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Katatonia - The Fall of Hearts

Label: Peaceville Records
Format: CD Download
Released: 2016
Reviewed By: Jack Mangan
Rating: 10/10


 

Is February too early to declare the album of the year?

Veteran Prog Metal virtuosos, Katatonia, have released a bona fide collection of masterpieces with "The Fall of Hearts." Consider the bar set incredibly high. I listen and re-listen with slack-jawed admiration and wonder.
So yes, I called Katatonia Prog Metal. Their career trajectory isn't entirely dissimilar to their Swede countryman and one-time guest growl- vocalist, Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth. Not coincidentally, without being derivative or unoriginal, the sound of "Fall of Hearts" bears a resemblance to much of Opeth's clean-vocal material of the past 17 years, especially the stuff preceding Akerfeldt's current full-on Prog immersion (i.e., before the "Heritage" album). One final O-K parallel: since the turn of the century, Katatonia have also gradually evolved, in their own way, toward a quieter, clean vocal, more melody-driven definition. This path has led Katatonia to a great place with "Fall of Hearts,"
In addition to Opeth, I also find myself reminded of Spock's Beard, Draconian, and Canadian mellow acoustic guy, Dan Mangan (no relation). The songs on "Fall of Hearts" are individual gems of exquisite beauty and meticulous refinement, from artists of great ambition and experience who've never let up on their desire to push their skills and talents to the limits. The musicianship is elite-level, but effortlessly and obsequiously so, always in service of the good of the song. The piano line over the siren in "Shifts," for example, isn't a blistering display of technical prowess, but a perfectly-played bit of wordless ivory poetry, sure to haunt you long after listening. The album's tone is less somber despair than contemplation amidst sorrow; less the darkness of midnight than of the first moments of dawn. Jonas Renske's soothing, simple vocal approach maintains an even keel from song to song. Due mainly to this, but also to production and the timbre of the songs themselves, there's a bit of sameness of feeling - - whether it's during a heavy part, an acoustic guitar part, or one with the keyboards spotlighted. This commonality does not detract, but adds to the emotional weight of the material.
But enough of my over-explaining. Go listen to this album.

 

Katatonia's "Fall of Hearts" is one of the most essential releases of 2016-2017. There's not a bad song among the 12, but I find myself going back again and again to "Decima," "Shifts," "Takeover," "Sanction," "Last Song Before the Fade." Start with any of these - - but really, wherever you start - - you can't go wrong.

 

 
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