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VINE VOICEon 16 February 2006
EDIT: This review is for the original edition, released back in 2006, NOT the remastered version which dropped through my letterbox this morning and which I'll be reviewing shortly.

This album is a masterpiece. Straight up, no questions, there it is. It's that good. I've been a fan of Katatonia since Discouraged Ones, but this rules them all. But before this review gets lost in a grey rain-cloud of superlatives, perhaps I better explain why.

For me, Katatonia have always been about the feeling of isolation and separation you get from being alone in a decaying urban wasteland, surrounded by people but with no one actually there. The feeling of wondering through deserted streets at 3 in the morning, over cracked pavements and past graffiti strewn walls, with no direction or purpose. Every album they've done has conveyed this feeling more effectively than the last, but the music has always had something about it that connected.

With Viva Emptiness, it doesn't so much connect, as plug directly into your spinal column and overload your nervous system with a perfectly constructed soundscape to your disenchantment. But, it does so in a way that is both beautiful and uplifting.

"Stop with the metaphors and tell us what it sounds like" I hear you cry... Well, it's heavy. The dissonant guitars are still present, but Katatonia have experimented with texture more effectively than on LFDGD, and there is a lot more in the way of melody here (albeit in the same way as LFDGD). There are a few electronic augmentations here and there, but for those recoiling in horror at this notion, it's mostly background and adds amazingly to the overall sound. No synthy bleeps here, just some really effective use of loops and modern production techniques. There is a huge amount of variety on display here too, from the ridiculously heavy, to fragile, to bleak, to light, more than any other album. The lyrics are much more succinct as well, nowhere more so than on the masterful "Criminals", and "Evidence". There is a much more vivid quality in the lyricism here than on past releases, and in some songs it obtains a narrative quality that reels you in and insinuates itself in your head.

There are too many good points about this album to go through here, and almost no bad ones. This album rules. Buy it, you won't regret it.
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on 9 April 2003
Having received a three track promo for this album several weeks in advance - it's three tracks "Ghost Of The Sun", "Criminals" and "Evidence" so stunning and more than whetting my appetite - I was one happy guy when the full promo finally landed on the door mat.
"Ghost Of The Sun", the opening track of both the three-track promo and full album, instantly draws you in with it's heavy guitar tone, full bass and solid, chunky riffing. Well-crafted melodies carry the song along to it's final conclusion, getting stuck in your head after only a few listens, such is the infectious nature of the delicately delivered vocals. Jonas Renske's vocals are indeed a highlight of Katatonia's emotive, dark and often-gloomy music, and this album is certainly no exception.
The first of many album highlights, "Criminals" is a moving testament to the band's incredible song-writing talent. The same highlight extends throughout the album, from the bleak keyboard-dominated verses of "Evidence" and the refrained, almost lullaby-feel of "A Premonition" through to the haunting, desolate piano of "One Year from Now" and the claustrophobic nature of "Will I Arrive". Katatonia have created an album with such emotional impact that it is hard not to be drawn into it. It is an album you'll want to listen to from beginning to end, not because it's written that way, but because it is just so captivating that you will not want to turn it off.
The album's production is exemplary, complimenting the overall quality of the material with warm, clear clean guitar work that lends itself to the often reflective nature of the album's frequent quieter passages, as well as the heavier, crushing guitar tone, which makes parts of this album heavier than much of the band's recent work. Combined with Jens Bogren's superb mix the album isn't just superbly written, it sounds fantastic too.
As a collection of songs alone, the album works well - most of the songs here are strong enough to stand apart in their own right, but as a complete package from the entire album to the excellent desolate artwork, it is stunning. Katatonia have created a masterpiece of gloomy, depressive metal/rock, with just the slightest hints of optimism and hope spattered throughout the album's high emotional content. Even so early into 2003, 'Viva Emptiness' will be looked back on as one of the years greatest (and with no shortage of commendable competition either), and an almighty addition to the band's already impressive back catalogue - this album is just superb.
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on 28 April 2007
Katatonia are one band that has impressed me to no ends since their music moved away from their traditional death metal roots to follow a more accessible and melodic sound. When I write reviews, I normally don't have a problem categorizing the music as generally it's rather straight forward case as most metal bands have a distinctive sound that we can pigeon hole them into.

However, with Katatonia I have absolutely no idea as to what side of the fence their music falls upon, perhaps Avant-garde metal, perhaps progressive metal, maybe heavy metal, who knows? The Oxford dictionary defines the term Avant-garde as, `The pioneers or innovators in any art in a particular period'.

