A perfect tenth?

Subtlety and texture aren’t words that immediately spring to mind when thinking of doom metal. And yet, here on the tenth album from the Swedish kings of all things depressive, Katatonia, they are never far away.

What they’ve done – frequently brilliantly – is construct songs with twists and turns and things you genuinely don’t expect to happen often do. The word “song” is another that perhaps does the work here an injustice. These are more akin to lush sonic landscapes to got lost in.

The best – and indeed only – thing to do with work like opener “Takeover” is dive straight in and let it wash over you, and if it follow up “Serein” is a more of an immediate slammer of a thing, it can’t resist a trip towards a prog like meandering, which only serves to make the heavy parts, heavier.

Perhaps this experimentation comes from the fact that “….Hearts” is the first Katatonia record in four years – kinda. It comes after a live album, but also after “Dethroned And Uncrowned,” one of those “deconstruction” type records that find a different path for great songs. Whatever it is, it seems to have had a galvanising effect here, with guitarist Anders Nyström saying in these pages: “We knew we had to come up with a great follow-up to Dead End Kings as we never considered Dethroned & Uncrowned to be our last album, but nevertheless that album also played a leading role in where we could potentially take our sound.”

And where it’s gone is a really thrilling prospect, “Decima” is understated and stripped back, but my, they can still crush when required, as the opening to “Sanction” proves.

Another reason for this new life to the sound might be the two new members they’ve acquired. “The Fall of Hearts” is the first record to feature new drummer Daniel ’Mojjo’ Moilanen and with the addition of their recently recruited guitarist Roger Öjersson (Tiamat), the solo work here is frequently incredible.

Highlights are many, but the slow building “Residual” is particularly impressive, as is “Serac” which is a veritable wall of dazzling sounds and ideas.

Indeed, it seems that “…..Hearts” is the type of record where nothing was rejected for being too outlandish a thought, the piano opening to “Last Song Before The Fade”, the keyboard parts on “Shifts” and the classical licks on “The Night Subscriber” – which come after it has initially sounded like something from “One Second” era Paradise Lost (with whom they’ve toured in the recent past) are the thoughts of  band that wasn’t interested in treading old ground, which is a fine metaphor for a fine album.

“The Fall Of Hearts” is a journey, and like any journey, no matter how many times you do it, you are always spotting something new. A quite superb record, it is a collection with 12 songs, but myriad possibilities and it keeps revealing more of itself each time it beats.

Rating 9/10

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