Swallow the Sun have cultivated a meticulous work ethic ever since their debut album “The Morning Never Came” saw the gloomy light of day in November, 2003. Over the years these Finnish doom-death metal masters have drawn inspiration from a seemingly bottomless well of misery, melancholy, and every other shade of grey and black sentiment one can think of.
Representatives of a select few Finnish media outlets were invited to Sonic Pump Studios in Helsinki for a first listening of what is to be Swallow the Sun’s eight studio album, “Moonflower”. As the lights were dimming in the studio’s monitoring room it came as a surprise that the listening experience would be complemented by an animated video of each song.
“Will you die in misery?” asks vocalist Mikko Kotamäki in the album’s opening track as in a direct challenge to the listener. “Moonflowers Bloom in Misery” is a powerful opening statement for the album: Kotamäki’s terrific vocal work being accompanied by an oppressive yet sufficiently crisp sound where the bass guitar is delightfully discernible among the rest of the instrumentation, which is as heavy as it should be in a doom metal record.
“Enemy” ups the ante with just a bit faster tempo to stay within the comfort zone of the band’s genre with a catchy riff and a chorus that has enough potential to mark the song as a staple in the band’s liveset for years to come. After deceptively speedy first half the song descends into slower atmospheric depths only to rise again towards the end in a beautiful crescendo of electric and string instruments alike. “All Hallows’ Grieve” is somewhat reminiscent of “Heartstrings Shattering” few years back right down to the female guest vocals – this time courtesy by Cammie Gilbert of Oceans of Slumber. The album is closed with “This House Has No Name” in which Swallow the Sun’s usual palette is further fortified by hues of black metal [approved immediately by yours truly] to the point I would call it my favourite song of the album after first listening.
Aside from a few faster sections here and there, “Moonflowers” is mostly dominated by mid-tempo songs by Swallow the Sun standards. Tasteful and well placed guitar leads lavish the album throughout with string instruments adding layers to the songs that are further explored in the instrumental version of the record.
The animated videos that were viewed in the dark room whilst the album itself boomed from the speakers were a powerful and suitably distressing addition to the music. In the aftermath of the listening session Kotamäki revealed that he is fast approaching two years without smoking, a fact that has undoubtedly paid dividends through his vocal performance on the album. “Moonflowers” managed to entice even at the first listening while, at the same time, leaving much room to grow with further spins. Fans have been treated to instrumental versions of the album tracks in recent weeks, and a first sample of the main course should be unveiled sometime soon so stay tuned! Full album will be out 19 November.