Thursday, May 12, 2016

Katatonia : "the Fall of Hearts"

The gloomy Swedes have pretty much become a prog band at this point. The Opeth like cadence that builds the opener when the distortion is stomped on makes sense considering the acrobatics the guitars have already engaged in leading up to that point. "In Absentina" ear Porcupine Tree might also come to mind. This is not to say there is not plenty of the band's own DNA all over this song. Jonas' vocals are unmistakable.The album is very crisp from a production stand point, which lightens the shade of gray cast over these songs. Jonas doesn't have the same melancholic desperation fueling his vocals, yet he doesn't stray from his style. He sounds more hopeful, though lyrically the same themes seem to be present. The guitar work on this album is stunning. I am not sure how much of that owes thanks to Roger Ojersson from Tiamat who is another new addition to the band. If you are going to do prog-rock, this is the way to go as songwriting and melody have more value than showcasing chops or trying to create some kind of obtuse sonic puzzle. Their new drummer Daniel Moilanen, does't make me go "Damn, Daniel", but he does play very tastefully around the more progressive part to create more jazz influenced passages. This is a surprise knowing he comes from Heavydeath and other more extreme Swedish acts. The first song that has a Tiamat like sound is "Decima". It has that acoustic 'Wildhoney" tone. The guitar at this point is stealing the show in such a way that it feels like Jonas is just the window dressing rather than focal point. Lyrically there is more in common with "Wish" era Cure than some of the emotional tight spots the lyrics on previous albums seemed to have been squeezed through.

Thankfully things do get darker and more morose for "Sanction". They also get heavier in a way that is more Katatonia. On your tenth album, there is the tug of war between not wanting to dial it in and replicate what you have already done, while still meeting the expectations of long time fans. The perfect balance is struck on "Sanction" which might be their best song since "Night is the New Day". Jonas seems to project his voice more on certain vocal runs like when he sings the word tomorrow. That song sets the bar a little high for "Residual".As a result I am a little underwhelmed by that one. It has more of a "No Quarter" thing going on. Once again the guitar is so tasty you could lick it off your fingers. Four and a half minutes in the pull back in with a pretty good groove. By "Serac" we are starting to get rocked out in a more conventional sense as they get more upbeat. The vocals ride a triumphant wave of hard rock, the actual metal moments on this album are just other dynamic colors being used to paint this picture rather than their mission statement. They ebb and flow into moodier breakdowns. Similar in tone but not as dynamic "the Last Song Before the Fade" doesn't benefit from the dynamic range of "Serac" with only the guitar solo and the bride after it offering a darker diversion.

"Shifts" floats past you on a delicate groove. The vocals on this song are especially well produced as Jonas steps into the spot light. "The Night Subscriber" starts off going through the motions until they stomp into the heavy two minutes in.The chorus is not their most compelling, but the punches they do hit work well and the song gets better as it goes."Pale Flag" is a ballad that doesn't really hold my attention. They take you out on a more rocking note with "Passer". The song opens with a guitar solo, so it rocks in the more traditional sense. Jonas sings a little lower, this makes his voice more resonate and I would like to hear more of this from him.I'll go ahead an round this up to an 9.5 as it feels better than "Dead End Kings" to me. I'll see how it grows on me. It's weird as it's not as dark as previous releases, but packs more of a punch.


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