Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts (Peaceville)Monday, 23rd May 2016
Katatonia goes on two album “kicks,” for lack of a better term. Discouraged Ones and Tonight’s Decision were an obvious pairing; Last Fair Deal Gone Down remains the band’s triumphant oddity; Viva Emptiness and The Great Cold Distance worked well together, and more recently, Night is the New Day and Dead End Kings explored the band’s minimalist side. It’s proof positive that Katatonia are one of metal’s most evolutionary bands. They are unable to stand still and/or be complacent, which as you could imagine, serves their tenth album, The Fall of Hearts, quite well.
The songwriting pair of Nystrom and Renkse appear to be in a longer song kind of mood, which is in contrast to the short, tight constructs that were all over their last four albums. So with elongated structures comes more room for textures, which is found on opener “Takeover,” which blows the lid off with a stirring chorus. “Serein” gets the quick nod as the album’s best song, an immediate, pensive, no-sleep-at-all jaunt that compiles a bevy of whipping melodies. But from there, the solemn underbelly joins the fray, most notably on the excellent “Old Heart Falls,” “Residual,” and the siren-leading “Shifts.”
Yes, the heavier, often overlooked components of Katatonia are present, as so found on “Sanction” and “Serac.” (Let’s not sleep on closer “Passer,” either.) Mr. Renkse, who to this scribe is one of the top three best crooners in metal/hard rock, is his usual contemplative, elusive self, at his most distant on “Pale Flag,” which in a way, takes off from the band’s Sanctitude effort from a year ago.
Plainly stated, Katatonia have bettered Dead End Kings, sharpened the edges of Night is the New Day, and kept in mind the blunt heaviness of The Great Cold Distance. Then again, The Fall of Hearts sounds nothing like those albums. Just how they drew it up. Katatonia, above anyone else, remain metal’s dark, soul-clutching treasure.