Katatonia - The Fall Of Hearts Digibook-CD & DVD
Deluxe Edition CD + DVD Mediabook, with bonus track 'Vakaren' and 24 page booklet.
Katatonia's long-awaited album The Fall of Hearts completely trumped all expectations and exceeded in every way possible. Every emotion is heightened, every note accented with glory, every vocal line rich with the sombre yet subtly diverse emotional capability of Jonas Renkse...it's an utter masterpiece with no counterpart in its release year and few if any in the last decade. After 2012's Dead End Kings was met with good but far-from-great reception (it's still full of good work but also kind of by-the-numbers as well), Katatonia took four years to really re-invent themselves. Band members left and were replaced, acoustic reworkings and semi-unplugged tours helped explore new sounds, and eventually the band returned with their best album in a decade, maybe more.
Katatonia's post-Brave Murder Day releases are often associated with rather catchy gothic tunes, melancholic alternative songs with conventional arrangements and vocal lines. The Fall of Hearts begins with the polar opposite; a seven minute long progressive metal epic with off-kilter vocals, Mellotron backing lines in vein of Opeth, and unpredictable drumming. "Takeover" is a sudden yet perfect introduction to this band's new era. And it isn't to say that the album doesn't have it's catchy moments. The songs "Serein", "Old Heart Falls", and "Shifts" take Katatonia's older style and add new elements like a greater keyboard presence (throughout this album) and a wider vocal range. Seriously, Jonas Renkse sounds better than ever before with explorations into high and low singing that reminds me of some of Steven Wilson's work in Porcupine Tree.
The band produced this album themselves, as they have done multiple previous ones, and here they have perfected the craft of self-editing. Even for an album that reaches sixty-seven minutes in length, making it Katatonia's longest to date, The Fall of Hearts doesn't feel one second too short or one second too long. The songwriting is absolutely phenomenal on every track, but standouts would be "Residual", "Serac", "Last Song Before the Fade", "The Night Subscriber" (which might have Katatonia's best chorus ever), and "Passer". The mixing is an artwork within the art that is the music itself. Every single instrument, every single note in fact, can be heard perfectly and is at the appropriate level of audibility. Guitars sweep in like cool breezes, the bass is thick and deep (heh), the drums straddle the sonic landscape with ease, and Jonas' vocals are just mindblowingly beautiful. The addition of extra percussion, predominantly hand drums, in songs like "Takeover", "Decima", "Residual", and "Serac" add a whole new dynamic to the music. This is a modern sound in its absolute perfection. Every band on the face of the planet can learn from Katatonia right now.
Lyrically we have some of Renkse's best work yet. He's already a lyrical poet with such phenomenal songs as "Unfurl", "Evidence", "Omerta", "Lethean", "Deliberation", "Sleepers", and "Dead Letters" to name just a few, but here his wordplay is beyond unique and appropriate. "Old Heart Falls" probably has the best delivery, along with "Decima", the Tool-infused "Sanction", and "The Night Subscriber". The choice to have two predominantly acoustic tracks, those being "Decima" and "Pale Flag", is excellent and ultimately kind of fresh for Katatonia, as well as an obvious result of their semi-unplugged tour for the Dethroned and Uncrowned reworked rendition of Dead End Kings. These songs give the band a greater opportunity to shine on a somewhat more minimal level, and the auxiliary percussion has a chance to show off separate from the drumming, which is done perfectly by newcomer Daniel Moilanen.
The dynamics, layers, and creativity are unmatched today and open the gates for Katatonia's very hopeful future. I wish them the absolute best of luck in trying to top this album.