By Jonathan Smith
New Moon is the fourth album from Finnish melodic doom/death act Swallow The Sun. By the time the wall of distortion and rousing chorus of voices is suddenly cut off at the end of “Weight of the Dead,” it has become clear that the album is one of the strongest releases this fall amidst an already strong season. Perhaps the biggest move forward is the variety of vocal styles that Mikko Kotamaki brings to the new material. As opposed to a reliance on his deep-throated growl, he frequently makes use of a much higher shriek. On the opposite end of the vocal spectrum, both “Falling World” and “New Moon” predominantly feature clean tones, and it’s this element that contributes to them being two of the strongest tracks on the album — a feat considering the competition. Guest vocalist Aleah (Trees of Eternity) hints at side projects to come on “Lights on the Lake (Horror pt. III).” The track is also one moment where the band breaks into an unexpected gallop that sounds like a direct homage to more blackened forms of metal.
Mostly, however, New Moon’s sound is the kind of material that’s come to be expected from the Swallow The Sun. It remains just as effective as it has been on past efforts. Juha Raivio and Markus Jämsen’s guitars alternate between the usual eerie single notes and crashing chord progressions. Matti Honkonen’s bass is given time to shine during the quieter, doom-laden moments. While newcomer Kai Hahto (Wintersun) and his drums never take the spotlight, they instead act together as an ever-present metronome with a subliminal influence over the whole album. Overall the songs don’t have the sort of epic build that was found on the band’s most recent EP A Plague of Butterflies, but what they lack in length and layered complexity they make up for in terms of sheer “oomph.” At its core, New Moon is about what Swallow The Sun have been doing at their best — infectious, melancholy, and swaying lead guitar melodies eventually overwhelmed by crushing fuzz surging against the backdrops of subtle keyboard ambiance. It’s quite possible that there will be time when Swallow The Sun’s sound is in need of a new direction, but New Moon ensures that for now it’s still well worth another trip down the beaten path.