Tag Archives: Swallow The Sun

Insomnium, Swallow the Sun and Pressure Points at Rytmikorjaamo, Seinäjoki 14.10

Okay, so there are several reasons to why I should not write this:

  1. I wrote about Insomnium as recently as in June when they played at Provinssi in this same city.
  2. Risk for clouded sense of objectivity due to fanboyism.
  3. I should be working on my M.A. thesis.

However, there is one important thing that crushes these arguments, and this thing is called Winter’s Gate. But let us first deal with the two other bands that played this night.

The progressive metal band Pressure Points was the first band to play. The band did not get more than about half an hour, but I think they managed this time well. I had not listened to these guys before, but I did listen to most of their second and latest album False Lights the day before and it sounded quite interesting. There were some really cool vocal harmonies, interesting tempos and impressive guitar playing in this live show. Of course, it is fairly difficult to say much about such a short gig, but I really think those who like progressive stuff should check this band out. We would get more of guitarist/vocalist Kari Olli later this night since he filled in for Insomnium’s Ville Friman who could not be present this time around.

I have never seen Swallow the Sun live for some strange reason, so it was very convenient that they performed before Insomnium this Friday. This gig must be one of the strangest and most ambiguous I have ever witnessed. I do not mean this as a bad thing. The band started by playing the first half of the set in a semi-acoustic manner with songs such as The Heart of a Cold White Land and Songs from the North, and then suddenly passed into the heavy 10 Silver Bullets, which by the way is an awesome live song. After this followed songs like Hate, Lead the Way!, New Moon and Descending Winters.

I feel a little split about the setlist. I do think it is an interesting move to play several acoustic songs, but I would personally prefer if one of these songs were dropped in favour of another heavy song in this context. For example, the title track Songs from the North, where there is a great deal of female vocal backtrack, could be replaced with a song from the heavy third disc of the latest massive triple album Songs from the North.  The situation would be another if Swallow the Sun was the main attraction and thus would have a longer set. Nevertheless, it was an interesting and well played set.

Now to this night’s main attraction. Insomnium just released the new album Winter’s Gate about two weeks ago. I did not get my hands on it until last Thursday, but I have listened to it a lot the last week. This is the thing: I love the band from earlier, but this album is something out of the ordinary. I know it is really way too early to say this, but I am still pretty sure that it will end up as one of my all time favourite albums. The one-track-forty-minute-album has no weak parts whatsoever, and it offers sides of Insominum that we have not seen fully before. In my opinion, it is the band’s heaviest, darkest, fastest and most progressive album so far. In other words, it is epic death metal at its best. Also, the production is outstanding.

Naturally, I had very high expectations for the show, but at the same time I was a little afraid that it would not live up to the album standard. But, goodness gracious, it did. As mentioned earlier, Kari Olli stepped in when Friman was not available, and he did a very good job indeed. Markus Hirvonen proved that he is a monster behind the drums, bassist/vocalist Niilo Sevänen delivers massive growls and refined bass playing, and Markus Vanhala plays first-rate guitar. It is just so awesome to get to hear such an epic as Winter’s Gate in its entirety live. The wall of sound that is created is monumental when the song is performed so well. Insomnium has without a doubt developed a great deal as a live band in the last few years.

I have earlier only seen Insomnium at festivlas, so this was actually the first time I got to hear them play a full set. The band began with the whole of Winter’s Gate and then moved on to songs such as The Gale, Mortal Share, Drawn to Black, The Killjoy, Ephemeral, The Promethean Song, While We Sleep, Where the Last Wave Broke and wrapped the set up with the always marvellous Weighed Down with Sorrow. Above the Weeping World is thus still very much present in the setlist due to its ten year anniversary. It must have been a great set since my neck can barely hold my head where it is supposed to be today, and this is, as we all know, a very good standard measure of value.

If you, like me and other sensible human beings, enjoy Winter’s Gate, you have to go see Insomnium perform it live if you have a chance now when they play the whole thing in Finland or later during the European tour in January. We do not know when this will happen again, if it will happen again at all. Take the chance now, because this is some of the best acts Finland has to offer. But beware, Insomnium has now released the beasts of winter!

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!