Swallow The Sun – When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light

In a sense, this review finds itself in an onerous position. Recorded in the wake of Finnish singer Aleah Stanbridge’s death, its subject marks the return to the music of her partner, Juha Raivio, and his Epic Goth Metal band, Swallow The Sun. In fact, the press release goes so far as to describe the new album, When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light (Century Media), as being “fuelled by personal loss and powered by the will to continue.”

So it feels almost like an intrusion, an invasion of grief being played out in heavy music, but in a way that no longer sits comfortably with the usual dispassionate prodding of music journalism. Still, here the record is, and if its title isn’t a fitting metaphor for the hackery that is about to take place, what is?

As the title track thunders in, with a mix of crushingly heavy hooks and well-structured melancholic sections, it’s easy to overlook the real drama that went on behind the scenes. Swallow The Sun, for those who did not know, dwells in the same sombre killing fields as progged-out Goth Metal bands like Opeth, and even strays into Solitude Aeturnus territory when the Doom Metal influences start to creep in.

This formula works well most of the time. Track three, ‘Firelights’, is a case in point. It’s powerful and never lets the gloom get in the way of the beats or the riffs. Yet it still manages a fittingly funereal whimsy, blending in the strings and industrial flourishes with equal skill.

The sixth song, ‘Clouds On Your Side’ reverses the formula, with a mostly measured, dolorous vibe. Still, thunderous moments surface from time to time just to remind the listener that Metal can have feelings, but still break your legs when you’re not looking.

However, while the rest of the album doesn’t exactly falter, it doesn’t impress with the same rigour as its finest moments. Sometimes, it sounds like the band is so caught in the mood, it forgets to take the listener along with them. And so, despite doing a good job, When A Shadow… fails to do it quite enough to make the album essential overall. Still, there are worse things in the world – just try to ignore that nagging feeling of voyeurism, if you can.

6 / 10