That sums Katatonia up to a tee as they are certainly are the purveyors of this sound, so Avant-garde metal just might be the right genre to class them into. Anyway, despite that issue, one thing is for sure these guys have earned the respect they so appropriately deserve.

The music and lyrics are based around feelings of melancholy and despair; however, this music should not be listened to when the depression tablets are running dangerously low! The music is rather disheartening, perhaps gloomy, but this is the absolute beauty of what Katatonia are all about by creating such a melancholy sound into aural magic.

Jonas Renske is the vocalist and he displays a very unique mid tone voice, using a lot emotion in his singing to get the sombre message across. Guitarist's Fred Norrman and Anders Nyström play from the heart with some heavy, yet sometimes subtle guitar pieces with awe-inspiring sound effects, however it is a pity as there are no guitar solos on offer here like past albums.

The bass supplied by Mattias Norrman is an important part of this bands sound by stamping its own unique personality across this disc by adding fullness instead of just blending in with the rest of the music.

The drummer, Daniel Liljekvist, generally plays at a mid tempo pace throughout the album, but raises the bar during some of the heavier passages. All tracks on this album are interesting as each song has great depth and feeling that one strangely feels part of.

Standout tracks are the opener `Ghost of the Sun' with its crunchy guitar work and sombre vocals with some pleasant bass work, `Sleeper' has a slight eerie and ominous feel to the song, `Burn the Remembrance' with the different vocal moods and atmospheric guitars with a slight echo behind them.

My preferred track has to be `Evidence' with the haunting guitar piece in the beginning that leads into the bass, followed up by the vocals and drums. As the chorus breaks, the guitars come out and there is a wall of sound that fades away for the second verse. Totally spell binding.

In conclusion, a brilliant band that I cannot fault despite finding their music displaying a melancholy edge to it. Personally, I find the music uplifting and appealing, finding myself drawn back for repeated listens, as the hooks are so memorable.

I would encourage fans, as well as newly established fans to check out other albums like `Tonight's Decision' and the mighty `The long cold Distance' as they are on a par with `Viva Emptiness'. Katatonia can be compared to Anathema due to the sombre nature of the music and lyrics.
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on 25 October 2015
Katatonia's music defines understanding of life. Who does not know Katatonia does not know life. It may look like a sarcastic comment, but I think it would be better to know by heart all these songs than experience this in everyday's life.
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VINE VOICEon 29 April 2005
EDIT: This is a review for the 2003 original edition, not the 2013 remaster that has just dropped through my letterbox and will be getting reviewed in due course.

This album is a masterpiece. Straight up, no questions, there it is. It's that good. I've been a fan of Katatonia since Discouraged Ones, but this rules them all. But before this review gets lost in a grey rain-cloud of superlatives, perhaps I better explain why.

For me, Katatonia have always been about the feeling of isolation and separation you get from being alone in a decaying urban wasteland, surrounded by people but with no one actually there. The feeling of wondering through deserted streets at 3 in the morning, over cracked pavements and past graffiti strewn walls, with no direction or purpose. Every album they've done has conveyed this feeling more effectively than the last, but the music has always had something about it that connected.

With Viva Emptiness, it doesn't so much connect, as plug directly into your spinal column and overload your nervous system with a perfectly constructed soundscape to your disenchantment. But, it does so in a way that is both beutiful and uplifting.

"Stop with the metaphors and tell us what it sounds like" I hear you cry... Well, it's heavy. The dissonant guitars are still present, but Katatonia have experimented with texture more effectively than on LFDGD, and there is a lot more in the way of melody here (albeit in the same way as LFDGD). There are a few electronic augmentations here and there, but for those recoiling in horror at this notion, it's mostly background and adds amazingly to the overall sound. No synthy bleeps here, just some really effective use of loops and modern production techniques. There is a huge amount of variety on display here too, from the ridiculously heavy, to fragile, to bleak, to light, more than any other album. The lyrics are much more succinct as well, nowhere more so than on the masterful "criminals", and "evidince". There is a much more vivid quality in the lyricism here than on past releases, and in some songs it obtains a narrative quality that reels you in and insinuates itself in your head.

