My introduction to Katatonia was sheer luck. I was waiting for an interview with Devin Townsend at the Worcester Palladium a few years back while then touring mates Katatonia had just begun their soundcheck. I had known the name before but for some reason never delved deeper but upon hearing the hypnotic barrage of guitars during the opening of “Forsaker” I was instantly mesmerized and obviously hooked. From there, my musical life has been sufficiently more fulfilling…so thanks, Devin Townsend?
After a live CD/DVD release, an album of Dead End Kings reinterpretations, tours, and some line up shuffling, Katatonia is back with their 10th studio album and possibly their finest yet.
From the onset of “Takeover”, The Fall of Hearts immediately gives listeners what they want from a pure Katatonia track. The song spends as much time in the dense ether as it does crashing back to the Earth with Anders Nyström and Roger Öjersson’s intricate riffing playing a perfect dichotomy against Jonas Renske’s heartfelt vocal delivery. “Serein” glistens as much as it glowers furthering the beauty with brutality tone while “Old Heart Falls” goes for the musical heartstrings with its serene organ-led intro building to an emotive chorus.
Katatonia probe their musical repertoire even more on their tenth with songs like “Sanction” which sees Meshuggah-like riffage replete with gothic synths lying underneath and even treading Amorphis territory at times. Then “Residual” takes a Tool-ish turn with a fuzzed out bass from Niklas Sandin and Daniel Moilanen’s percussion taking center stage during an incredible breakdown. “Shifts”, on the other hand, uses air sirens as a backdrop while flutes mesh wonderfully with the ominous heaviness of “Serac”.
Exploring the album more brings “Last Song Before The Fade” to the forefront and while it might initially sound like a straight up rocker, like most of what Katatonia composes nothing is as it seems especially when the song veers off into a blues-inspired midsection. “Decima” utilizes graceful guitar lines laying down power amongst the acoustic undertones and even though “Pale Flag” might come off as a straightforward Katatonia jam, it’s the sonic landscape created when strings combine with Renske’s layered vox that take this song somewhere else entirely.
Closing with the heavenly behemoth of a shredder that is “Passer”, the only thought fans will have as the final chords ring out on The Fall of Hearts is this: Please don’t let it be another four years until the next chapter of Katatonia greatness is unleashed upon us!