Swallow the Sun
When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light


3.5
great

Review

by Xenorazr CONTRIBUTOR (119 Reviews)
February 4th, 2019 | 36 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Never far from the shadows.

Swallow the Sun have sat in a comfortable seat overlooking the realms of doom and melodic death metal for a few years now. Though they technically originated in the former territory, the latter has had both a growing and receding presence in their music, resulting in a sound that makes them equally approachable and lackadaisical. Then, in the closing stretch of 2015, the Finnish sextet unleashed what is all but guaranteed to go down as their most ambitious release; Songs from the North was a three-part behemoth, with each disc showcasing the band in a considerably different shade than the last, from the aforementioned melodic death/doom metal (Part I), to atmospheric folk (Part II) and finally, funeral doom (Part III). The only real consistency between the three was their collective solemnity, a trait that’s far from foreign when dealing with a band the likes of Swallow the Sun. This then begs the question: where would (or could) Swallow the Sun go from there"

Two options immediately spring to mind: take some cues from the second and/or third aforementioned discs and explore them further, or maintain the status quo and return to a familiar road. Considering Swallow the Sun’s track record for the past 15 or so years, the answer isn’t too surprising. When a Shadow is Forced Into the Light winds the clocks back ever so slightly, reminiscing New Moon and Emerald Forest and the Blackbird. Except where previous albums championed some faster, “riffier” moments, When a Shadow… elects to dial the intensity back with the clocks. The end result is a softer, more subtle affair. Most of the songs open in an extremely similar manner: slow and unassuming. This extends to the abundance of clean vocals (Mikko Kotamaki) and relative dearth of riffs or otherwise aggressive moments. It’s no Songs from the North Part II, but since we’re back to evaluating one disc at a time, this is for the best. After all, music of this nature is going to have a tough time winning over more jaded listeners, and even those who are just morbidly curious may find themselves checking out just as quickly. Album single “Firelights” isn’t doing the band any favors, either, since it’s far and away the least interesting track and the only one that beckons pressing the ‘Skip’ button.

Other than this small blemish, When a Shadow… offers some surprisingly compelling moments. Despite the aforementioned sense of deja vu during song introductions, there’s more to discover in the long run. Speaking of which, When a Shadow… is a surprisingly supple album. Many doom bands have a tendency to overindulge their listeners, and although Swallow the Sun have certainly been guilty of this minor sin, it isn’t so much the case here. Considering we have eight tracks, each running about five to seven minutes in length, there’s little opportunity for each chapter to drag out on its own. Taken collectively, they’re a nice collage of tracks that should keep the intended audience listening for a few spins.

One potential hot point for contention is the album’s composition, which sees Swallow the Sun run the risk of sounding overproduced. Many metal enthusiasts may insist that lower production value is integral to a band’s sound, as if to suggest that grit translates to higher quality. There are times that this absolutely holds true, such as thrash, death and more traditional blends of black and doom metal. Early Swallow the Sun albums did contain this in trace amounts, but they gradually shed that relatively thin layer to bolster their melodic elements. As such, When a Shadow… has this flat, almost glossy sound profile that only becomes colorful during its select moments of intensity. So while the band have made minute adjustments to their established sound, it’s still reluctant to shift the terrain, hence the straightforward, less-than-aggressive direction, both in music and production.

When a Shadow is Forced Into the Light exemplifies the difficulty that comes with making a more anemic-sounding album stand out. There are only so many ways melancholy can be depicted before fatigue sets in, and that’s without throwing a formidable and comprehensive predecessor into the mix. To say that Swallow the Sun’s latest isn’t for everybody is about as useful as telling a diseased individual that they should practice gratitude while they still can. And yet, sympathizing the diseased person’s frame of mind (or their loved one’s) might be the best case for justifying When a Shadow… and its existence in Swallow the Sun’s discography. The band’s most devout fans are undoubtedly aware that this is the first Swallow the Sun album since guitarist Juha Raivio’s significant other (Aleah Stanbridge) passed away. Mourning is a difficult process to recover from, especially at such a young age, and sometimes the only thing you can do is slowly pick yourself back up and attempt to find your spirit again. Taken with that perspective, the somewhat complacent role When a Shadow… fulfills isn’t just warranted, but justified. While no new ground has been broken, that may not necessarily be the point.



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user ratings (84)
Chart.
3.5
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
February 4th 2019


1416 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Oh, hey guys.

DungeonBoy
February 4th 2019


5439 Comments


oh hai mark

Digging: Vanum - Ageless Fire

DungeonBoy
February 4th 2019


5439 Comments


Also good review! Listened to a bit of this and there were moments I enjoyed a lot. Need to give it a solid start to finish listen though

Here's a stream of it for those who dare:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVA7N6pZ6ZM

AgentDeathbat
February 4th 2019


7690 Comments


Loved their last album, should I give this a go?

DungeonBoy
February 4th 2019


5439 Comments


Yes

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
February 4th 2019


1416 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

@AgentDeathbat: Imagine the first two discs of their last album had a baby, that's sort of what this one is like.

AgentDeathbat
February 4th 2019


7690 Comments


@Xeno: Oh shit, nice.

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
February 4th 2019


1416 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Granted, that's a gross oversimplification. This is a really slow album and there aren't any entire tracks like "Silhouettes," in fact, most of them are more like "With You Came the Whole of the World's Tears" and "Lost and Catatonic."

Nocte
Contributing Reviewer
February 4th 2019


9293 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Grreat review, great album : ]

Dedes
February 4th 2019


6198 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Seems you've beaten me to the review my dude. Fuck it, maybe I'll still toss one out there.

Honestly this is pretty good and is definitely the most melancholic/bleak works they've done. It might not have the cool ass riffs of yore but man it still fucks.

Digging: The Secret - Solve Et Coagula

Nocte
Contributing Reviewer
February 4th 2019


9293 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Fuck it, maybe I'll still toss one out there




in the same boat to be honest

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
February 4th 2019


1416 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I was hoping I could get this review up in time for a potential feature, but life has been surprisingly busy on my end the past few months (hence my inactivity), and I'd like to get back into reviewing, what with the new DT and Avantasia right around the corner.

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
February 4th 2019


1416 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Also don't let someone else posting a review discourage you from putting one up anyway. I wrote a review for Queen of Time even though I knew it would get overshadowed by others.

TheNotrap
February 4th 2019


9622 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Upon the Water is a good song

Digging: Opera Magna - Del amor y otros demonios

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
February 4th 2019


1416 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Crimson Crown, Upon the Water and Never Left are currently my favorites.

Ashtiel
February 4th 2019


300 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

album really hits its stride for me on "upon the water" but that whole back half isn't too shabby

what other albums by the band would you recommend for someone that enjoyed this?

Digging: Helms Alee - Sleepwalking Sailors

Gmork89
February 4th 2019


7798 Comments


Their first 3 are all excellent, and the following ones have great tracks scattered throughout but aren't quite as consistent in my opinion.

Crimson Crown is definitely one of their best tracks.

Dedes
February 4th 2019


6198 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Upon the Water and the t/t fucking wreck.

Honestly any record of theirs is at least good but if you want something similar maybe Songs From the North?

bloc
February 4th 2019


54409 Comments


Thought this was boring

Digging: The Go! Team - Thunder, Lightning, Strike

Dewinged
February 4th 2019


14446 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I have the feeling I've heard this band before but I can't remember what or when. So I'm just gonna dive into this one.

Digging: Motorpsycho - The Crucible



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