Now celebrating a quarter of a century as a band, Katatonia, the eminent purveyors of doom-tinged rock and metal, grace us with yet another masterfully crafted diverse assortment of plaintive prose, set to their trademark mix of haunting melodies and driving riffs. Acoustic and metallic guitars – plus a few solos – are present, as well as the now hallmark beautiful, ethereal and sometimes haunting synth backdrops.
In addition to branching out musically, new members are now along for the ride; drummer Daniel Moilanen and guitarist Roger Öjersson.
A follow up to 2012’s Dead End Kings, The Fall of Hearts – released May 20th – is a journey into more progressive territory; in fact the most progressive to date. The band’s tenth studio release, there are arguably no “singles” on this outing, such as “Foresaker” (Night is the New Day) or “Leaders” (Great Cold Distance). This is quite the more adventurous ride through the dark and complex labyrinths of the mind, heart and soul.
It’s one of those albums where with each subsequent listen, the tracks’ lush, imaginative and oftentimes complex layered instrumentation get deeper under the skin. The light and delicate play between Jonas’ soft floating vocals and the repetitive guitar-led melody in the beginning of “Takeover” bring to mind leaves dancing in a gentle breeze over the surface of an almost-still pond before yielding to darker, more ominous musical terrain; all the while delighting in tempo shifts and polyrhythms.
In contrast, in one of my personal favorites, “Decima”, one is blissfully reminded of the fan favorite “Sold Heart”, off The Longest Year EP. It has the same utterly heartbreaking quality, demonstrated in both verse and melody. One cannot help but drift away into a state of mind of utter loss and futility. Have some tissues nearby. Seriously.
As a personal aside, it’s always a pleasure to devour new Katatonia vocals, being a vocalist myself. Jonas’ superb buttery voice has its trademark distinct quiet commanding quality here. And his many beautifully subtle and sometimes ornate harmonies are a pleasure to hear and learn.
The rest of the musical journey meanders through progressive layered textures and atmospherics, from soft to heavy – some tracks consisting of both. From the beautiful solemn grandeur that is eventually reached in the ballad “Pale Flag”, complete with tingle-inducing vocal counterpoint, to the jazzy, undeniably catchy groove in “Shifts” – skillfully layered onto a background of World War 2 sirens (though for me, I can’t help but think of the sirens that sound in Silent Hill, warning the player that disaster is forthcoming), the listener is in for a real treat – if you’re willing to put in the work. This one is a “grower” more than others; you have to let it settle in your bones. But then, there is no denying the pull of this well crafted, beautifully produced and deliciously heavy-hearted assortment of musical pathos.
“The Fall Of Hearts” by Katatonia is available now through Peaceville Records.
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