Swallow the Sun
Songs From The North I, II & III


3.0
good

Review

by Kyle Ward EMERITUS
November 7th, 2015 | 115 replies


Release Date: 11/13/2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Lost and catatonic

If there was to be an award for the most ambitious offering of the year, there is little doubt that Songs From the North would be a finalist. It is, after all, a triple LP that encompasses a sizeable breadth of melancholic tunes. It is forgivable to be a bit apprehensive about an album that aims to do three totally different things while making each piece good enough to be befitting of the decision to smash them together and release it all at once, but given the talent Swallow the Sun possess there is certainly the ability present to pull it off. The question, then, is whether or not there is the vision to do so. The answer is not exactly as cut and dry as I had originally hoped it would be, because while the band’s initial descriptions of Songs From the North’s three movements are indeed accurate, I remain unconvinced that there is enough vision here to warrant a release of such staggering scope.

Take, for instance, the acoustic album sandwiched in the middle of Songs From the North’s heavier recordings. “Heart of a Cold White Land” resonates with a real, tangible melancholy, yet it sits among a collection of tracks that as a whole fail to capture the wonder this song produces. The delicate singing and playful acoustic guitars are simple, effective, and realized, but the emotion invoked is uneven at best. The instrumental “66°50'N, 28°40'E” is another piece that rings true with the promised “beautifully acoustic” façade, but as a whole the record lingers somewhere between pretension and dreariness. “Away” muddles in too many different shades of gray, while “Pray for the Winds to Come” has ambition but shoots itself in the foot with poor lyrics and a lack of heartfelt emotion, two symptoms which become a scourge throughout the album’s second movement.

The inconsistency of Songs From the North and its general inability to captivate means that instead of being a cohesive unit like a triple LP should, it fragments and becomes a collection of overall decent tracks that do not ever bother to become more than the sum of their individual parts. It is not until things take a turn towards the heaving chords of the final LP that interest in the record rises above nominal. Invoking crushing, lethargic doom in the vein of Evoken or Skepticism mixed with Ghosts of Loss-era Swallow the Sun finally jump-starts what has been, to this point, a rather dreary event. To those enamored with Swallow the Sun’s back catalogue, the third iteration of this record feels most like home, although the tempo has been lowered to a funeral doom crawl at times.

The piece of Songs From the North that Swallow the Sun claimed had “respect for [the band’s] traditions” is more akin to “respect for the band’s more recent traditions”, as the album’s first LP hearkens back toward the dirges of New Moon or Emerald Forest and the Blackbird rather than their more distant past. It remains similarly bland as their last LP, with riffing that is not necessarily bad but does little to catch your attention, instead relying on vocal melodies to produce atmosphere and drive songs forward. Looking onward to the funeral doom LP things become reversed, and that is a large part of why it is without any semblance of doubt the piece of the album that keeps everything afloat. “Gathering of the Black Moths” uses synths to give highlights to the darkness of the guitars, and the vocals oscillate between mammoth bellows and shrieking wails. Within the first track, there is more to remember than in the previous sixteen.

The soulless chorus to “Lost & Catatonic” does a disservice to the track’s bombastic, obscenely heavy introduction, and also proves a point about the inconsistencies of Songs From the North. There are times during the first two records when all is in complete synergy, yet before this machine can go anywhere the key is violently turned and all comes to a sputtering halt. The synths constantly add atmosphere when the guitars leave a void by retreating to mundane chords, and the harsh vocals are always picking up slack for the cleans when they go flat. No wonder, then, that the album’s simplest sector proves to be its backbone. Dissonant melodies become more memorable than the more complex songwriting of Songs From the North’s first part, and the oscillation between dejected heaviness and wandering calm provides contrast that the acoustic second LP failed to provide through its one-dimensional approach.

Being candid, Swallow the Sun should have released this as three separate albums. The connection between the three pieces is frail, and given the relative lack of direction this is not a surprise. The album’s strengths are numerous, yet scattered, and its weaknesses are unfortunately a lot more concentrated. It is important to stress that not a lot of this is bad per se, it is just not invigorating enough to keep a listener sitting down in concentration for nearly three hours. The albums can be listened to individually and you can be fairly content, especially with the funeral doom album, but as a triple LP I am left a bit confused. There are a lot of genuinely good ideas floating around this album, and I’ve no doubt that Swallow the Sun possess more than enough talent to put those good ideas to work for them. That leads us again back to central question posed earlier: is there enough vision on Songs From the North to warrant a triple LP presenting an exposé on three different genres" That answer, sadly, leans more towards no.



