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Never Discouraged. - 70%

Perplexed_Sjel, November 4th, 2007

‘The Great Cold Distance’ takes a back step from the juxtaposed nature of ‘Viva Emptiness’ which, to me, contrasted a summery vibe with downhearted lyrics and often sombre vocals, with all it's fast moving changes in emotion. This is incredibly easy to interpret and still as every bit accessible as the previous Katatonia full-length record, though, for me, there is something lacking. A distinguishing quality that made ‘Viva Emptiness’ a stand out performer above most of the other recent Katatonia records. Whilst there is still a consistency to their songs, some of the atmospheres explored can come across as fairly languid, as shown on ‘My Twin’, a song which neglects the superb juxtaposition approach of the previous record and instead opts for a level headed sound which can sometimes come across as dull in comparison. To me, this record begins how it means to finish. As clichéd as that may sound, it's true. It sounds highly aggressive in terms of the atmospheric undertow spiralling towards the surface of the soundscapes.

When I initially heard this record, I thought this was as aggressive as Katatonia would become, as shown well with the steadfast guitar work on songs like ‘July’, a turbulent experience which highlights the importance of a good vocal display by Jonas. The latest record has definitely altered my opinion of this record and its stance. Whilst the approach may seem more aggressive, ‘Night Is The New Day’ makes it appear less versatile. I did think, at one stage, that the stylistic approach of the guitars was perhaps too abrasive for modern day Katatonia, but having seen the musicians perform a number of the latest songs live in London recently, Jonas is capable of maintaining his own individual performance whilst the other members back him up with generally solid instrumentation, with the occasional use of backing vocals to emphasis certain sections of particular songs.

I’m not sure whether I’d regard this record as overly experimental. Songs like the jazzy ‘In The White’ have a definitive experimental factor attached to them with the superb bass work and slower pace, but the record, as a whole, isn’t as far reaching as ‘Viva Emptiness’, a record which hit home the bands prowess and capabilities when it comes to showcasing a more inviting and accessible sound to an audience used to depressing atmospheres as shown on the older records like ‘Discouraged Ones’ well. Jonas’ voice certainly draws some of those depressing qualities out from behind the more accessible instrumentation, again, as shown on ‘In The White’, but the record is a real mixed bag. Occasionally it will slow the pace down and allow areas like the bass to innovate and, on other occasions, it will take it applying vicious guitars.

The new sound of the guitars isn't the only new addition to Katatonia's most recent full-length. The vocals have changed too. They may tend to shock some of the newer Katatonia fans who're used to the mellow voice of Jonas and the backing vocals. ‘The Great Cold Distance’ marks a change in style, as I said. It's evident from the very first song they're intended to push this aggressive nature on through the criticism they will receive. They're screamed with a much more harsh tone. In actual fact, they appear to act as a big 'fuck you' to anyone who has ever done wrong by this band. Perhaps they are Jonas' own input. However, I quite like them. They add a new dimension of emotional rawness. Antipathetic, assailing and attacking. They have an obvious intent to do some harm through the power of subtle aggression, rather than an in-your-face assault.

"So when you let me in
You let me justify my own reward
You put your hands on me
And I learn the words I didn't know before."

The lyrics are again important in portraying what Katatonia were feeling at the time this record was made. In actual fact, Katatonia’s lyrical themes continue to be important to the band, signifying the sense of loss and regret in the atmospherics, something which the instrumentation can only do so well before the lyrics and Jonas’ passionate vocals have to play a part. These lyrics, especially that last line, appear to back up my point. I'm assuming those words he didn't know are swear or curse words. This supports the idea that Katatonia have a more aggressive approach this time round. This variation in attitudes and values is a welcomed addition. It's refreshing to see a band who aren't afraid to express emotion openly and crudely to their audience. The often punishing riffs, which are played out extremely heavily, though not a patch on ‘Night Is The New Day’, are well suited to these new lyrics and new textures Katatonia have adopted for the time being. Experimentation is again the name of the game. It's no surprise these days anyway.

"You used to be like my twin
And all that's been
Was it all for nothing."

To me, these lyrics are very obscure. They keep that dark element that Katatonia have always had firmly attached to their modern day sound, even though the style has drastically altered to accommodate the problems that Jonas experienced with his voice and performing his old growls that made the debut such a hit. Whether it was in the foreground or hidden in the depths of the keyboards or programming, Katatonia have always had a dark side. These lyrics, to me anyway, are to the fans who have left the fan base as Katatonia have developed through experimentation. From track one to the end, Katatonia keep a steady pace which is built by strong rhythmic sounds, solid song writing and of course, fantastic musicianship. Something we'd surprised not to see by this band. Over time I have come to think much less of this record in comparison to certain others, but it still maintains the backbone of quality that Katatonia have seemingly always had and probably always will have.