Swallow the Sun – Moonflowers
Reviewed: December 2021
Released: 2021, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Let me start off by saying that MOONFLOWERS is a haunting and sonically beautifully record. If you’ve at all followed the trajectory of Finland’s Swallow the Sun at any point across the last 20 years, this should come as no surprise at all. Tracks like “Out of this Gloomy Light”, “Don’t Fall Asleep” and “66°50’N, 28°40’E” span the course of the band’s career, and each demonstrates their penchant for crafting melancholy masterpieces that remain resilient years later. And each of those tunes sound vastly different from one another, further demonstrating that SWS can deliver that melancholy with a variety of styles and influences. But it’s that last point in particular that gets me hung up with MOONFLOWERS.
Start to finish, MOONFLOWERS is a singular body of work spread across 8 individual movements. There’s a kind of purposeful restraint across the album that succeeds in building a mood and continuity, but that same restraint does a disservice to the individual compositions, rarely allowing specific tunes to shine on their own. MOONFLOWERS is at its best when consumed in a single setting, but even then I found myself asking at multiple points throughout the album, “is this still the same song?” The moments that stand out are spectacular, but it requires some perseverance to find them.
Speaking of stand out moments… “All Hallows’ Grieve” is an almost ballad that features a duet with Oceans of Slumber vocalist Cammie Gilbert and will absolutely grab you in the feels. “Keep Your Heart Safe from Me” is arguably the strongest cut on MOONFLOWERS, weaving moments of uncomfortable quiet with raging angst alongside some of the more memorable riffs on the album. And album closer “This House Has No Home” recalls some of the more black metal-esque moments from 2009’s NEW MOON while still navigating within MOONFLOWERS’ overall framework. There are for sure other pockets of greatness across the album, I just wish I didn’t have to hunt for them.
Digital and deluxe physical versions of MOONFLOWERS are accompanied by a bonus album featuring instrumental classical interpretations of the album’s 8 tracks. I dare say that these versions work better than their traditional counterparts, but that’s a whole separate topic for debate. So while MOONFLOWERS isn’t my favorite album within the Swallow the Sun catalog, it’s still a creatively ambitious offering that will challenge its audience. Check out the full album visualizer below and judge for yourself.