Review Summary: A solid and accessible doom/death album.
Swallow the Sun is:
Matti Honkonen - Bass guitar
Markus Jämsen - Guitar
Mikko Kotamäki - Vocals
Aleksi Munter - Keyboards
Pasi Pasanen - Drums
Juha Raivio - Guitar
Music is one of the main forms of portraying emotion artistically, along with poetry, and art. In my opinion, managing to portray emotions such as despair and anguish, and doing it successfully is one of the hardest things to do, musically. This is the challenge that every Doom Metal band faces; some succeed, others do not. If, however, a band sounds so intense that you can literally hear the sorrow in the music, then they have achieved what they set out to do. Swallow the Sun
is a Doom/Death/Prog Metal band from Finland, and Ghost of Loss
is their second LP. I’ve listened to their first release, The Morning Never Came
, and that was incredible. Ghost of Loss
is equally amazing. It’s almost a classic. Almost. There were several little niggling flaws which prevented me from giving this a higher rating, but I was still astounded by the intensity and maturity the album conveyed.
There are 8 songs on the album, and each of them is incredibly well written. I’m not sure who does the majority of the writing in the band, but simply put, the songs are amazing. Every melody, every riff, every scream, it all comes together to create a single force which takes you through a myriad of emotion. There are moments of melancholic reflection, moments that are slow, and brooding, and moments where it seems the world is falling away beneath your feet. There are no stereotypical song structures on here; the music shifts between different sections and builds up into an album with a plethora of depth. However, as brilliant as Ghost of Loss
is, it does suffer from the fact that not every song is as good as the other. For example, ‘Descending Winters’ seemed slightly inferior to the two songs it separates. Not that the song itself was bad, but in relative terms, I enjoyed it a little less. This is not so much a huge flaw, but one of those niggling factors that contributed to my decision of not giving this a perfect score.
Now the actual music itself. If you are looking for a technical album, keep looking. Neither this album, nor most Doom orientated metal, is technical (I am yet to find any exceptions, please correct me if you have). However, it is not really the point of the album to be technical; as mentioned before, this album (and style of music) is all about portraying emotion, not presenting complicated and technical music. Nonetheless, the guitars still sound very good, especially during the heavy, chugging riffs that are scattered throughout the album. They really do sound heavy though, which provides an interesting combination with the mellow parts. The bass definitely contributes to the heavy sound. You cannot really hear it during the heavy parts, but I was able to hear it during most of the mellow parts. The keyboards are utilized quite often, and this helps fill in any voids that the other conventional instruments fail to cover. The drum performance is very good. They really make an impression on you; the very first time you hear them, they will blow you away. After the mellow introduction on the first track, ‘The Giant’, Mikko Kotamäki will release a roar, sparking the drums into an aggressive rhythm. The Giant is probably one of my favourite opening tracks due to this reason. It moves between soft and melodic parts with seamless transition into the heavier, fiercer moments. Another track to mention in regards to this is ‘Psychopath’s Lair’. Kotamäki seems to breathe the first verse, before growling ‘I’LL TURN THE MUSIC ON’, which is then followed by the sky falling down on you. This song reminded me very much of Opeth’s
Probably the most important element of the aforementioned smooth transitions, and the overall feel of the album, is vocalist Mikko Kotamäki. Doing both clean and harsh vocals, he really makes this album worth listening to. His voice reflects perfectly the mood that the music is trying to encapsulate; whether it is a mellow clean voice, a medium ranged scream, or his powerful guttural growls. His voice matches the music perfectly. The only complaint I have, and this is another one of those niggling flaws, is that his clean vocals are not perfect. They are by no means bad, do not get the wrong impression, but they aren’t perfect. Therefore, no perfect score.
Well, it seems that I really have nothing but praise for this album (excepting those few flaws). But, instead of revealing more hidden flaws, I have more good news. The production on the album is excellent. It isn’t the absolute best I have heard recently, but it is very well done and has a certain hollow sound to it, which makes the album sound very nice. I’m unsure if it was done on purpose or that’s just how the album turned out, but the effect it gives makes the album sound very doomy. Furthermore, I have good reason to believe there is a concept behind the album. This just makes it a whole lot better for me, as I’m a complete sucker for (well-made) concept albums. I haven’t been able to find much information about the album itself, but the lyrics do seem to tell a story. However, I normally compare every lyric I hear to something like Opeth’s
lyrics, and Ghost of Loss
isn’t bad, but it definitely is not as good either. For example, although it’s one of my favourite songs, the lyrics on ‘Psychopath’s Lair’ aren’t too brilliant.
This is a portrait of a clear mind
The profile of my kind
I'll bring flames on your face
And when I'm done
You'll become one of mine
I'll take you down to psychopath's lair
I'll drag you there, to the psychopath's lair
I'll take you down, down to the psychopath's lair
They do, however, get bonus points for being part of a concept. Also, my most hated friend Wikipedia has stated that the album contains numerous references to a TV series, Twin Peaks
. I have not watched, let alone heard of it, but apparently in the pilot episode a girl who is murdered is called Laura Palmer, and The Giant is another character. So the concept may be based on this series, but I’m not sure. If there is anyone who has seen the show, it’d be great if they could clarify this for me.
So with a concept in mind, the album just got better. I feel that ‘epic’ is a little strong word to use in this case, especially because it reminds me too much of power metal, and power metal this is not. However, this album is just huge. The amount of depth that is in this album is immeasurable; once you get into the album it’s very hard to get back out. Swallow the Sun
have gone all out to make this album the epitome of doom and despair. An example of their innovation is the closing track, ‘The Ship’. The song portrays a variety of moods throughout its 9 minute length, but really takes the cake towards the end. After a few minutes of mellowness, the song breaks into one of the most memorable and heart-wrenching riffs I have ever heard, with Kotamäki sounding equally as distraught. The song then closes off with what sounds like the Apocalypse, a roaring noise which completely envelops you before stopping with an immediate and concluding effect. It just sounds amazing.
With a running time of over 60 minutes, the album is literally huge too. Albums like this make me question why so many musicians and bands think it is okay to make a short album. Sometimes there are exceptions, but on the whole I’d rather get something more with my albums. Ghost of Loss
definitely delivers the goods. In conclusion, this album is simply sublime. As I’ve pointed out, there are several small things which keep it from getting a perfect score, but this is still so much better than the majority of heavy metal. I highly recommend this to anybody who has a soft spot for melody and depth in their music, even more so if you like Doom Metal, Melodic Metal, Opeth
, Novembers Doom
, and similar bands.
- It has a lot of depth
- The music really holds your interest
- There are some definite classic songs on here
- Vocals are incredible
- Instrumentally, the album is very well executed
- Production is very good
- I’m a sucker for concept albums
- Some songs aren’t as good as others
- Clean vocals could be better
- Lyrics could be better