Swallow the Sun is one of those bands where you can just say their name, and people will either respond in their minds with a “Hell yeah!” or a subtle “…ugh.” You really don’t have a place to start for introductions with them, making it difficult to overcome the barrier of language to turn people on to what you/they are trying to express. And now they have returned with a single song that paints a portrait, ever so carefully if you really listen; a single song that portrays a story of delicate annihilation and, of course, heartrending loss. If you’re a musician you understand just how difficult it is to transfer certain feelings from your mind to sound, and Swallow the Sun seemingly do this effortlessly. If you know the band, you should recognize the growth undergone here, as this concept (from the sound of it) doesn’t seem doable, let alone interesting if you want to stretch that far.
As I mentioned, there is only one song, lasting 35 minutes. The story is broken up into three parts: Losing the Sunsets, Plague of Butterflies, and Evael 10:00. It’s a story of a hermit, deep woods, loneliness and the plague, and according to Juha (guitarist/composer), it is the soundtrack complementing a short film they may be putting together. The diversity of the many parts is one of the first things you’ll notice, and the way they are constructed together is noticeably a venture that no doom band has begun; then taking into account the pure, organic chemistry the band has with each other, it’s as if they feed off each other to produce their piece of the puzzle. Like many classical composers will say, a song’s beauty is truly the sum of its parts, and that seems to be the focus here.
Moving on to the members, people may be happy to hear that Mikko’s vocals have variation now! No longer does he just do standard low and high growls; he has incorporated his influences much more than before, stating Ihsahn as a main one. Even so, his standard growls have more power (meaning more dual vocals!) and aren’t as muffled as on previous albums, though there’s still room for improvement. His clean vocals may take getting used to for some for they sound unsure/not confident, but after listening to this album a few times they lose any annoyance. As always, Juha and Aleksi (keyboards) are shining together with Juha’s liquid, desperate melodies and Aleksi’s unique atmosphere; naturally Markus maintains his rhythms with confidence. Matti (bass) has a couple shining parts, but could be used more exclusively. Speaking of, Pasi’s drum parts have never sounded livelier.
Thankfully, there’s nothing else you could describe as lively here. Throughout the album there is a vast undercurrent of supernatural ora, and if played through the right mindset deals interesting results depending on who you are. The album progresses from brittle, decadent sounds to your slow, traditional riffs, blending with beautiful piano runs with winds in the background to astonishingly crushing, heavy-as-*** riffage. Honestly, some of the heavy parts took me by surprise; think Gojira meets Opeth heavy. If you remember Too Cold for Tears, then I hope you like where the outro took that song, because there are a few parts similar here. Even so, there is almost no repetition whatsoever; aside from one or two recurring themes. With that in mind, I’ve come to find that this song flows smoother than a Cristina Scabbia erotic massage…if only I could compare…:(
Also included is the demo that got the band signed. Honestly it’s not that great, mainly due to Mikko’s immature vocals and one key factor that a doom band should never do: Do not play your songs faster! However, for you little tykes who think doom is too depressing, you just might be able to try this sucker out. Either that or I’m just immune to doom for now until the next Katatonia album comes out. Point is that if you enjoy concepts and have patience, there’s no reason you shouldn’t check it out. Past haters should give it a chance because this is something new for the band. As a latecomer of my top 2008 albums, I would highly recommend this to fans of dark, intense, and dismal music.