Katatonia - The Great Cold Distance - Peaceville Records 2006
Running Time: 51:51
Beginning with a Tool-esque groove, 'Leaders' at once harkens a more aggressive Katatonia than we've been privy to since Last Fair Deal Gone Down. Bouyant bass licks float above the thud of Daniel Liljekvist's drums, which I'll admit missing of late. While Liljekvist is more than capable with the subtle rhythms of Katatonia's more esoteric material, he seems glad to be let out of his cage, so to speak, and allowed to roam more freely around the structure of the song. The vocal harmonies in the electronica-tinged looping of 'Deliberation' are sugary sweet, which is surprising, considering that lyrically, this is one of the most misanthropic songs to be found on the album. Katatonia have, over the past five or six years, become veritable masters of the Floydian trick of melding fluid, brilliant tunes with intensely personal lyrics, while leaving just enough room for the listener to divine his own truth from the song's subject. The chorus of 'Soil's Song' and the passion held in the word "evacuate" alone colours the entirety of The Great Cold Distance with the loss of and disillusionment with oneself, and 'My Twin' revisits the recurring Katatonian theme of betrayal, albiet amid some of the most memorable music to cross my path this year. The intensity of 'Constertation' ups the aggression ante yet once more, reminding everyone that - when it wants to - Katatonia can still pound out some damn fine heavy metal. Think of 'Rusted' as Porcupine Tree on steroids, soothing minimalist song structure giving way to explosive guitars and shouts of desparation interspersed with the melody. The anguished screams return, buried in the chorus of 'July', with sustained harmonies wafting over a staccato riff, only to be joined by spiraling leads, and adding to the density of the material here. Renkse's vocal performance in 'In The White' sounds just watery and weak enough to convey the sense of separation from humanity that also can be heard in the icy musical tone, and when 'Journey Through Pressure' brings the album to its close, if you've made it through alive, its only with the assurance that - like The Great Cold Distance -, all things will come to their eventual end. All that remains is how that ending comes upon you, and your ability to accept it as such.
Be it gladness at the sheer beauty of the music found within, or commiserating with the desolation of the words, there is truly something in The Great Cold Distance that moves the album beyond simple music and into the realm of pure art. This is metal's Dark Night Of The Soul, and an essential purchase for anyone interested in the transcendent.