The old adage is that there is no true substitute for experience. While for the young and easily impressionable tend to view that sentiment as trite, it rings mightily true for Katatonia on their 10th studio album, The Fall of Hearts (Peaceville). Over twenty years of masterful work are on display over the course of 12 new compositions in which hardly a moment feels out-of-place or without purpose.
All of the familiar elements from Katatonia’s previous works are present, ranging from the doom/death of songs like ‘Serac’ and ‘Sanction’ to numbers dripping with weariness and melancholy such as in ‘Old Heart Falls.’ Take note young musicians, you don’t have to always aim to reshape the genre. Sometimes just a strongly honed craft and sound songwriting chops are all that is needed.
Need an example on how to appreciate these Swedes’ proficiency? Check out how Jonas Renkse’s dusky vocals interplay so well with the serpentine guitar work on ‘Takeover.’ And notice how said flowing guitars work their way seamlessly right into ‘Serein.’ Much praise to veteran guitarist and producer Anders Nyström and recently added Tiamat axeman Roger Öjersson for their precise and lush fretwork.
But it’s not just a guitar showcase and subtle elements such as new drummer Daniel Moilanen’s slight yet echoing cymbal and footwork add much more dimension to ‘The Night Subscriber’ and ‘Passer.’ Mixing and mastering were of course handled by veteran engineer Jens Bogren to ensure maximum aural richness and clarity.
The Fall of Hearts’ greatest strength is in its precision and economy of song. Lesser outfits would have buckled under the weight of gothic miasma or overindulgence. Author Malcolm Gladwell argues that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Katatonia have obviously put in their time.
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