As their legion of fans will attest to, Swallow The Sun is not your average Death-Doom band. The inventiveness and melancholy melodies lift the Finnish outfit to another plain and, after 2015’s lauded triple album Songs From the North, any release from the sextet is anticipated with a relish akin to hero-worship. Single Lumina Aurea, all fourteen minutes of it, is a precursor to next year’s album When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light (all Century Media) and, although not a track from that album, is an eerie, monumental aperitif – a gateway to the full product. Continue reading →
Alongside the unfathomable, harsh beauty of their back catalogue, Finnish emotional terrorists Swallow The Sun have proved themselves no strangers to risk. Sixth album Songs From the North (Century Media) is, at triple-disc length, ambitious at the very least and open to myriad accusations of self-indulgence. In effect developing its own little game of ‘Snog Marry Avoid’, if any of you pick either of the first two to hitch up to for life then there’s no fucking hope for any of us.
I’s opening track ‘With You Came the Whole of the World’s Tears’ is an oft-delicate, Funereal / Death / Folk amalgam with Black-edged riffs that is faithful to the band’s intention to flood the emotions. The ensuing ’10 Silver Bullets’ shows signs of the inventive MeloDeath of Septicflesh but the production, honing the sound to within an inch of sterility, renders this, the melancholy Prog of ‘Rooms and Shadows’ and more symphonic ‘Heartstrings Shattering’ almost lifeless; an apt state for an opening salvo which is also badly affected by Mikko Kotamӓki’s lethargic-sounding clean vocals and is ultimately beyond disappointment.
The tolling piano opening II is a mournful portent which promises more, as does the lilting Folk of ‘Pray for the Winds to Come’ with its truly haunting strings. That disturbing tendency towards flab and fatigue is, however, all too evident: ‘Away’ completely empty of feeling and ideas, really not helped by those feeble clean intonations. The heavenly rhythm and instrumentation of the stunning ‘66°50’N, 28°40’E’ and closer ‘Before the Summer Dies’ atmospheric jangle are this albeit livelier disc’s indicators of the possibilities largely wasted, and serves only to infuriate further.
A largely different and far superior element, III is also by far the darker and more aggressive: opener ‘The Gathering of Black Moths’ coming out as a less heavy, slower and more atmospheric Primitive Man. Here subtle sections thankfully drop the twee harmony for edgy, funereal passages pregnant with tension. ‘7 Hours Late’s blend of tortuously slow, harrowing melody and horrific vocal is sickly oppressive, its leads and cannoning drums an ideal juxtaposition; whilst the unnerving soliloquies, unexpected missed beats and mixed roars and screams of the staggering ‘Empires of Loneliness’ are positively devastating, still underpinned by sampled atmospheres and eerie melody which by now seem addictive rather than plain dull.
Despite a largely unflinching template this chapter is by far the most compelling listen of a triptych which fails miserably to stand up to the name this band has built for itself. If Swallow The Sun is not to travel so far up its colon that it is impossible to return, the larger part of this bloated nonsense should be consigned to memory and never, ever be repeated.