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I got excited as well as somewhat in doubt when I heard that Katatonia had a new album in the making. "Viva Emptiness" was a bit of a bad omen with its modern direction while definitely being a fine CD in its own right. The single "My Twin" gave me the same feeling with its good atmosphere and infectious verse/chorus structure. Still, the very displaced Tool break had me worried about an almost abusive influence.
Opening song "Leaders" confirms all of these fears. This is essentially a whole lot of Tool molded into a more catchy shell. All the main riffs have a very "Lateralus"-like touch and I'm wondering where the Katatonia went. This is more than being influenced, its a sheer identity loss. Sophomore song "Deliberation" is one I've changed my mind about over time. While I found it very pedestrian at first, I eventually realized it's greatness. It's not really a very exciting track or a standout, but it still gets into my playlist very often because it's so addictive.
One of my main beefs with "The Great Cold Distance" is the lyricism. I have loved many of Katatonia's earlier works, but here it borders on language abuse to be frank. The pinnacle beside the whole "Leaders" is the "Who's first, Okay?" part in the chorus of "Soil's Song". That particular track is also quite a fine example of what's wrong here. The calm parts are damn sweet, but the heavy parts are very dull and uninspired.
So.. now I'm complaining my ass off, but do I have actually something positive to say? Yes, I do. First off, the CD has grown for me. I do like tracks like "Consternation", "Deliberation" and to some extent "Follower" which I didn't like at first. "Rusted" and "July" remained great, "Increase" is always okay. The jewel of this album for me is "Journey Through Pressure" though. The doom and gloom of this song brings me back to "Tonight's Decision" and even "Discouraged Ones". If they keep making songs like that there's no worries.
We do have a real stinker around there though and it's sadly included in their live set. "In The White" is possibly the weakest track in Katatonia's whole career. Quite a fluffy song, straying far into pseudo-emotional territory. Parts like "this is not our last goodbye" rather makes for an upbeat mood than a depressive one. It's obviously a favourite for the crowd who only listens to this band for the catchiness.
The production is awesome in terms of quality, but in a sense it covers up the lack of versitality in the heavier parts. Many of the distorted riffs tend to sound the same, simply being chunky downtuned start/stops. These would never have made it on "Last Fair Deal Gone Down" and shouldn't make it here. That's an area where I'm hoping for an improvement on the next CD.
While "The Great Cold Distance" remains a disappointment compared to other works of Katatonia it has grown to a good album of it's own for me. Hopefully they'll hold on to the good stuff done here and release one hell of a CD next time.