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Katatonia : Viva Emptiness

'Viva Emptiness' is Katatonia's sixth full-length album, and it ranks with their very best work. Beginning 13 years ago as a death/doom band, these Swedes have evolved steadily ever since, becoming more adept at songwriting even as they become more and more difficult to pigeonhole. What we've got now is an enigmatic blend of black/doom/goth/whatever that is perfect late-night comedown music for those with a taste for the Heavy.

'Viva Emptiness' is a refinement of the sound the band has been working on for the past couple of years, most notably with their last effort, 'Last Fair Deal Gone Down'. 'Viva...' is both heavier and more engaging than '...Deal...', which to my mind was both more "samey" and less powerful than 'Viva...'. The guitars on the new album are heavier, more punishing, and more varied, while the overall feeling reaches for that haunting, emotional, atmospheric gestalt they've been aiming for in the past. Vocalist Jonas Renkse throws down some seriously bleak, lonely lyrics with his trademark clean - one might say beautiful - intonation, laid over long, heavy, proggy instrumental arrangements. It's really not worth taking the album apart song by song, since the record works so well as a whole. Nevertheless, 'Criminals' - with its storytelling (heavy on the obscenity, fuckers!) and weighty atmosphere and 'Ghost of the Sun' with its hard guitars and screaming backup vocals stand as first among equals. The bleak Travis Smith artwork adds a welcome sense of urban gloom.

If you're thinking that this music is rich in contrasts while providing an overall sense of doomed beauty, you're right. Anyone who's into Opeth, Amorphis, or Anathema (you guess which era) will definitely dig on this. But there are other, less obvious influences on Katatonia's sound, such as Will Oldham/Palace, Nick Drake, and I even hear Lou Barlow in his more melodic, melancholy moments on Sebadoh's 'Harmacy'. Yeah, I'm talking some significant folk influence here, and it works like a charm. 'Viva Emptiness' is the latest stop in Katatonia's continuing evolution to wherever they're going, and its damned good. I think their best work is still before them.

Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. Ghost of the Sun
2. Sleeper
3. Criminals
4. A Premonition
5. Will I Arrive
6. Burn the Remembrance
7. Wealth
8. One Year from Now
9. Walking by a Wire
10. Complicity
11. Evidence
12. Omerta
13. Inside the City of Glass

Duration : Approx. 53 minutes

Visit the Katatonia bandpage.

Reviewed on ??-??-???? by Kevin McHugh
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