KATATONIA – Viva Emptiness

Prior to recording KATATONIA‘s sixth album, guitarist Anders Nystrom said that the band’s new material would be heading into darker, heavier territory. And while nothing on Viva Emptiness rivals the decrepit misery of the band’s debut, Dance of the December Souls, it nonetheless has some of the darkest, most complex material the band has ever written in their twelve year career. “Ghost of the Sun” opens it up with some heavy distorted guitars, hard-hitting fills, and Jonas Renske‘s anguished lyrics of bitterness and betrayal. The chorus features more distorted power chords, double bass, and some screeching vocals before arriving at the somber bridge, which is reminiscent of Renske and Normann‘s work on the OCTOBER TIDE albums. “Sleeper” follows up with some light programming before kicking in with some thick, droning riffs and more flurries of drum fills, until the band’s return to the subtleties of yet another melodic, albeit sad bridge which further displays the bands mastery of dynamics. But Viva Emptiness not only explores the band’s darker side but also displays some of the band’s most varied work yet, ranging from the driving “Will I Arrive” and “Wealth” to the introspective “A Premonition” to the complex A PERFECT CIRCLE-meets-TOOL influenced “Complicity” to the drunken waltz of “One Year From Now” to the happy-go-lucky Braveheart-influenced folk of “Omerta.” The album also includes arguably one of the band’s catchiest songs to date with “Evidence” before closing with the depressing Brave Murder Day-inspired instrumental, “Inside the City of Glass.” With Viva Emptiness, seemingly every base is covered, from the strong songwriting and musicianship to the top-notch production, even the album artwork is all painstakingly well-done. Although I wouldn’t exactly call this album a “masterpiece” it’s still one of the band’s best as well as being one of 2003’s best records thus far. (Peaceville)

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