Release Date: Feb 14, 2012
Record label: Fontana/Universal
Genre(s): Heavy Metal, Doom Metal, Death Metal
Although they've generally remained sonically true to their melodic death/doom foundations over the course of four-and-a-half, mostly superlative albums, Finland's Swallow the Sun have also been known to inject a few alien sounds into the mix now and then, and let's not forget 2008's major risk, the Plague of Butterflies mini-album, which was composed by commission for a ballet! So after resuming business as (mostly) usual with its follow-up, New Moon, the Fins' fifth full-length, 2012's Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, proposes to be a concept album about a the morbid subject of a father burying his only child, and the disorienting flights of madness and reality that ensue…or perhaps this just reflects the band's vague grasp of the enormity of the endeavor. Luckily, this is where frontman Mikko Kotamäki's vocal versatility comes in handy, as his equal command of clean melodies, deathly growls, strangled rasps, plus, on this occasion, baritone narrations and quiet murmurs, really help add manifold emotions to the story line as it unfolds. Especially memorable turns such as "Hate, Lead the Way", "Hearts Wide Shut," "Of Death and Corruption" and "Night Will Forgive Us" also show that Swallow the Sun's enduring passion for delivering extreme contrasts of dark and light is arguably at an all-time high.
Review Summary: An album that somehow gives us very little with so muchExecuting a concept album is not so much a science as it is an art – there is no formula for creating the perfect piece. As such, there is a certain finesse required to turn an idea into music, especially if you wish to extend that idea to cover an entire album. There aren’t many concept albums out there – metal concept albums, specifically – that transcribe their inspiration into aural form with this artistic finesse, so it is a daring path to take, especially if your band isn’t intent on making the album different from your previous work.
Since their inception in 2000, Swallow the Sun have played a pivotal role in defining the specific sound associated with Finnish death and doom. The combination of a languorous, almost whimsical take on the traditionally lugubrious doom genre, combined with a muscular, throaty, yet precise take on death metal, has been defined by Swallow The Sun and several of their peers, including Amorphis. What sets Emerald Forest and the Blackbird apart from their earlier releases is an increased range of influences, as on this record they incorporate longer, delicate, atmospheric passages and harsh, screeching vocals that give the more extreme moments a positively blackened feel.