Swallow The Sun - Emerald Forest and the Blackbird
Spinefarm Records
Doom Metal with Death Influences
10 songs (1:06:50)
Release year: 2012
Swallow The Sun, Spinefarm Records
Reviewed by Khelek

I am sorry to say that I have not kept up with Swallow The Sun's work as much as I should have. The last album I thoroughly listened to by them, and thoroughly enjoyed, was 2007's Hope. I was pleasantly surprised when I heard that they were releasing a new full-length early in 2012. Being in a somewhat somber and depressed mood, I decided that this was an album I needed to get to know. And get to know it I have. This is certainly a complex album containing some longer compositions that incorporate a lot of different elements. However, there are also some times when it doesn't work, when instead of immersed I became bored. Not a good thing, but admittedly this is a tough genre to work in and stay interesting. Fortunately there's also plenty of solid material here.

The album begins in a somber manner, the title track is creates a dreary atmosphere of clean guitar and spoken word style vocals, contrasted with heavy, dragging guitar riffs and the strong growls of Mikko Kotamäki. I was honestly expecting something a bit more mystical with this title. Instead this is a relatively generic dirge-style doom/death song. Not terrible, but not terribly interesting either. I have to say I did enjoy the acoustic guitar work. I don't know if this was present in New Moon, but much of this album seems somewhat influenced by Agalloch and other bands that use acoustic and folk elements. The amount of acoustic guitar work is definitely far greater than Hope. Swallow The Sun has always been a band that relies on musical contrasts within their songs however, and the acoustic/clean guitars do this nicely. Unfortunately it has been done many, many times by other bands, and these guys do not substantially differentiate themselves. This Cut Is The Deepest certainly has this Agalloch feel to it, the clean vocals and acoustic guitar contrasting nicely with wailing electric and deeper vocals. Hate, Lead The Way has more of an atmospheric black metal feel to it with the harsh growls and symphonic elements combined with heavy riffs. This is faster than most of the album as well, and shakes things up nicely. Cathedral Walls goes right back to calm atmosphere, though retaining some subtle symphonic elements. The female vocals add to the calm melody, though once again it took some time for me to really get into it simply because it starts off so minimalistic and slow. Silent Towers is a great song for a cold winter day. Calm and doomy with still that hard, frozen edge created by the electric guitars, and later the growls. This is definitely more of a traditional doom/death song, reminding me a bit of Rapture and similar acts. It's an easy song to enjoy. Labyrinth Of London is in my opinion the most finely crafted song on this album. It takes everything great about this band's sound and combines them seamlessly. There is a contrast of emotions: hate and melancholy, and a contrast of sounds: atmospheric calm and aggressive loudness. Right from the start the song takes hold with crushing riffs and the harsh growls of Kotamäki. Even though it combines these hard and soft sounds, the overall melody is never lost. A truly epic death/doom track that gives you so much to take in that it demands repeated listens. April 14th is another longer track that also didn't do a whole lot for me. The vocal arrangement specifically I felt to be rather bland and overdone. I hate to say it, but it seems to be repetitive filler.

What we end up with here is an album that, although flawed to some extent, also has many redeeming qualities. I am still impressed by the level of talent that these guys bring to the table, and their ability to tell a story and create a deep atmosphere in a song. That has not been lost. However, some songs simply do not do this, instead feeling a bit lifeless, and don't incorporate that subtle yet infectious melody that these guys can do so well. In the end there are several songs, such as the excellent Labyrinth Of London, that I will continue coming back to, but ultimately it's not an album that I can see myself listening to from beginning to end too many more times.

Killing Songs :
Hate, Lead The Way, Cathedral Walls, Silent Towers, Labyrinth of London (Horror Pt. IV)
Khelek quoted 73 / 100
Aleksie quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Swallow The Sun that we have reviewed:
Swallow The Sun - Lumina Aurea reviewed by Alex and quoted no quote
Swallow The Sun - Songs from the North reviewed by Alex and quoted 90 / 100
Swallow The Sun - New Moon reviewed by Alex and quoted 83 / 100
Swallow The Sun - Hope reviewed by Alex and quoted 91 / 100
Swallow The Sun - Ghosts of Loss reviewed by Alex and quoted 83 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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