The Fall Of Hearts
20th May 2016 – Peaceville Records
03. Old Heart Falls
08. Last Song Before The Fade
10. The Night Subscriber
11. Pale Flag
Katatonia have, over the past 20 years, achieved the rarest of things: they have evolved without alienating their entire fanbase. From blackened death metal roots with of Dance Of December Souls to darkened, progressive excellence with Dead End Kings, the Swedes have gone from crushing screams to melancholic laments, and entertained our dark hearts for over two decades. They’re now back with their tenth full length The Fall Of Hearts.
Katatonia followed the 2012 Dead End Kings album cycle with an acoustic reworking of the record, plus a live release of the band playing cuts from their twenty year career – acoustic and stripped down – at London’s Union Chapel. If we didn’t know better we’d think they were avoiding the studio. Some things have changed in the Katatonia camp since the last full length however: a new drummer and guitarist have joined the fold, and whilst the band haven’t leaped into nu metal or anything, there are obvious changes.
Over two decades, Katatonia have honed their sound to an instantly distinguishable one. From the first few seconds of “Takeover“, Jonas Renske’s unique vocal drops in and there can be no doubt. Its slow intro melts into a cascade of swirling guitars and double kicks – a good omen for what is to come. Lead single “Old Heart Falls” hearkens back to Dead End Kings with its melancholic, vocal-driven approach, and it meanders through its duration with palpable ease. The lead guitars and bass, along with the infectious vocal hooks and generally bright guitar playing, complete one another.
One of the heavier cuts from the record, the crushing rhythms of ”Serac“ offer a welcome variation from the mid-tempo melancholy. Both Anders Nyström and newbie Roger Öjersson shine, trading guitar lines effortlessly between the heavy riffing and incalculably intricate picking. Elsewhere, hand drums and flutes are teased, but it’s with “Pale Flag” that they truly get to shine; acoustic guitar lines interjected with a wistful bass line act as a lullaby for the world- worn and weary heart.
With a band like Katatonia who’ve spent each and every album evolving into something bigger and better, it becomes a herculean task to craft a song that could encapsulate every single nuance that this band ever were. Closing track “Passer” begins with a breakneck pace, that after the sombre affair that is its predecessor, it’s sure to make sure that you’re still paying attention. The ebb and flow between soft and heavy passages is nothing new to this band, or to metal as a whole, but its intention is to create a more intense effect for the listener, and here, with the help of immediate and frantic guitar sweeps, Renske’s vocal soars one final time.
The Fall of Hearts is undoubtedly Katatonia; a perfect blend of their legacy with enough space left in the material for growth in both tone and songwriting. This marks their tenth album and what an album it is: Katatonia’s brand of progressive-edged darkness continues unparalleled and unmatched through a combination of depth, character and calculated menace – The Fall of Hearts could well be one of the best records of 2016.