Swallow the Sun – Emerald Forest and the Blackbird

Reviewed: April 2012
Released: 2012, Spinefarm Records
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz

So the troll-o-sphere known as the internet has already slapped labels on this album as “mainstream” and “sellout,” to which I have to ask “are we’re listening to the same record?” I happen to like Swallow the Sun, but I’ll be the first one to admit that they’ve been raping the same formula on every record for the last 10 years. Gothic, death-tinged doom metal with emo overtones – lather, rinse, repeat. But it’s a formula that’s been fairly successful for these Fins, growing their fan base with each subsequent record. That formula came to a head on 2009’s NEW MOON, which was about the point where I checked out. Not a bad record, but just more of the same, and I can’t remember a single track that grabbed me the way that previous releases had been able to. That being what it is, EMERALD FOREST AND THE BLACKBIRD is the kind of musical evolution that the band needed to make the leap towards years ago.

The songs on EMERALD FOREST AND THE BLACKBIRD simply sound more natural. There’s definitely a focus on melody and clean vocals, but to suggest that the album is any less heavy is laughable. For every introspective shoegazer like “This Cut is the Deepest” or “Cathedral Walls” there’s significantly heavier missives like “Hate, Lead the Way” and “Labyrinth of London,” the latter of which is textbook Swallow the Sun. The album is balanced out with more dirge-y laments that straddle the line between the more melodic and aggressive facets of the band. The 10-minute opening title track is a great example, as is the haunting simplicity of “April 14th.” Individually the tunes all wear their own coat of arms, but collectively it makes for the most consistent album yet from Swallow the Sun.

Random fact: The week of its release, EMERALD FOREST AND THE BLACKBIRD charted at #2 Finnish charts, above Adele’s 21.

EMERALD FOREST AND THE BLACKBIRD may be considered to be a mild left turn from what you’d expect from Swallow the Sun, but sometimes that’s exactly what you need. The band could’ve surely plopped out yet another growly death-doom record and called it a day, but taking some chances creatively makes for a much more interesting album at the end of the day. Currently the album is only available as an import, but it’s worth the extra shekels. Don’t be swayed by negative press, check this one out.


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Track Listing:
1. Emerald Forest and the Blackbird
2. This Cut is the Deepest
3. Hate, Lead the Way!
4. Cathedral Walls
5. Hearts Wide Shut
6. Silent Towers
7. Labyrinth of London (Horror pt IV)
8. Of Death and Corruption
9. April 14th
10. Night Will Forgive Us

Juha Raivio – Guitars
Matti Honkonen – Bass
Markus Jämsen – Guitars
Aleksi Munter – Keyboard
Mikko Kotamäki – Vocals
Kai Hahto – Drums