"The Fall Of Hearts" is the 11th full-length studio album by Swedish metal act Katatonia. The album was released through Peaceville Records in May 2016. While it´s been 3 years since the release of "Dethroned & Uncrowned (2013)", Katatonia have been quite busy, releasing both the "Kocytean (2014)" compilation and the "Sanctitude (2015)" live album. In addition to that Anders "Blakkheim" Nyström and Jonas Renkse have also been busy recording (the "Grand Morbid Funeral (2014)" album) and touring with their death metal project Bloodbath. There have been two lineup changes since the release of "Sanctitude (2015)" as guitarist Per "Sodo" Eriksson has been replaced by Roger Öjersson and drummer Daniel Liljekvist has been replaced by Daniel Moilanen. Both are fairly seasoned musicians on the Swedish metal scene having performed with acts like Tiamat and Runemagick.
Stylistically "The Fall Of Hearts" continues the dark, atmospheric, and melancholic rock/metal style of the last couple of albums by the band, but brings on a more progressive twist (some tracks are also slightly longer than usual for Katatonia). Artists like Porcupine Tree and Tool come to mind at various points throughout the album, but Katatonia have a distinct sound, which is especially due to Jonas Renkse´s soft emotive vocals, but also the often layered and intricate compositions.
The tracks are predominantly slow- to mid-paced and focus on melancholic atmospheres, but occasionally heavier riff sections appear, and with the addition of Moilanen to the lineup, some parts even feature double bass drumming. So there are definitely some really heavy parts featured on the album (like the closing sections of opening track "Takeover", "The Night Subscriber" or "Sanction"), although they do not represent the dominant musical style. Some tracks feature relatively simple structures, while others are more complex. In addition to guitars, bass, drums, and vocals, the music also features keyboards, which often lift the music to epic heights, but the keyboards are also often used as atmospheric backing. In addition to the above mentioned, highlights include "Decima", "Serac", "Passer", and "Shifts", but all material on the album is well written and memorable.
At least three additional tracks were recorded during the sessions in "Vakaren", "Sistere", and "Wide Awake In Quietus". The latter features a guest performance by Paradise Lost guitarist Gregor Mackintosh. "Vakaren" is a bit special too as it features Swedish language lyrics. As far as I know it´s the first time Renkse sings in his native language but it definitely shouldn´t be his last. "Vakaren" is a beautiful song and the Swedish language lyrics work perfectly.
The sound production is clear, powerful, and warm, suiting the material perfectly. At 67:22 minutes (the standard version without bonus tracks) "The Fall Of Hearts" is a pretty long album, and maybe also slightly too long, but on the other hand it´s hard to pick any of the 12 tracks that I would leave off the album, and compared to the last couple of albums by the band, "The Fall Of Hearts" is also a much more diverse release, which ensures that it´s entertaining all the way through the playing time. So upon conclusion it´s another high quality release by Katatonia. It´s also a much needed development from the artistic stagnation, which had begun to creep in on the last couple of albums, although the overall atmosphere of the the album isn´t that different from the dark melancholic atmospheres of the predecessors. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.