Review Summary: A flawed though highly entertaining debut that hints at far greater things to come
Ask anyone with even the vaguest interest in the genre and they’ll tell you that no one does death metal quite like the Finns. Though it has no concrete
sound – ranging anywhere from the schizophrenic Demilich to the earth-shattering stylings of Rippikoulu – Finnish death metal has always given off an intangible aura that is seldom found elsewhere on the globe. Most are hard pressed to describe it as, contrary to what some may tell you, there is no such thing as a prototypical Finndeath album, the only certainty being that the music’s mystique is always apparent to the ear, even if it’s impossible to put into words. Swallowed’s debut Lunarterial
, like all great Finndeath albums, is an entity of its own with no spiritual ancestors, yet it still possesses that esotericism that only the Finns can pull off authentically.
Swallowed endorse the hazier side of death metal, utilising instrumentation in a way that completely overwhelms the listener instead of engaging them in any immediate sense. Riff patterns prefer to slither in and among themselves rather than follow each other in a linear succession, while the screeching solos are used as a means of accentuating the album’s clusterfu
ckery as opposed to showcasing the guitarists’ proficiency. Ville Kojonen steals the show by doubling as both the drummer and the vocalist, giving off an improvisational vibe in the rhythmic department while delivering a series of tortured mutterings. The maddening walls of sound that Swallowed create are appropriately interspersed with oozing doom sections vaguely reminiscent of Corrupted, offering aural respite without sacrificing the despair-laden atmosphere.
Over the course of the album, everything congeals together into an opaque maelstrom, culminating in a listen that is sonically devastating, albeit lacking in direction at times. In essence, Lunarterial
is an exercise in atmosphere over song-writing, with the album’s malleability used as a mechanism to further disorient the listener. Tracks such as “Reverence Through Darkness” and “Black Aura” use this demented concoction to great effect, both gradually dialling in more and more energy until everything around you collapses into an ocean of musical entropy. However, the twenty-five minute closer “Liberations” seems to overreach in its attempt to petrify you, ultimately lacking enough substance to maintain a convincingly sinister mood throughout its hefty duration. With the track taking up nearly half the album, Lunarterial
ends on an irritatingly anti-climactic note, but not so severely that is renders the entire experience hollow.
Irrespective of the odd blip here and there, you have to admire the enthusiasm with which Swallowed approached such a perilous style of music. Blurring the lines between organised chaos and jam-like spontaneity runs the risk of coming across as a gimmick – a platitude that Swallowed have avoided with ease. However, while their artistic vision is apparent, their ambition still marginally outweighs their ability to execute it properly. Lunarterial
is a flawed though highly entertaining debut that hints at far greater things to come, watch this space.