There are too many good points about this album to go through here, and almost no bad ones. This album rules. Buy it, you won't regret it.
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on 20 April 2003
Brilliant album.
First I'll mention the artwork. This band uses the best artwork I've ever seen on an album sleeve. "Last Fair Deal" and "Viva Emptiness" present several shots each of dark urban bleakness. The setting couldn't be better.
"Ghost of the Sun" opens with a crushing yet "un-Katatonic" riff, before breaking down into the typical slow melodic verse, paving the way for the sombre clean voice of Jonas Renkse, superb. Much of the album follows the same format. I'm most impressed by the drumming of Liljekvist, which is frantic and accurate. Also, Nystróm uses evermore effects and nice melodies on songs, giving them a new dimension.
Production on this album is superb, which I believe was the only weakness on "Last Fair Deal".
Oozing sadness, aggression and grim stories of depression, Katatonia have released their best album yet. Standout songs on here are "Burn the Remembrance", "Omerta", "Complicity" and the closer "Inside the City of Glass". But nothing compares to "A Premonition". This is possibly the best Katatonia song I have ever heard. Its a slow, brooding ballard which sends chills up my spine every time.
Clearly, recommended.
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on 26 March 2003
Katatonia have produced a really special album here. Hopefully this will take them on to far bigger and better things. They really are deserving of a much larger audience and if that means mainstream recognition, then fantastic ! 'Viva Emptiness' is an exceptional record with songs that are both powerful, beautifully structured, (at times) crushingly heavy and memorable.
It seems that Katatonia have long been filed under 'extreme' and have to share shelf space with such genre's as hardcore, death and black metal. I hope that 'Viva Emptiness' will change this because this band and their music write great songs which is a rare find among their 'extreme metal' contempories.
With 'Tonight's Decision' and then 'Last Fair Deal ...', they showed that they were capable of writing really memorable songs and this is their best collection yet. This is not death/speed/black metal or anything of the sort. It's still heavy but only in shades. The guitars and drums are there but only let loose sparingly. Much of this record is made up of atmospheric songs with real heartfelt lyrics - the singing is clear and a not without a little emotion.
Standout tracks are 'Sleeper', 'Criminals', 'Burn the Rememberance' and 'Wealth' (which is most Opeth like).
If you long to hear heavy, intelligent music with real songs and exceptional creativity, then I strongly recommend this. I've read a review that said the opening track 'Ghost of the Sun' (also the first single) contains more ideas than most bands manage in a career. Well, the album has twelve more just like that. Blinding.
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on 31 January 2010
This has to be my favorite Katatonia album out of the lot, I'd advise anyone who has yet to listen to Katatonia, to begin with this album.

If this album were a person; it would most certainly have a split personality disorder! It whirls between parts of musical beauty, you are drawn to the vocals and relaxed by the, almost haunting melodies, which make you listen deeply yet still keep "one eye open" so to speak with its constant undertones of something sinister lurking at every corner, whether it be lyrically or just the atmospheric tone which is always present. It then twists to suprise you with explosions of emotion and bursts with churning guitars and crashing cymbals. As for the vocals; I could listen to Jonas Renkse for eternity and not get bored!

Absolutely fantastic album, I'm not sure some people would totally "get" Katatonia or what they do, but if you are one of the lucky people who do, and can appreciate the adventure they guide you through in their music, then you will be blown away by this album.

Favorite tracks: Sleeper, Criminals, Evidence
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on 9 September 2010
In the last 10 years i cannot think of another album that i play more often than this one by any band. From the first listen the songs are just stuck in your head and you just have to keep going back for more.

Even now in 2010 I play this album very often, there's so much going on, it's very heavy in places, brilliant crunchy riffs but its the melodic, fuzzy guitars and atmospheric keyboards with pleasant sounding vocals [ no ugly growling ] that make this album what it is.

It all fits perfectly and soundz amazing. Track 1 ' Ghost of the Sun ' is a cracker and the album just keeps churning out great melody after melody. 'Burn the remembrance ' , 'evidence' and 'A Premonition' are possibly 3 of the greatest tracks ever.

I like Katatonia's later material but it still doesnt compare to this masterpiece.

You HAVE to own this album if you havnt yet heard it. 10/10. Pure Brilliance.
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on 12 April 2003
With every katatonia album i've listened to over the years they seem to get better and better. Thats why i had no hesitation in buying 'viva emptiness'. Its not as heavy as previous efforts instead there is a creepy mellow vibe present in some tracks. Jonas Renske's lyrics are as depressing as ever, which for some is a good thing. Standout tracks are 'sleeper', 'criminals', a premonition' 'one year from now' and 'omerta' (which has an extremely abrupt ending btw). As with most katatonia efforts it takes a few listens for all to fall into place but it is a still superb album from one of todays finest bands. Its a shame they dont get the recognition.
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