Published on Sunday, 22 November 2015 19:34
Band: Swallow The Sun
Album title: Songs From The North I, II & III
Release date: 13 November 2015
Label: Century Media Records
Disc I - Songs From The North I
01. With You Came The Whole Of The World's Tears
02. 10 Silver Bullets
03. Rooms And Shadows
04. Heartstrings Shattering
06. The Memory Of Light
07. Lost & Catatonic
08. From Happiness To Dust
Disc II - Songs From The North II
01. The Womb Of Winter
02. The Heart Of A Cold White Land
04. Pray For The Winds To Come
05. Songs From The North
07. Autumn Fire
08. Before The Summer Dies
Disc III - Songs From The North III
01. The Gathering Of Black Moths
02. 7 Hours Late
03. Empires Of Loneliness
04. Abandoned By The Light
05. The Clouds Prepare For Battle
I wasn't really a huge fan of Finns Swallow The Sun until their in 2012 released masterpiece Emerald Forest And The Blackbird, an album gained my appreciation towards them and showed the band in a new light by incorporating into their sound many new elements, like for example much more atmosphere, melancholy and subtle melody, everything reached by using more clean vocals, more female vocals and much more elaborated use of synths. Still in the basis the band was staying true to their melodic doom/death metal formula, and the band slowly steped out of the shadow of heroic sounds of early works by My Dying Bride, Anathema, Katatonia and Paradise Lost. Nevertheless, the band with their first four albums, The Morning Never Came (2003), Ghosts Of Loss (2005), Hope (2007) and New Moon (2009), rapidly became an underground sensation. Now the Finns are back with their fifth album, ehmmm, a triple album named Songs From The North I, II & III, and this is not just an album divided into three parts, but every part is different from other. Still, when the talk is about Swallow The Sun, the words that best describe their music are: gloom, beauty and despair. And this is all about in their new offering.
If we are used to hear from before bands who split their albums in two polar parts with different content, like for example Moonspell on Alpha Noir/Omega White and Opeth on Deliverance And Damnation, but Swallow The Sun managed to do a triple one, still making all of three parts nicely tied together with kind of specific sense of coldness that is constantly present. Songs From The North I, II & III is not something revolutionary new soundwise, but rather than that it's a complete Swallow The Sun experience represented in the best possible way.
The first part presents Swallow The Sun in all of their glory and smoothly continues in the way of their previous album Emerald Forest And The Blackbird, but still it's somehow a bit more melancholic and soothing form of doom/death with many captivating atmospheric parts that with ease grab the listener and take him into this maelstrom of emotions. Mikko Kotamäki shines behind the microphone, no matter if he sings with his sorrowful emotive clean voice, if he uses spoken words or when he cracks the ambiance with deadly growls. The versatility of his vocals is best present right here on the first part of Songs From The North. But that's not all regarding the vocals, Mikko gets a couple of times a company of female vocalist Aleah Stanbridge from Trees Of Eternity, who was already a guest of Swallow The Sun in the past, and together they make some outstanding duets, just listen to the heart-warming darkness and irresistible melancholy on "Heartstrings Shattering" and you'll understand what I mean.
When the band goes into their basic melodic doom/death style the sound becomes massive, with a pounding rhythmic line, inveighting drums, floating keyboards, with guitars that so nicely drive everything with overwhelming melodies that provide a sense of utter sorrow, no matter if the band expands their sound in the full rage, like on "Silhouettes", spreads some acoustic inserts or going into slow to mid paced doom. I was blown away when I heard a couple of times gothy guitar lines that reminded me to those of Type O Negative from Bloody Kisses or October Rust, for example on the ending of "Rooms and Shadows", but still what amazes me the most are those soothing harmonic moody moments that have a lot in common with later Katatonia and now I have to mention the amazing "Lost & Catatonic", which caught me by surprise and I was again drown in an instant into those waves of deep melancholy.
The second part of this sonic adventure is something you wouldn't really expect from Swallow The Sun, it's an acoustic foray representing the group’s ability to unplug and enchant in the darkness. I have no words to describe these otherworldly emotional gloomy soundscapes and I believe that everybody who searches for music with depth and soul will be embraced by mixed feelings of warmth and coldness while listening to the beautiful "Pray For The Winds To Come", "Before The Summer Dies", the amazing album title song with a slight folkish celtic vibe or even the instrumental "66,50´N,28,40´E", to name just a few. Each song is nothing but a caress for your wounded soul and a very intimate emotional outpour from the band, thus I recommend you to listen this part in your own solitude with just a pale light brightening your room.
Then it comes the third part, and here Swallow The Sun goes in complete darkness with the most extreme present, a complete ride into most horrific abyss. This is a dreary world of funeral doom with many layers that still make it rich and dense. I won't deny that it's my least favorite part, but still it's above most of the recent similar releases, just listen to those creepy atmospheric keys, deep guttural growls, occasional spoken words, punishing riffs, pounding drums, severe bass lines and yet somehow melodic rhythms. Here the coldness in its most horrific form is most vivid, you can almost feel the freezing and deadly sound how it crawls under your skin.
Swallow The Sun keep the dynamics on a high level throughout the whole album, almost all of the songs have that intensifying evolving character as the music progresses, and yes, it's all about a very picturesque gloom, beauty and despair. I belive that Swallow The Sun with this triple album, which offers more than 150 minutes of intense emotions, will most certainly appeal not only to those who are already following this band, but most likely to a large spectrum of listeners, so be it to fans of doom metal, death metal, atmospheric metal, and as well to those who like gothic metal, acoustic music, folk and post metal. Yes, Songs From The North I, II & III offers a wide array of soundscapes and is by all means their most complete work to date, a perfect soundtrack for the winter days to come.
Review written by: T.V.