The passing of time brings longer shadows and darker thoughts to the human
mind. Melancholy’s cry is never far from our ears, even in the happiest of
times. But while there is no true answer to the meaning of our brief lives,
music will always be a reliable and trustworthy companion through fear and
Perhaps more than any other contemporary band, Katatonia have long
displayed a masterful propensity for expressing the tears and torments of
mortality, offering sumptuous glimmers of sonic hope to soothe our troubled
In 2016, Stockholm’s widely celebrated soldiers of sorrow will once
again stir the blood and embolden our hearts with a brand new album that
promises to further cement their already unassailable reputation.
The band’s story began in earnest 25 years ago when Jonas Renkse and Anders Nyström first joined
forces to explore the limitless possibilities of the then burgeoning doom and death metal scenes. Bands
like Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride were standard bearers for British melancholy, but Peaceville
label mates Katatonia swiftly established themselves as Sweden’s idiosyncratic equivalent, releasing
their debut album Dance Of December Souls at the end of 1993 and receiving immediate acclaim
within the metal underground. With a sound that was both familiar and startlingly fresh, Katatonia’s
early works exhibited plenty of the elegance and subtlety that would later typify the band’s work:
1996’s Brave Murder Day (featuring harsh vocals by Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt) proved a major
milestone, eliciting rave reviews and taking its creators away from the doom mainstream and into
unique, uncharted territory. 1998’s Discouraged Ones reaffirmed the Swedes’ blossoming mastery
of dark metallic wonder; their steadily increasing fascination with the vivid hues of progressive rock
and other non-metal elements enabling their sound to evolve exponentially with each successive
creative splurge. The impact of Tonight’s Decision (1999) and Last Fair Deal Gone Down (2001)
was equally undeniable.
These were records that brimmed with ingenuity, melodic intuition and
moments of emotionally devastating dynamism: the sound of Katatonia’s metal roots being allowed
to assimilate a richer, more diverse array of influences and textures.
With countless lauded live shows and festival appearances, the band’s status as one of heavy music’s
most revered acts was etched in stone by the time the 21st century truly kicked into gear. 2003’s Viva
Emptiness and 2006’s The Great Cold Distance were, as Renkse and Nyström further refined their
mercurial songwriting talents. As the notion of progressive music began to exert its allure over openminded
music fans to a degree that it manifestly hadn’t since the early 70s, Katatonia were perfectly
positioned to benefit. As their audience and appeal broadened, they began to make ever more
adventurous and absorbing music, hitting a dizzying peak with 2009’s Night Is The New Day, an
album widely hailed as a masterpiece. Continuing on that triumphant path and maintaining that rich
vein of form, both 2012’s Dead End Kings and its delicate, re-imagined counterpart Dethroned &
Uncrowned a year later inspired praise and plaudits galore. Whether dismantling and reconstructing
their metal roots or diving into more ethereal sonic waters, Katatonia have been on a creative roll
for more than two decades.
Fast-forward to 2016 and the band are poised to release what may well
prove to be their most affecting and powerful album to date. The Fall Of Hearts is Katatonia’s tenth
studio album; a remarkable achievement in itself, but the sheer quality and consistency of the band’s
music remains their most striking trait.
“First of all we’re proud to even have accomplished a tenth album,” says Nyström. “With that
now in the bag, we’re pleased to see where it has taken us musically. 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.
The objective was to confidently deliver the best album we could
within the current allowance of our musical and creative abilities.”
“As always, it is both a struggle and a pleasure to write music when you have set your own
high standards,” adds Renkse. “This album was no exception. Our aim is always to break free
of whatever norms there are, if ever so slightly. We focus a lot on details once we have the big
picture mapped out, and it’s always a great journey to get there. This album needed to be more
adventurous, I think, and that became our pole star.”
One listen to the sprawling majesty of Takeover, The Fall Of Hearts’ extraordinary opening track,
will confirm that Katatonia have both further refined their unmistakable sound and obliterated many
more musical barriers on their latest and perhaps greatest album to date. From driving, muscular
and artfully metallic anthems like Serein and Sanction through to the mesmerising vulnerability
and elegance of more restrained fare like Decima and The Night Subscriber, The Fall Of Hearts
demonstrates how far Katatonia have come since their earliest attempts to harness the melancholic
potential of heavy music. It also proves that the band have grown in stature and skill as the decades
have melted away.
“We were 17 years old when we wrote the songs for Dance Of December Souls,” Renkse notes.
“But I think we still keep the same kind of foundation on which our music is built, a strong will
to create something emotionally unique. We just do it differently these days. We definitely have
our roots in metal, so I would say we are still a metal band, but perhaps one of the more diverse
“Coincidentally, there’s a little guitar melody that was written and first introduced on Dance Of
December Souls that was subconsciously lifted for a piano theme on the new album,” Nyström
states. “But you have to look far and deep if you seek to find other parallels and connections.
Our musical signals and language have changed considerably from 1993 to 2016, but I can still
sense a common message in the atmosphere sustaining since day one. Maybe you could call
us a progressive metal band with a deep passion for non-metal music? It’s easy to reach all the
branches in the tree and let them sway when you have a firm root to climb.”
Now adored by fans from across the musical spectrum, from diehard metalheads to dedicated
proggers and far beyond, Katatonia arrive at their latest milestone in the rudest of health and with
collective spirits ablaze with the opportunities that music continues to present. The Fall Of Hearts
is an immersive and frequently disarming journey through the bleakest of metaphysical winters, but
your guides through the fog have just enough hope in their hearts to ensure that the experience is
both hugely enriching and quite unlike anything else the world has to offer. Mankind’s inevitable
demise may be looming ahead, but Katatonia continue to wring life-giving drops of hope from the
fabric of our collective downfall.
Long may their kaleidoscopic vision of sorrow bring solace to us all.
“The future is one step closer to the decline of everything we know,” Nyström concludes. “We
wander the twilight like everyone else in slow decay. An end is forever certain, so don’t take
Katatonia for granted. Enjoy the time left, like we do.”
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