Swallow the Sun
Emerald Forest and the Blackbird


2.5
average

Review

by Kyle Ward STAFF
February 4th, 2012 | 51 replies | 16,400 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An album that somehow gives us very little with so much

Executing a concept album is not so much a science as it is an art – there is no formula for creating the perfect piece. As such, there is a certain finesse required to turn an idea into music, especially if you wish to extend that idea to cover an entire album. There aren’t many concept albums out there – metal concept albums, specifically – that transcribe their inspiration into aural form with this artistic finesse, so it is a daring path to take, especially if your band isn’t intent on making the album different from your previous work. Swallow the Sun, on Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, attempt to defy the odds and write a concept album that takes their trademark melodic death/doom metal sound and transcribes it into an ode from a father to his dying child; an exploration of the transition from life to death, and what it means to leave this world behind. Precarious stuff, yes, especially when taken with a heightened sense of melodrama that Swallow the Sun have shown us they are fully capable of using. One must be careful at this point, because the line between pretentiously melodramatic and emotionally lifeless is a thin one.

Sadly for Swallow the Sun, they have misjudged just how narrow this margin was. Rather than erring on the side of over-emotion, they have stumbled into the realm of stagnation. The riffs feel like all of the band’s b-sides from the past four albums mashed into one, with the occasional melody taking flight above the fetid pool of unmemorable riffs. The superb production placed on them may be deceiving, because beneath the thundering production of the chords and the soaring keyboards lies, well, not much of anything worth mention. The catchiness of “Hate, Lead the Way” is fun until you realize that it has almost zero complexity, especially when looked at in relation to what the band has done in their back catalogue. Even still, just taking the album for what it is, things don’t look much brighter. The level of emotion expected in an album with a concept that carries such weight as this one should be astronomical, but there is little on Emerald Forest and the Blackbird to make the listener care about what the record is about. Aside from the wayward spoken-word passage to cue the listener into what is going on, almost nothing reflects the concept. “Labyrinth of London (Horror Pt. IV)” appears to have no connection to the concept whatsoever, and even the more sincere numbers like “This Cut is the Deepest” harbor counterfeit despondency.

Much like their previous album New Moon, however, it is hard to cast aside the value of the album. There are melodic licks that are infinitely pleasing and the occasional guitar solo to churn the aura of stagnation around. While the album never comes across as utilizing either its doom metal or melodic death metal elements to their fullest, it does offer a bit of both worlds. The slow pace allows for songs to swell and recede, while the melodies offer a quick fix when the instruments don’t seem to go anywhere. The vocals of Mikko Kotamäki have always been arguably the band’s strongest asset, allowing for the use of deep growls, harsh rasps and relatively good, emotive cleans; a talent who is utilized quite frequently to give the album some much-needed life. There is a lot here that is decent to good, but precious little that rises above that. The keyboards wash much of the riffing, but are rarely worth praise; the bass is there, it just does nothing. Unfortunately, with such lofty aims given the fact that this is, at its core, an album that is built around a defined concept, Swallow the Sun achieve little.

The thing about Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, though, is that it has no logical direction and no cohesive force, despite its strong and intriguing concept. Its sound is logical given the band’s direction, continuing along with the more mellow and less heavy tendencies of New Moon. There are pockets of ferocity, but for the most part it is easy to call Emerald Forest and the Blackbird a benign record – certainly not like The Morning Never Came or Ghost of Loss in terms of their disconsolate heaviness. There are equal levels of singing and screaming, equal parts boredom and engagement – an album that goes in determined but comes out unsure. What Emerald Forest and the Blackbird needs is a more dedicated fruition of its concept, one that is unwavering and firm in its emotional output and is able to consume the listener throughout its runtime. This record simply doesn’t do that. A story about a father consoling his dying child could be captivating to the point that it’s moving, but here the listener doesn’t care about what is happening in the story by the time the halfway point rolls around. So as a concept album this looks rather dismal, and even as a “normal” record it leaves a lot to be desired. A couple memorable riffs and good vocals aren’t enough to carry around the amount of dead weight that is being dragged in its wake. Juha Raivio, guitarist and songwriter for the band, proclaimed so boldly in his description of the album “These are songs from the limbo, notes of sorrow, hate, love, darkness and light. The tale of Emerald Forest And The Blackbird.” If only it were so.



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user ratings (141)
Chart.
3.4
great
other reviews of this album
scissorlocked (2.5)
In which Swallow the Sun keep it true (and we yawn)...

