Katatonia | ‘The Fall Of Hearts’
Let’s be honest: for a long time, Katatonia have been a band with a formula.
Alright, they’ve changed it, it’s grown and they’ve tweaked it; but it’s been there.
With ‘The Fall Of Hearts’ though, they’ve all but torn it up; started afresh – and brought back some disctinctly vintage dark metal sounds.
Good on them. It was a brave and timely decision. The result is that both they, and us, reap the rewards in spades with a fascinating album that just begs to be spun.
In a bit of a surprise move they’ve gone for length and expansiveness in these songs rather than the verse chorus verse brevity that served them so well for so long.
The excellent seven minute opener ‘Takeover’ starts bizarrely, with vocals coming in in what’s almost the first instant of the song. It’s strange, arresting and shows they mean business.
The tappy lick that forms the main bridge is a Blakkheim classic, before the stomp of the modern Katatonia takes over.
And then… what’s this? It’s all but the very double kick tone and riffing style of ‘Ghost Reveries’ Opeth!
Unbelievable, but true. Where did they get this from?
Anyway, it’s a delectable song that develops beautifully, and says much about this album’s wellspring of inspiration. To wit: older days.
Their eternal debt to Paradise Lost is refreshed with the excellent, powerful ‘Serein’ and that sad, wah voiced Mackintosh lead line. It recalls the underrated Thine as well, or something from Anathema’s ‘Judgement’. It’s gorgeous.
The swing of ‘Old Heart Fails’ feels somehow influenced by Johann Johannson and his ilk, albeit via modern Amorphis. THe pendulous motion of the riff and beat is very hard to resist. They just make it so easy.
Possibly the album’s most towering track is the vast ‘Sanction’, with its slamming riff and keyboard choirs recalling the dark metal of the late 90’s and early 00’s wonderfully.
The chorus will be sung back at them in every gig from now til the day they pack it in. It’s not quite as straight as a ‘My Twin’ or ‘July’, but it’s great.
More Hammond organs in ‘Residual’ suggest the Opeth connection again, along with that dirtied, warm guitar and plump grooving at the back.
‘Serac’ nods to even earlier Opeth – almost ‘My Arms’ and ‘Morningrise’ at points with the church organ keyboard, sharper riffing style and double basswork. In another world, Akerfeldts old roars are over this.
A very long track by Katatonia’s standards, its seven minutes encompass all kinds of tones, from a wintry gothicana to a soaring solo section. It’s elaborate, well composed and a most interesting diversion for Katatonia at this point in their career.
‘Shifts’ has more of that toy-town, old time Johansson about it; it’s lighter and feels more like an interlude than a proper track, but it’s hardly bad.
‘Pale Flag’s main pluck at the start sounds suspiciously like Current 93’s ‘Black Ships In The Sky’ – to the point of almost being a total steal? – and indeed it has a folkish lean. Perhaps there’s an old folk tune basis to both of them I dont know about, or something, but its uncomfortably similar.
Anyhow it’s no big thing.
A Class Act
This is a whopping album, not without filler, but with a renewed focus on metallic rather than modernising values, weighed heavily with the influence of more plangent music making.
Parts of it remind of classic old and indeed modern period Opeth mixed with the last four or five albums of Paradise Lost – a stirring thought you’ll agree – always bounded by the strange and thick grooves and beats that Katatonia have came to call their own.
The best tracks on here are among their very best of recent years for sure, and when you hear ‘Passer’ bellow out, you’ll not believe it could possibly Katatonia.
Shredding, you say? Why yes. Yes indeed. It’s like Blakkheim unbound.
It really is a great, great album heralding a new phase in their career. It’s almost astonishing how advanced it is to a ‘Discouraged Ones’ or even a ‘Great Cold Distance’; it’s so expansive and discursive compared to what they’ve done before that it’s positively intriguing.
I sure didnt see this one coming – and that’s the mark of a band that still mean it.
They remain a class act.
4.2 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 08/06/16