Album Review: Swallow The Sun – When A Shadow Is Forced Into Light 9.5 (Doom Metal)

Written by Mass

  • Swallow The Sun
  • When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light
  • Melodic Death Doom
  • Finland
  • 25th Jan 2019
  • 9.5/10

Official Website – Metallum Review

Four years after the release of their magnum opus Songs from the North, a triple album introduced in 2015, and after the tragic demise of Aleah Starbridge (the front man Juha Raivio’s life partner and Trees of Eternity’s lead vocalist) in 2016, the Finnish death-doom giants have returned with an album which leaves no heart untouched. A short while ago, late 2018, a single album was put forward which best depicted the dark depths of their sorrow: Lumina Aurea, a heart- wrenching blend of black and funeral doom with dashes of folk created by Einar Selvik of Wardruna.

Upon listening to the single, one might fear they have lost sight of light in their career and that they might have given in to loss. However, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light turns the grief on its head and creates the most melodic and most emotive work of the band so far. It sure isn’t as grand and sizable as their previous album, but it is indisputably just as courageous and estimable. It brings to surface the delicate, more nuanced side of the band and yet keeping the recognizable, dominantly melancholy and doomy sound of the band. So not only does it not impair the image of the band, but it also graciously adds to the band’s substantial reputation.

Swallow the Sun’s seventh studio album is everything dark: a dismal atmosphere, heavy death-doom riffs, throbbing piano notes, crushing drums, solid bass, wide-ranging vocals and a concise use of orchestration. There is no rush to bombard the listener with metal, nor with words; everything has its chance to be presented to the maximum effect. The band is in no hurry to start singing – they let the music sink in and pierce to the core and allow enough time for the anguish to settle and take effect. The rainy sky at the beginning of “The Crimson Crown”, for instance, is a testimony to the clever use of ambiance to create the desired setting to begin the music and to further the impact. The instruments are given ample time to showcase themselves before the singing starts (approximately 2 and a half minutes into the song).

Artwork for When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light is by famed Fursy Teyssier of Les Discrets who in addition to being a talented album cover artist is also a multi-instrumentalist, singer/song-writer and animated film director – Carcassbomb

By the use of tactful diversity, both in terms of musical production and vocal delivery, this album has succeeded in crafting a work of art which is captivating in its entirety. Besides the musical elements (instrumentation and ambiance), the second lead vocalist of the band, the new keyboardist Jaani Peuhu, has brought with himself a rather new sound – not a kind which would put the listener off, but a figure to enhance the vocal experience. The duo collaborates so finely to enrich the music of the band, from black screams to death growls to hyper clean vocals, even to whispers; a fair amount of each.

All this musical excellence does not overshadow the poetic prowess and the musicality of the lyrics. One reason that there is such an irresistible appeal in vocals could be that the words of the lyrics not only constitute the message and meaning to be conveyed to the audience, but also contribute to the overall sound of the music. There are dark themes such as loss and emotional barrenness, yet love and light are also expressed. This album is by no means a mere journey though wastelands of darkness; it is one from darkness to light and that is what singles this album out from the plethora of other works within the genre and they do it so well that they do not simply stand out, they stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Speak through the silence,
lay down your crown,
lay down your fight.

And when you speak
the words of silence,
walls will crumble in
and skies open.

And when you speak,
you speak with silence,
and I carve each word you
sing on my stone wings…

And the light will pour in!

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