Vinyl Follow Up: Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts

I’m sure everyone has their favorite Katatonia album. For me, it’s 2006’s The Great Cold Distance that reigns above all others, with both album tracks like “Soil’s Song” and “July,” as well as B-sides “Unfurl,” “Code Against The Code,” and “Dissolving Bonds,” remaining not just some of my all time favorite Katatonia songs, but favorite songs full stop. I would also say that the latter are superior to any of the tracks on Night Is The New Day (That’s not saying much. -Alex).

Happily, the band rebounded after that disappointment in 2012 with Dead End Kings, but I think it is this year’s release, The Fall Of Hearts, that is their strongest since Distance. “Takeover” is a decent opener, but the album really improves as the tracks tick by. “Old Heart Falls” sounds like it could’ve come from Great Cold Distance, and I love the transition from “Decima” to “Sanction” to “Residual,” which covers the full emotional gamut. While I’m not mashing the repeat button in quite the same way as I did when I first heard “Displaced” and “Dissolving Bonds” on the My Twin EP, this is still one of my favorites of the year so far.

The standard CD release was mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren (Boooogrrennnn!!!!!!!) and for a Bogren joint, this one is pretty good. Most tracks come in at a typical DR6, though Jens did opt to back off on “Decima” and “Shifts” (both DR9). The two bonus tracks on the deluxe version, “Vakaren” and “Sistere,” were separately mixed by Karl Daniel Lidén and Bruce Soord, and both are dynamic as well.

The album is available on vinyl as a 180g double LP, with “Sistere” as the single bonus track on the end of side D. My record sleeve credits the mastering to Tony Lindgren, so presumably he worked on the vinyl at Fascination Street while Jens did the CD. If you’re somebody who likes limited colors, you have a choice of either gold or silver, with 500 copies pressed for each.

The Great Cold Distance is incidentally also when Katatonia started releasing their albums in multi-channel surround versions on DVD, and happily The Fall Of Hearts continues that tradition as well. Bruce Soord handled the 5.1 channel DTS and Dolby AC3 surround mix, and reports seem to indicate that he did a great job. The fact that it’s DR13 certainly doesn’t hurt either. The 24/96 high-res stereo version on the DVD unfortunately wasn’t so lucky – it has identical mastering as the CD, right down to the 0dBFS peak levels on every track. Why this was done, I have no idea. The vinyl obviously has a stereo master, and it’s every bit as dynamic as the surround sound version. Why wouldn’t they just put that on the DVD like Iced Earth did with Plagues Of Babylon? (Boooogrrennnn!!!!!!!! -Alex).

Since they didn’t, you have a couple of choices. If you have a turntable, obviously just buy the vinyl, it sounds fantastic. If you have a DVD player and a surround setup, definitely get the DVD. If you only have two speakers or just a pair of headphones, you’re not completely out of luck though. You can fold down the 5.1 mix into a stereo version yourself using some plugins in Foobar, or via professional audio editing software. Obviously you shouldn’t have to do that, but at least it’s better than nothing. I’d skip the deluxe set with the CD, DVD, and 10″ vinyl, as there’s going to be a real sonic cost to get the album to fit on four 10″ sides. But the bottom line is no matter what format you choose, The Fall of Hearts is absolutely a must buy this year.