Swallow The Sun can be regarded a one of the most diverse band’s in metal nowadays. The band that always maintained their melodic death/doom sound, but always added something new to it, setting them apart from many of their contemporaries. In their entire catalogue, you will never find an album that sounds the same as the previous one.
This band is not rich in terms of music solely, but also in terms of long career and history. The band was founded in 2001 by Juha Raivio, soon joined by Pasi Pasanen. Throughout the years, the band maintained a pretty much stable lineup with the only change happening in the drum department, where Kai Hahto replaced Pasi Pasanen. However, in the last few years, things started to change. The band was facing some troubled times with many lineup changes and Juha Raivio’s personal tragedy. First change occurred when Kai Hahto departed for Nightwish in 2015, but Juuso Raatikainen has proven to be a worthy replacement, so there were no worries about the band’s future at that point. But the trend continued in 2016 with Aleksi Munter’s departure due to exhaustion from constant touring and in 2018 with Markus Jämsen’s departure due to hearing loss. This left only Mikko Kotamäki and Matti Honkonen, alongside Juha Raivio, as the sole original members. In 2016, Juha Raivio’s partner and bandmate in Trees Of Eternity, Aleah, passed away, which has left a huge mark on Juha to this day. Those events lead to many concerns about the band’s future.
In 2018, the band has decided to surprise us not with one, but two releases in a short period of time. The first release was a single called “Lumina Aurea”, which was released around Christmas time. It is, according to Juha Raivio, “the darkest and most painful song in Swallow The Sun’s history.” The song also features guest work of Wardruna mastermind, Einar Selvik, and The Foreshadowing frontman, Marco Benevento. That song was very different from anything the band released up to that point. Also their previous album, “Songs From The North”, has set the bar very high for their future releases so many fans were wondering what to expect from the album.
The first song released from this album, “Upon The Water”, gave a really good insight what to expect from the album, many sorrowful clean passages followed by heavier doom riffs. The lyrical themes of this album are centered around loss of Aleah, which makes this album a very emotional experience. Emotions of pain and loss are felt constantly throughout this album, reaching culmination on the album’s final track, “Never Left”. It can be easily concluded that we are in for a classic Swallow The Sun with some new elements. The new elements are apparent the moment the album starts. The title track has a post-metal vibe to it, later switching to the classic Swallow The Sun sound, making it a perfect blend of old and new. There is also an addition of a string quartet adding more atmosphere and depth to the music.
In terms of refreshments, it would be unfair not mention the new recruits Juho Räihä (guitars) and Jaani Peuhu (keyboards, vocals). These guys played with Juha in Hallatar already, so their inclusion into Swallow The Sun seemed very logical. Jaani is a great refreshment for the band, not so much in terms of keyboards, as is in terms of vocals. Not to undermine Mikko Kotamäki’s vocals, in my opinion, one of the most versatile vocalists in metal, but addition of Jaani’s vocals gives a whole new dimension to a band’s already diverse sound. The perfect combination Mikko’s and Jaani’s vocal harmonies shines the most on “The Crimson Crown” and “Firelights”.
Overall, this is another impressive entry in the band’s already rich catalogue. The album maybe doesn’t surpass “Songs From The North”, but it is definitely a worthy follow up. This album proves that Swallow The Sun still has more to offer. Bearing that in mind, I look forward to hearing more from Swallow The Sun in the future.