REVIEW: Swallow the Sun – New Moon (because it’s never too late!)

“These woods breathe evil!
Rust on the ground and the arches of fire!
These woods breathe evil!
Here in the circle of eerie winds
Towards the black heart of magnetic North!”

When good old bands started to be disappointing (no, I’m not giving names this time!), others emerged, like the so-and-so Thunderstone whose latest album (‘Dirt Metal’) was a very positive surprise.
Now, having reached a certain state of gloomy mindset due to the path of my life, I finally emerge into a genre that I’ve been avoiding.
So, allow me… I guess it’s not too late to write about the most fantastic band that I’ve looked over… It’s SWALLOW THE SUN. It has always been there, perfecting itself with every album and never making a step away from their so great recipe. Well, why overlooked? Because I’m not much into the doom category. However, this band is so much more than that. The gothic touch adds value, instead of making it sound more commercial. Also, one of their very strong sides is the use of both death grunts and black metal vocal styles. It makes the songs diverse, with beautiful layers and definitely a new depth.And think that only MIKKO KOTAMÄKI is responsible for this! Well, if I were him, I’d have a huge insurance policy for my vocal chords and lungs… Damn precious stuff he’s got!

On New Moon (released November 2009),some songs incorporate harmonies similar to what we hear from bands like Amorphis. This very Finnish melodic sound is a great add to their dark, doom-ish sound. Now it’s interesting how some say this band has evolved towards melodic death. Hmmm. Definitely something is there, yet it can’t be compared to the names of that genre. Perhaps that Finland is inventing a new breed of melodeath? Could be… Finnish metal bands have always walked their own path, anyway!

The opener, These Woods Breathe Evil, is a stunning and haunting work. I have started this post exactly with lyrics from this one. I love it. It is hallucinating, as the images drift from the Northern woods to the closed room – an image ever present in StS’s music.

“Black lodge and red rooms of insanity
Here I reached the point of no return
With my hands around you they chased me here
To this hotel of ghosts
And they showed me this room…”

Remember Don’t Fall Asleep (Horror pt. II)? That’s another work of art that shines like a diamond!
The title track begins like a typical Sentenced song, I was very surprised to hear it! Clean vocals build the chorus, which sounds like a sad plea or lament. It’s an unusual song for StS, but it can’t fail to make it big. With this one, they’re getting close to Katatonia. …And Heavens Cried Blood is another top song for me. It starts with a gloomy guitar sound, then the full instrumentation takes over, following the same haunting melody. I love how the black metal vocals kick in after the growl, I just love it! The second half of the song turns to a slower bitter side – this is pain and despair, what else did you expect? The remaining songs show the very heavy side of the band, and Weight of the Dead surprises me by plunging into a fabulous upbeat part!

The artwork that comes along with the album is very different from what we previously had. It imitates the graphic style – the technique and ornament of Medieval works. This is perfect for a very simple color scheme, which is nonetheless charming, as well as haunting.
I know that StS may be a bit hard to digest to most people, it’s quite special in the hall of Finnish bands, but New Moon is diverse enough to get the attention of many. I love the dark atmosphere and the ‘weight’ of this record. No wonder why so many people were very enthusiastic about it. Many bands have failed in keeping their strength; StS is not among them!
I’m searching for the words to describe this album, but it’s hard to find them. There’s a mix of dark states of mind, of something strong and something that falls apart, crumbling down… of anger that turns too soon into total weakness… The emotions come clear through it. Perhaps “rebellious agony” could be a good description.

Alright, but just in case you might get too depressed…. here’s something to cheer you up: watch the adorable and funny JUHA RAIVIO of StS being interviewed for Metal Gods TV (@ Hammerfest 2010, Wales) 😉 It’s worth it!






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