Swallow The Sun - New Moon

OK, I will be honest, I have always had mixed feelings about the Finnish band Swallow The Sun but I have a friend you has been forcing their music upon me since they released their debut, "The Morning Never Came" back in 2003. Over that time, their brand of melodic death/doom has grown on me and in my opinion, the band has gotten better with ever release. The newest one is "New Moon" released late last year on Spinefarm Records. The album was produced and mixed by Jens Bogren who has also worked with Katatonia, Opeth and Paradise Lost. Two things stand out about Swallow The Sun, one is the wide vocal range of Mikko Kotamaki and the other is the bleak and sometimes beautiful keyboard work of Aleksi Munter. Whats also stunning is the amount of band's these musicians have been associated with over the years, Alghazanth, Empyrean Bane, Enter My Silence, Funeris Nocturnum, Verivala, Barren Earth, Clayforge, Plutonium Orange, Trees of Eternity, Empyrean Bane, Funeris Nocturnum, Trollheim's Grott and Wintersun to name just a few. When the band released their debut, The Morning Never Came back in 2003, they showed great potential but the following two albums, "2005's Ghosts of Loss and 2007's Hope" saw the band heading into a much more progressive direction. It was this slight change in musical values that alienated some doom fans including me.

This new album sees a slight return to the sound of the first album but they still indulge themselves in a more delicate death/doom sound which doesn't stand up that well compared to other Finnish doom metal acts. Not that this album is bad, its just a average album played by very good musicians. The album opener "These Woods Breathe Evil" has some strong melodic guitar work and a crazy mix of deep growls and raspy screams from vocalist Mikko Kotamäki and its also surprising heavy for Swallow The Sun with some heavy riffage. "Falling World" and the third track "Sleepless Swans" sees the band settling in their more typical direction, somber, soothing with a sullen atmosphere. "And Heavens Cried Blood" blends the melancholy with the heavy, it also has a symphonic element to it which makes it one of the best tracks on the album. "Lights On The Lake (Horror pt. III)" features some beautifully executed vocals from a woman only named as Aleah on the album, this is another standout track. The mix of gentle vocals and a almost black metal meets doom song construction is very well done. It even has blast beats which comes as a surprise moment in the album. The title track "New Moon" is a track that seems to be recycling music from their past work but does include a catchy chorus.

"Servant of Sorrow" is more of the symphonic approach, dynamic keyboard work of Aleksi Munter, this dude is a amazing musician but take away the keyboard work and this track is pretty run of the mill material. The best is saved till last on New Moon, "Weight of the Dead" is really the only true doom song on the album despite having some bouts of aggression but its properly the best song they have ever written. The song switches between keyboard-drenched atmosphere and crunching riffs, its a diverse, well composed slice of doom meets black metal symphonic metal right up to the mournful conclusion of the track. If the whole album was like this, it would be one of the albums of the year. As it is, its a patchy effort with too many songs that are just unmemorable, even when writing this review there was at least 4 songs I couldn't remember hearing even though I have listened to the album close to 20 times. Its also a more commercial release from Swallow The Sun overall but some of those commercial subtleties just don't work for me. That being said, some people will like this album but I am not too sure where Swallow The Sun fits in within the doom scene anymore. I hear the album as being luke-warm for the most part but with 3 or 4 classic tracks, for that it is still worth your attention.

1. These Woods Breathe Evil
2. Falling World
3. Sleepless Swans
4. And Heavens Cried Blood
5. Lights On The Lake
6. New Moon
7. Servant Of Sorrow
8. Weight Of The Dead

Spinefarm Records
Reviewer: Ed
Apr 14, 2010

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