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Katatonia is known for having two separate eras: doomdeath and "dark alternative." While it is difficult for any listener to compare one era to the other, both eras tend to have something very special about them. "Viva Emptiness" is one of Katatonia's newer era (dark alternative) in which the use of emotion is very high. This setting of this album, according to the band, is based on Omerta, or the code of the mafia (such as the Godfather trilogy). Without knowing the setting of the album, one can still get a sense of the bloodline, family, and urgency that this particular topic evokes. While not a heavy band in the sense of distortion and brutal riffs, the music is heavy in terms of pure hauntingness and emotion.
The guitars, which I liken to sorrowful, melancholic minor key patterns, have perfect production. The bass lines fit in perfectly. The drums are an essential part of this album, at times they are alarmingly fast, especially in the "drum roll" area, but they can slow down while still being complex. The vocals are top notch; they sound very emotional and sorrowful, while not being too over the top (such as Entwine). The album as a whole is just brilliant.
There is no doubt that many metal heads will see this album as just another hardrockish goth metal album, but it really is so much more. From start to finish there are no lulls in the story and nothing is out of place. This is just one of those albums that begs to be played the whole way through.
The lyrical concepts, as stated before, are based on Omerta, but they really encompass much more, such as loss, pain, and anxiety. The vocals do a good job, but aren't the focal point. The music itself is what is amazing here, and this album simply must be heard.
The artwork for this album, courtesy of genius Travis Smith, is amazing. The packaging is worth the price alone. The artwork goes right along with the concept of the album.
Any into post-doomdeath bands, such as Anathema, Paradise Lost, and Novembre should enjoy this album from the first play. I think for other metal heads it will take a little more growth. Do not just abandon this album for not being strikingly heavy. This album is good piece to relax to after a good day of headbanging. Recommended as essential for post-doomdeath fans, and as highly recommended to fans of all metal genres.