Released: 2003, Olympic/Century Media
Reviewer: Gabriel C. Zolman
For those sick of waiting for new albums by Daylight Dies or Rapture, this might just do the trick. Proving that Finland must, in fact, be the most depressing god-damned country on the planet, Swallow The Sun have spit forth one of the blackest, darkest discs that this reviewer has heard in years. This CD needs a warning label:
“Do not play without a pill bottle nearby.”
“Do not play around Paradise Lost fans; it will only make them cry.”
“Do not play If currently under suicide watch.”
“Do not play around significant other with the expectation of ever getting laid again.”
You know…that sort of thing.
The production is sterling, and captures the sorrow perfectly. This pins down so much of what something like Shape Of Despair so dearly sought to. Again, the resemblance to vintage Katatonia and Daylight Dies is striking. But rather than copy their repetitive guitar approach, STS opt to simply plod, with the emphasis on delay of gratification—you know a terrific riff is coming, so you kick back, and soak in the build up, in all its clever melancholy. And that’s the best description, really: Dreary and depressive, but yet, damn clever. It sounds spontaneous, but it’s nothing of the sort. It’s actually quite calculated—but it’s passion-drenched, and comfortable in its identity early on. For a young band, it must be said that they know exactly who they are. Most bands take years to develop their approach; Swallow The Sun sound like they’ve been doing this for years.
The guitars are positively mournful, and smooth. The drums are steady, and well-recorded. The keyboards hang out in the background for ambience, like a token minority on a sitcom. The music seems to chew on its own scenery, with many of the riffs taking on an almost horror film-like atmosphere. There is an emotional weight and depth here, if you can weather the gurgled roars of the singer.
Now, I’d be lying if I said that this was not repetitive, or slow-moving. Indeed, this often lumbers. But I believe this to be the point: it’s supposed to be bleak and dreary. The songs are supposed to take forever to get to where they go—hey, at least they go somewhere. My Dying Bride could take a nod from this.
All in all, if you are a fan of this style, this is a must-purchase; it’s better than much of what has passed for “doom” these days, and is free of any stoner bullshit that might prove hindrance to a good night’s sulk and scowl. Otherwise, Death Metal fans attracted by the Olympic label might want to watch out, and perhaps download a track or three before plunking down their hard-earned blood-money. This is slow, powerful, and classy—and the vocals are, indeed, a good long growl (similar, perhaps, to old Amorphis). But if you expect anything resembling a blast-beat, you have another thing coming (and I’d rather not be present when it arrives).
All I’m saying is that it can be a “good” kind of pain, or a “bad” kind off pain. It really does depend upon how fucking depressed you are.
Fans of Garden Of Shadows, Daylight Dies, old Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride take note: this threatens to undo you. And damn it, you probably have it coming.
NOTE: A cover of Candlemass' "Solitude" is included as a bonus on the American 2005 release.