Album Review – Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts (2016)

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As previously mentioned in a Feature of the Day post that covered the single Old Heart Falls earlier this year, Katatonia’s new endeavor has taken a softer note than their past discography, this is their lightest work since Dethroned and Uncrowned (2013) which united alternative metal, acoustic and symphony.

Takeover, the introductory track to the album displays a core of ambient rock, entwined with melodic/progressive rock (key examples being Anathema, Big Big Train and Anti-Matter), before their recent distinctive sound of alternative metal re-emerges in brief moments. What needs to be mentioned in the similarity between this track and previous ones from other albums, Dead End Kings (2011) being the closest in comparison. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because many bands carry a set amount of instrumental notes to make sure that the listeners recognize them, make them distinctive, and there is another strong likelihood that The Fallen Hearts is a continuation of that album’s narrative, the beginning of a conceptual trilogy perhaps.

Serein whilst maintaining the lighter nature of the opening tracking, introduces electronic undertones, with the usage of a synthesizer as it convoys the guitars, furthering the ambient inspiration then explodes into rhythmic dark progressive rock. Old Heart Falls effluents with progressive rock and metal delivery, reminiscent of their peers Anathema (as previously mentioned), Riverside, Genesis, and Pink Floyd, flitting between ambient, alternative metal and dark rock additionally. Decima furthers on with the progressive touch, containing fundamentals of acoustic and folk rock, and happens to sound similar to Finnish alternative rock band Poets of the Fall (notably with their tracks Late Goodbye, Temple of Thought ) for the experimentation of country rock ballad nature to the lyrics.

Sanction is one of the heaviest tracks on the album, with the fusion of alternative, symphonic and doom metal, with the inclusion of operatic choir beneath the foreground production, and as a whole draws back inspiration from their older work, in particular, once more stated Dead End Kings (2011), Night is the New Day (2009) and The Great Cold Distance (2005); the latter for their last album to involve their originating genre of death/doom, which they abandoned completely by NITND. Residual expands to unite progressive and art rock, with the temperament of indie pop, with frequent play on the synthesizers, manipulating a soft drone (which indie rock artist Gotye also used in State of the Art, a track from his Making Mirrors, 2011). Midway through the track, Katatonia change course to infiltrate the song with alternative metal, and then quickly reverts to the progressive qualities, as if trying to demonstrate the emotions within the lyrical narrative in subtle ways.

Serac shapes into the second heavier track, followed by Last Song before the Fade, and Passer the last track of the album. The former is of a more country rock/metal fusion, with neo-progressive and progressive metal propensities. I mention neo-progressive rather than its predecessor because of the more modern interpretation of the composition, which occurred during the mid-80s into 1990s, with the likes of IQ, Marillion and Glasshammer, all of which were intricately replicating the Genesis sound, rather than Pink Floyd or their peers Emerson, Lake and Palmer. The latter bands used heavier delivery, which descended from the psychedelic rock and baroque pop era, whilst Genesis  moved away their psychedelic roots and infused the prototype of ambient music and experimental rock. It was this blueprint, or interpretation that later progressive rock and progressive metal bands have used since. Last Song before the Fade, begins to what appears to be a mellow, acoustic keyboard number, with exerts of a progressive build up before it implodes into a progressive-alternative mix, with mild drone and dark ambient leniency, the lyrics mournful. Passer explores what I’d like to call heavy symphonic/progressive metal, possibly with a dab of power metal, combining the sound of Devin Townsend and Frost* into one melody, however to contrast, the lyrical distribution is far darker, and suggestive of the dark rock themes of their previous album.

Shifts starts with the iconic and notorious sample of the sirens of WWII, then unfolds into a minimalist track, with moments of acoustic and folk with the renewal of light progressive rock traces, this is a track that takes inspiration from Dethroned and Uncrowned, similar in path to the acoustic takes of The Parting, Hypnone, and Leech. The Night Subscriber is the complete epitome of dark rock, and remarkably captures the spirit of the likes of their more modern peers HIM, whom are the gothic interpretation of the genre.

Pale Flag merges dark rock and folk rock together, creating a beautiful ritualistic song similar to the sound of pagan rock, the narrative that of a folk tale.

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