Released: 2016, Peaceville Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
While I totally support Katatonia’s creative right to pursue less aggressive musical avenues, I’m not quite sure what they’re going for with THE FALL OF HEARTS. The re-imagined DETHRONED & UNCROWNED gave the DEAD END KINGS source material an ambient facelift, signaling that the Swedes were ready to trade in their distortion pedals for more synthesizers. Which as long as the songs retain the same level of emotional pull that’s come to define the band, that's all that really matters; throw in a freakin’ accordion for all I care. The band's latest, THE FALL OF HEARTS, embarks the band further into uncharted (undistorted?) territories, with mixed results.
When all of the stars are aligned, there are some great songs to be found on THE FALL OF HEARTS. The abrupt start of “Takeover” introduces the softer, more prog-leaning tone of the album, while the concise energy of early album singles “Serein” and “Old Hearts Fail” offer up a sense of urgency that is sparsely found across the rest of the album. But much of the balance of THE FALL OF HEARTS is lost in self-indulgent jangly meandering. It’s a pretty constant blend of piano, clean guitars that eventually ramp into power chords and then back to clean guitar lines, some kind of atmospheric synth effect, and Jonas Renkse’s shoegaze poetry. You can shuffle the order of events across “Decima”, “Sanction”, and “Last Song Before the Fade”, but it all tends to blur into a musical wet dream between Anders Nyström and The Cure's DISINTEGRATION.
But then you’ve got anchors towards the end of the album like “The Night Subscriber” and “Passer” that totally reaffirm your faith in the band’s abilities. They both echo the musical hallmarks outlined above, but there’s an energy in those tunes that instantly pulls you out of the fog and thrusts you into the music. I don't mean to sound like the "it's different so I don't understand it" guy, but a few more tracks like these would've gone a long way as a listener.
THE FALL OF HEARTS is the first serious step in the next musical evolution of Katatonia, and the highlights across the album are strong. Regardless of your feelings on their musical choices, the performances on the record are phenomenal. There’s always a variety of musical parts in motion, and the exploration with time signatures and percussion make for an interesting new dynamic. THE FALL OF HEARTS isn't a perfect record, but it course corrects from DEAD END KINGS and is an honest reflection of where the Katatonia's hearts are falling.