Nikkolae (4)
Take “Morningrise” Opeth, pour a cup of Doom, listen repeatedly, enjoy....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Crysis
Staff Reviewer
February 4th 2012



16304 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

meh........


meh. Low 3. Could even see this is a 2.5 (the review probably sounds more like a 2.5).

Digging: Ulver - Bergtatt

Tyrael
February 4th 2012



20801 Comments


Great review man.

I've only heard The Morning Never Came (loved it) but do you recommend I check this (or any of their other albums) out?

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
February 4th 2012



16304 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Their first three are easily their best. This one and New Moon have been really hit-or-miss.

Tyrael
February 4th 2012



20801 Comments


All right I'll see if I can 'acquire' Hope and Ghost of Loss somewhere

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
February 4th 2012



8321 Comments


Really good review, even if, to me, it reads much more like a 2.5. I just got the album today and am eager to give it a few spins this coming week.

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
February 4th 2012



16304 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Thanks man, I decided to change the bump the rating of the review to a 2.5.

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
February 4th 2012



8321 Comments


I feel like I should review something as well for a change. I've reviewed only 1 album during the last few months, and with this tempo, I'm surely on my way to losing my precious contributor position.

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
February 4th 2012



16304 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

get to writing!

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
February 4th 2012



8321 Comments


Probably gonna go bloghunting first - need to acquire that something to write about first.

Unless you yourself have any concrete recs for what I should cover from this year ;).

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
February 4th 2012



16304 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This year? Only two albums I've heard so far from this year have been this and the new Alcest. Sorry, can't be of any help haha

seedofnothing
February 4th 2012



3425 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Couple grammar errors but good review.

I mostly agreed with what you had to say.

Ending
February 5th 2012



1892 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I seem to be amongst the minority.

jimmykidd
February 5th 2012



528 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah i actually love this.

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2012



16304 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Couple grammar errors but good review.

Do point them out, I've proofread this several times but maybe missed them.

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2012



8321 Comments


Do point them out, I've proofread this several times but maybe missed them.
There should be an "s" at the end of transcribe in the first paragraph (I see why you wrote it like you did, but the way the whole sentence is worded makes it need an "s").

That's all that I found.

Also, I managed to give the album its first spin and I think it's musically rather good (granted, I haven't heard all of this band's work, but the riffs don't sound like b-sides to me). I can absolutely see your point about the concept though, because it just isn't presented nor executed particularly well. Still a pretty nice album though and it will definitely get repeated plays from me.

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2012



16304 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

There should be an "s" at the end of transcribe in the first paragraph (I see why you wrote it
like you did, but the way the whole sentence is worded makes it need an "s").

I actually spent a good couple minutes deciding whether it should be there when I first wrote the
review haha.

I can absolutely see your point about the concept though, because it just isn't presented nor
executed particularly well.

Glad I'm not alone with that one. When I read the description of this album when it was first
announced, I was expecting something a lot different than the way this turned out.

scissorlocked
February 5th 2012



3509 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

excellent review man- It feels similar to mine but it's more analytic

I may never return to this album again- their first releases as everyone mentions are far better

Digging: Leon Vynehall - Music For The Uninvited

seedofnothing
February 5th 2012



3425 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

"Do point them out, I've proofread this several times but maybe missed them."

You're an excellent reviewer so there are always minor things.

==================

"the chords and the soaring keyboards lies, well, not much of anything worth mention"

*mentioning

"Aside from the wayward spoken-word passage to cue the listener"

*comma after wayward

"while the melodies offer a quick fix for when the instruments don’t seem to want to go anywhere."

*remove "for" and "want to"

"There is a lot here that is decent to good, but precious little that rises above that."

*not sure what was intended by "precious". Consider revising.

"So as a concept album this look rather dismal,"

*looks

"If only it were so."

*Sentence should use a subject matter to draw reference to the previous sentence besides "it". Consider "If only such a pronouncement were so.

Piglet
February 5th 2012



4653 Comments


goddamn it i hate swallowing the sun

kaparoni
February 5th 2012



119 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

New Moon is the best album of this band . I agree with the reviewer. 2.5 is the best this album can get. I'm not so happy with this album. Their are a few great songs here : Hate , lead the way , Cathedral Walls , Hearts Wide Shut , silent towers , Labyrinth of London , Night will forgive us . Hope the next album will be btter .

Digging: Wovenwar - Wovenwar



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