There has always been a close connection between Opeth and Katatonia. Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt did the growling vocals on Katatonia’s 1996 album Brave Murder Day, and in 1998 Akerfeldt along with Katatonia’s Jonas Renkse and Anders Nystrom were founders of Bloodbath. Another thing that Opeth and Katatonia have in common is that their sound has moved away from death metal into other styles.

Katatonia made the break from death metal vocals on 1998‘s Discouraged Ones, and as the years went on developed a melancholy and dynamic sound with fewer metal elements. Their latest album, The Fall of Hearts, comes after a couple of lineup changes. New for this album are guitarist Roger Ojersson and drummer Daniel Moilanen.

While The Fall of Hearts has plenty of dark, morose rock elements and progressive tendencies, Katatonia also bring back the metal with some heavier moments. That’s encompassed in the album opener “Takeover,” a seven-minute epic with ebbs and flows between the delicate and the distorted. Soft piano and airy atmospherics give way to aggressive riffs and bold drums.

Katatonia songs are always full of emotion and depth, but tracks like “Serein” show a more cheerful side. The tune is downright catchy, with a proggy mid-song break adding variety. The single “Old Heart Falls” is more in line with expectations: somber and melancholy with Renkse’s trademark emotive vocals.

“Serac” is the album’s longest track, featuring heavy guitars and dense orchestration along with softer sections. “Shifts” is on the other side of the spectrum, maintaining a subdued feel throughout. One of the more memorable songs on the album is “The Night Subscriber,” while the closing track “Passer” ends things with boldness and energy.

The Fall of Hearts is the first Katatonia album to clock in at more than an hour, but it doesn’t feel overly long. The constant changes in tempo and intensity keep the listener fully engaged throughout, a testament to the band’s songwriting skill.

Renkse and Nystrom also produced the album and did an excellent job. They are veterans and know exactly what they want, and their singular vision is not distorted by any outside influences. The Fall of Hearts is full of both darkness and light, heaviness and softness, drama and understatement. It’s an album that is intricate with a lot of subtleties, but also a lot of accessibility.

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