Released: 2008, Spinefarm Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
In a matter of three full length releases, Finland’s Swallow the Sun have quickly made a name for themselves within the metal world. Walking the fine line of melodic death and doom metal, the band proudly carries the torch held by bands like My Dying Bride and Anathema (when they played metal) and wraps their sound in layers of ambience. While the band hasn’t strayed far from a formula that has worked so well for them, they continue to refine and polish their sound with each subsequent release.
Following up 2007’s HOPE, Swallow the Sun returns with an EP of sorts in the form of PLAGUE OF BUTTERFLIES. With 5 songs clocking in over an hour long, PLAGUE OF BUTTERFLIES is chocked full of goodies from the band. The title track consumes the bulk of the disc, at around 34 minutes long. Thankfully, this isn’t an experiment in patience (a la Sleep’s 50 minute+ JERUSELAM), but rather three distinct acts wrapped into one performance, making the experience a more palatable one. Originally planned to be an accompanying score to a performance piece that never came to fruition, the “Plague of Butterflies” opus sees the light of day on this release. Additionally, the band’s original OUT OF THIS GLOOMY LIGHT demo from 2003 is included for good measure.
The title track tells a bittersweet story about love, loss, death, and obviously a plague involving the protagonist butterflies. Though the three acts are segmented with subtle interludes that keep the tape rolling, the song capitalizes on all of the elements that the band is known for. Weaving acoustic guitars, thick riffs, various levels of clean and dirty vocals, and anchored by heavy keyboard contributions, the band covers a wide spread of atmosphere. It’s an advantageous effort to say the least, but it’s a successful one. As mentioned, the remaining tracks are taken from the band’s original demo. Though the final versions of these songs appeared on their debut, THE MORNING NEVER CAME, there are a few varying nuances between the demo versions and their finished versions, but not many. The vocals are more abrasive here and the arrangements aren’t as full as on MORNING, but the songs are still respectable nonetheless. Their inclusion here adds a sort of “then and now” novelty, showcasing the band’s origins in contrast to where they’re arrived with “Plague of Butterflies.” But if you already have the debut in your collection, it seems a little redundant now.
PLAGUE OF BUTTERFLIES shows Swallow the Sun expanding their boundaries while not wandering too far from their comfort zone. This release feels like the band is on the cusp of breaking out big time, while juuuust not quite there yet. They’re an exceptionally talented sextet with a knack for creating some of the most beautifully depressing tunes I’ve heard in a while. Fans of the band will no doubt find this to be a necessary addition to their collections, while new initiates may be put off by the niche collection of songs, in which case HOPE may be a better starting point. Either way, doom aficionados and fans of melodic death metal should keep their ears to the underground for Swallow the Sun’s next release.