Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts

Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts album cover ghostcultmag

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.

8.5/10

HANSEL LOPEZ

[amazon asin=B01CTGFKC0&template=iframe image1]

Katatonia – Sanctitude

10917838_10153072625559907_861113592909158180_n

Initially pulled together as a tour to promote Dethroned & Uncrowned (KScope), which reworked the bands 2012 album Dead End Kings (Peaceville), the Katatonia acoustic tour of 2014 took on more significance with the decisions to expand the set to a full career-retrospective, booked in cathedrals, churches and chapels, and documented via Sanctitude (KScope)a live DVD (plus audio CD version) filmed at London’s Union Chapel.

With the reverent gothic backdrop of the inside of the chapel, and accompanied on the stage only by candle light and music stands, it is not only in the re-arrangements of the music that this is a different Katatonia, with vocalist Jonas Renske and guitarist Anders “Blakkheim” Nystrom the only remaining members from the band’s “classic” line ups. Even the group for Dead End Kings has been torn apart, with Per Eriksson replaced by Bruce Soord (The Pineapple Thief) and Daniel Moilanen filling in on percussion, for the tour.

Unsurprisingly, the focus of the film is Renske and his world-weary croons and Nystrom’s and his reworked guitar lines. The addition of Soord is beneficial, as his supporting strums, softened backing vocals and supplementary keyboard work swell and embellish the Swedes delicate framing of a selection of their back catalogue.

With the bonus features of the DVD extending to an overlong and, sadly, boring interview only (which is a shame, as Nystrom in particular has a passion for the band that glimpses out of some of his answers that is untapped by the lack of interaction with a presenter), the focus of Sanctitude is the live performance. Unobtrusively filmed so as to feel as though the watcher was front row of the show, the band are sat throughout with Renske displaying dry self-deprecating wit during his low key exchanges with the audience.

While the minimal staging and direction match the stripped down songs, there is a nagging feeling that a shorter set would have made a more striking impact as several of the songs, shorn of their apparel and original guitar lines, sound too similar and at 80 minutes, attention does wander, particularly early on, and it is interesting that the set draws you in as it unfurls rather than impressing from the outset. Indeed, the opening five songs pass by pleasantly and prettily enough, nice renditions that blur together, until ‘One Year From Now’, the first real standout moment, is unveiled, showing just how well an acoustic Katatonia track can be done.

Other notable moments include ‘Sleeper’ and a dark, melancholic ‘Undo You’, while ‘Lethean’ spreads out into an introspective chorus as Renske’s Maynard-esque harmonies lilt and drift with the song. ‘Omerta’ carries a folky edge and ‘The One You Are Looking For’, complete with guest performance from Silje Wergeland (The Gathering), is an understated and sparse ending to the performance. However, the true show-stopping moment is a bare version of the rarely visited ‘Day’ from Brave Murder Day (Avantgarde), the track that first showcased the real template for the Katatonia sound.

Where Renske and Nystrom take the band next will be interesting to see, but one can’t help feeling Katatonia are better with some oomph to their songs. Not one for the casual observer, this is a release for the dedicated as Sanctitude draws a beautiful, if not fully encapsulating, end to another chapter of the bands career.

 

7.5/10

Katatonia on Facebook

 

STEVE TOVEY