The Fall of Hearts

Written by: LF on 25/10/2016 22:39:26

It has been four years since these Swedish doom metallers' last album, "Dead End Kings", came out. At first, I met that album through its more stripped down version "Dethroned and Uncrowned" which became a favourite background listen of mine for a long while. Their distinct vibe has only made me more interested in the band since then and "The Fall of Hearts" fits right in with their previous style although the prog rock elements of their music have been cranked up a notch this time. It is a very long album - clocking in at 1 hour and 7 minutes - and while the mesmerising quality of its mellow atmosphere has a certain timelessness to it, it would only stand out as a sharper and more impactful record if a few of the songs had been cut.

Every song here sounds very big and spacious, not least helped by the way the vocals echo and blend in with the instruments to varying degree through their harmonies. Many of the songs also flow seamlessly into each other, enhancing the immersive qualities of the album overall. It starts very "head on" with a circling guitar riff and instantly recognisable bleak soundscape in "Takeover", which is also one of the best tracks here, especially evident as soon as it hits the 1-minute mark and some heavier and very Toolesque guitars kick in. Off-beat guitar riffs and changing drum rhythms feature in many of the songs even though more "straightly" flowing ones are also present, not least exemplified by the following two singles: "Serein" with its firm tempo and beautiful, longing guitars, which is not afraid to fully embrace a very electronic sound, and album highlight and pseudo-title track, the haunting "Old Heart Falls", that takes the pace down a little in preparation of what is to come.

From here, it's very easy to lose yourself and your thoughts in the ether all the way until the seventh track, "Serac", pulls you out of the spell with a sudden burst of hard-hitting energy. It is by a close call my favourite track on the album, not least because it balances very well between some major key, positive-sounding riffs on one hand and some pretty majestic and unnerving ones on the other. It has calm pieces that channel a sort of folk vibe with quickly played conga-like drums as well as one of the most thundering choruses here, and it flows easily between its different parts.

Around these impressive songs that I have named, are some oddly anonymous ones, both calm and energetic variations. Out of all of them, the simple "Shifts" stands out with its muffled sirens that coupled with an uneasy piano motif and an irresistible vocal melody make for a truly haunting song that doesn't sound quite like anything else on the album. Some bits and pieces around the album have a memorable impact, like the eerie, slightly off keys on "Passer", a hard-hitting sort of chorus in the latter half of "Last Song Before The Fade", and the utter defeat channelled throughout the lyrics of "Pale Flag". Still, along with the non-mentioned songs, they have an oddly harmless sound that makes them a little boring compared to the ones that have more edge or nuance through their duration. On the album as a whole, they do play an important role as they support a nice and slow flow, but I wouldn't go back to them as individual songs later.

The strong songs that do stand out, however, make up almost half of the record so we're not talking about an album with just one or two successes - not at all. Katatonia's very layered songs are also rewarding to delve into many times over and I keep finding new nuances in them even though the bleak sound and somewhat apathetic singing might at first seem flat to some listeners. When given time, "The Fall of Hearts" provides a web of sound that one can soak in or space out to - always giving some peace of mind on a busy day, in my experience.


Download: Serac, Takeover, Old Heart Falls, Serein, Shifts
For The Fans Of: Opeth, My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, Saturnus
Listen: facebook.com/katatonia

Release date 20.05.2016

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