Swallow the Sun
Emerald Forest and the Blackbird
13 February 2012
by Tom Doyle
Finland’s Swallow The Sun ply a well worn Nordic furrow of gloomy, doomy atmospheric metal that brings to mind snow drifted forests and months without celestial light to brighten moods or music. Their’s is a potent brand of ear candy which pitches the more melodious side of death and pseudo-doom metal alongside truly mellifluous set pieces carried with aplomb by main man Mikko Kotamäki’s hauntingly rich vocal timbre.
The real strength here is texture – STS move between richly structured sections that contrast from coarse scratching vocals and layered, sky scraping guitar parts to carefully teased out passages which build with brumal quality and calculated precision. This cinematic approach is mostly fruitful across this sprawling LP but there are times when you sense that the album could benefit from a more concentrated take on a song writing style which occasionally wanders into slightly hokey territory. However, for the most part it would be remiss to demand a more concise approach from tracks which revel in their capacity for longform rise and fall – and more often than not emphatically succeed in giving the listener something of great sonic as well as powerful emotional substance.
There is plenty to recommend here for the already converted and new fans alike – the well developed guitar parts and propelling drum lines ensuring that when STS get going they are able to carry through on their promises of euphoric crescendos which their slow, percolating build requires. Emerald Forest and the Blackbird will be characterised to most ears by its underlying sense of deep existential sorrow but within this remit it is capable of producing moments of crystalline beauty, most notably the softer sections ‘Cathedral Walls’, which feature Anette Olzon of Nightwish’s silken voice doing battle with segments of deliciously orchestrated melodic death fury.
Watch the video to ‘Cathedral Walls’ by Swallow The Sun:
This is an album of impressive ambition – potentially the best in the bands own catalogue – sensitively handled and patiently realised, ticking all the boxes for fans of expansive Scandinavian metal with bags of heart. With only one of these 10 tracks clocking in at under five minutes (and most well over), this is an immersive, complex listen which is well worth crawling beneath the skin of for some genuinely powerful results.
Sounds Like: Opeth, My Dying Bride
Standout Tracks: Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, Cathedral Walls