Swallow the Sun release a new studio album, that marks another impressive step forward in the band’s composition and performance abilities.
Release date: 19th November 2021
Label: Century Media Records
Format: Ltd. Deluxe sky blue 3LP+2CD & Art Print Box Set, Ltd. 2CD Mediabook, Gatefold 2LP+CD and Digital Album
Back in July, we reviewed Swallow The Sun’s incredible career spanning live album, 20 Years of Gloom, Beauty and Despair, which had been recorded live in concert in Helsinki, at a moment when the world was about to change and be engulfed by a pandemic. Moonflowers, their new studio album, bears witness to the band taking another astonishing leap forward musically, and not afraid lyrically to articulate feelings around loss and sadness.
Moonflowers Bloom In Misery begins the album, and has a sonic palette, that seems to bring together the Pet Sounds era Beach Boys, and the majestic sounds of the first King Crimson album. The creative use of the mellotron, set against an impressionistic clean vocal by Mikko Kotamäki, is decidedly beautiful to behold. When the vocal slams into death growl mode, and the powerful doom metal rhythms break into the mix, it is a startling and utterly breathtaking moment.
Enemy is a complete audio assault on the senses, as the rhythm section of Matti Honkonen, bass, and Juuso Raatikainen, on drums, slam the song into floor shaking classical doom metal territory. The guitars of Juha Raivio and Juho Räihä add the heaviest of reverberating riffs, as well as glistening, ascending guitar melodies, that accompany Mikko Kotamäki’s poignant voice in the quieter sections.
Woven Into Sorrow that follows, for this reviewer, is one of the standout metal tracks of the year, from any album. The song begins almost like a classic Joy Division song, with the vocal conveying a deep sense of loss and sadness. It’s a complex song musically, with different layers of sound at work, including in different sections, folk influenced guitar lines, soaring electronic keyboards, deep shattering black metal guitar chords, and gentle noble piano. The lyrics of Juha Raivio are full of heartbreaking imagery:
“I’m woven into sorrow. My eyes can’t see!
I’m woven into sorrow!
I’m broken from The One. Woven into sorrow.
I’m blind, but still, you love “
It is important to note at this point, the impressive recording and production on this album. It can reproduce very effectively both the gentler, and the more explosive heavy moments, in a sympathetic and all-embracing soundscape.
The Void, towards the end of the album, is a quite hypnotic song, with the music conjuring up an audio vision of harsh landscapes and emotional resignation. Mikko Kotamäki’s delicate vocal is perfectly pitched to the music, and it is one of those melodic doom metal pieces that completely draws you in, and quite wonderfully resonates of the sadly disbanded Ghost Brigade.
This House Has No Home closes the album. Initiated by plucked classical strings, the opening lyric conveys what seems to be the very moving central lyrical theme of the album; that is, of encountering and seeking to come through deep sadness. The sound has the quality of an orchestral piece, with its intense mix of instrumental textures and tones. Allied to this, its use of reverb, and the addition of vocals from Stam1na’s Antti Hyyrynen, means that this is an undoubtedly significant and ambitious composition.
In this respect, the 2CD Mediabook, also includes a second disc, with Moonflowers played by the Trio NOX live at Sipoo Church. It shines a whole new light on the album, from a classical music perspective, and is a very rewarding listen.
A towering achievement of an album then, from a band that has never stopped developing musically. You can catch Swallow The Sun live in February, where their tour takes in London, Glasgow, Belfast, Dublin and Manchester.
View the recently released official video for the track, The Void, filmed at the National Museum of Finland and directed by Sam Jamsen.