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This is the last Katatonia album with leads! You know, Metal Archives is a great example of the idea that everyone is an individual. I don't understand all the praise for "Viva Emptiness", I really don't. The main reason for that is that it's basically radio-friendly gothic hard rock, ala Lacuna Coil. That stuff may not be in heavy rotation on local rock stations around the world, but it is definitly in the mainstream. Andthe biggest thing is that it has no fucking leads! I have no problem with exposure, certainly not if some good music got it's fair share of recognition every now and then. I encourage that sort of thing. What I don't encourage is dropping creativity and musicianship entirely just to sell a few records.
I say all that to say this...this album is a very special piece of my music collection because it is the last (I'm afraid) good music that we'll hear from Sweden's Katatonia. Andreas Nystrom, who has proven himself on numerous albums to be a superb guitarist, leaves his distinctive and excellent lead guitar parts behind following this record. In exchange we now have crunchy, highly overdistoted rhythm pieces that begin nowhere and end in a similar place. Again, I stress how unfortunate it is that such a great musician would choose to waste such skill and creative genius.
This album starts with "Dispossession", which has the best intro on the whole CD. It contains some classic Nystrom leads and probably Jonas Renkse's best vocal work of his career. "Tonight's Music" is another highlight, again with great leads and an atmosphere that can only be defined by the track title itself. Renkse's vocals are stellar once more. Truthfully, what doesn't stand out about this album...is the drumming. It's not terrible, by any means, it just doesn't stand out anywhere on the album. I think that's partially due to the emphasis (thankfully) on the guitar leads, atmosphere, and Jonas' vocals being prevelant. Jonas may not be a great singer, by any stretch, but he has a pleasant voice and I think that's what makes his vocals so awesome on this album. There are no stupid, pointless vocal effects or harmonizing, it's just Jonas singing loudly and clearly into a microphone. Personally, I love that.
The final two standouts here are "Passing Bird" (which begins to go in the Viva Emptiness direction) but works so well because it's a ballad much like "Omerta" from VE, and that particular track is the only one, in my opinion, worth a damn on that whole CD. The final standout is "Sweet Nurse", which alternates between melodic, beautifully led verses by Andreas and Jonas and a heavier chorus in which the layering fits perfectly. I docked this album a few points for the band's inability to make the drums more noticeable, and the utterly stupid "We Must Bury You". Which, by the way, could have easily been replaced by one of the extras released on the special edition and this album would have no complete failures. Otherwise I'd give it a 100% simply because it's the last great performance by the two founding members. I like this album better than the the band's two previous efforts (which are similar in style), and possibly even better than Dance of December Souls. This is just a timeless doom rock/metal album.