deliberation); "Keep your last words in your hand" (Soil's Song); or "My mouth was sewn" (Leaders), Jonas Renkse must have felt the need to write about these thoughts a lot. A more general outline could be made if you give the lyrics a closer attention, with the exception of the song "July" (which itself signifies a new direction for Katatonia).

If you decide to get the special edition box of the album, your copy will contain the band's first ever video of "My Twin", a poster, some postcards, and a special CD with both sides being black. Get this album immediately because it's going to be a top release for most listeners.
I've also added the review on Amazon seeing the new CD hadn't been reviewed yet. :)

NP: Katatonia - The Great Cold Distance
fine review! you did a good job! :) but could it be that you have nothing to criticise? sorry, but i'm always the guy who's never satisfied ^^