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user ratings (149)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
TalonsOfFire STAFF (4)
My ships are gone, but the sea will carry me....

Chamberbelain (4)
Gloom, Beauty And Despair...

HeavyReviews (3.5)
It took an album to find their North...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Crysis
Emeritus
November 7th 2015


17298 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Individual ratings:



First LP: 2.5 (best track "Silhouettes")



Second LP: 3 (best track "Heart of a Cold White Land")



Third LP: 4+ (all tracks are excellent)



Overall it's a 3 I'd say. I wanted to like this record more than any other release this year, but sadly it wallows in inconsistencies.

Willie
Moderator
November 7th 2015


17302 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

My personal opinion:



First LP:3.5

Second LP: 2.5

Third LP:3.7



Good review, though.Writing about a triple-album isn't an easy thing to do.

Digging: Adimiron - Et Liber Eris

Crysis
Emeritus
November 7th 2015


17298 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Surprised you like the first LP that much, definitely my least favorite. The acoustic one is nice, although too reserved and not folky enough.

lalchimiste
November 7th 2015


704 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

152 minutes total, god. Third LP sounds promising though.



Although I haven't heard it, maybe band could have benefited from combining all the good elements instead of segregating them over 3 genre-specific LPs?



Well written review as always

Digging: Desolate Shrine - Deliverance From The Godless Void

EvoHavok
November 7th 2015


7241 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sounds very daunting. Good job!

Hawks
November 7th 2015


51983 Comments


Idk if I can do a triple album lol. Great review as always though Kyle. m/

Digging: Gamma Ray - Land of the Free

Willie
Moderator
November 7th 2015


17302 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

--Although I haven't heard it, maybe band could have benefited from combining all the good elements instead of segregating them over 3 genre-specific LPs?--



That's the benefit of digital. Keep the songs you want, delete the rest, and call it 'Songs from the North'.

Crysis
Emeritus
November 7th 2015


17298 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This would be excellent if they combined the funeral doom record with a few songs from the first lp and then used acoustic interludes

teamster
November 7th 2015


2052 Comments


Nice job with the review - huge undertaking. I really don't like anything from this band besides New Moon. Will check this out ...thanks.

Digging: Another Heaven - I: You Are Loved

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
November 7th 2015


16817 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Good review, gonna make mine my 50th since STS is one of my all time favorite bands for almost a decade now. Am hoping I like it more than you did haha, have high hopes for the acoustic album.

Digging: Tame Impala - Currents B-Sides & Remixes

Crysis
Emeritus
November 7th 2015


17298 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

It all depends how much you like what this band has done recently. I absolutely love their first three, and thus am drawn toward the funeral doom side of this album. Since I'm not a fan of the direction they've taken lately (starting with parts of New Moon) it means that the first part of this record is a bit ghastly. The acoustic album is nice, but just gets boring.

Hawks
November 7th 2015


51983 Comments


The Morning Never Came is still the only album I've heard from them.

Ocean of Noise
November 7th 2015


9774 Comments


same lmao but it rules

Digging: Burzum - Filosofem

Ocean of Noise
November 7th 2015


9774 Comments


I liked what I heard from Plague of Butterflies too

Crysis
Emeritus
November 7th 2015


17298 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Check out Ghosts of Loss and Hope as well. Starting with Hope you will see their transition toward their current selves become a lot more apparent.

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
November 7th 2015


16817 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

I get that, I love all their albums so I'm sure I'll enjoy this one as well. I'm also interested with how much they're displaying all sides to their sound on this triple release, since there really are many that they've used throughout their releases.



@Ocean and Hawks: As Crysis said definitely jam their first three, and The Plague of Butterflies song is one of their best. If you like those, then keep going. New Moon is very diverse and even has some bm elements.

Crysis
Emeritus
November 7th 2015


17298 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

agreed about plague of butterflies i love that song, especially the long sections of calm in between the heaviness

Totengott
November 7th 2015


4131 Comments


Fantastic review as always.

I agree about Plague of Butterflies, one of my favorites by them.

thegreywind
November 8th 2015


20 Comments


Released already? Where did you get your copy?
I remember listening to "Heart of a cold..." and it blew me away. Sad rest of the album couldn't live up to it.
I'm afraid last disc must be less melodic

Crysis
Emeritus
November 8th 2015


17298 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

It is being released next Friday, we received a promo copy for review.



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