By Raymond Westland
Finland-based doom/death outfit Swallow The Sun first appeared on my radar with their New Moon album, which is still one of my favorite doom/death recordings and somewhat of a personal benchmark for this type of music. Three years after the release their landmark album, they’re back with a brand new offering, poetically called Emerald Forest And The Blackbird.
Compared to its illustrious predecessor Emerald Forest And The Blackbird is a bit lighter in terms of overall atmosphere and tone. The pitch-black grimness which characterised New Moon has been replaced by a subtle, more melancholic vibe. This time around there’s a light, albeit dim, at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Some may lament this move, but this new approach breathes new life into the trademark sound of Swallow The Sun.
Don’t worry, there’s still plenty to enjoy on Emerald Forest. Compositions like “This Cut Is The Deepest”, “Hate, Lead The Way!”, “Cathedral Walls” and “Of Death And Corruption” are just as elaborate as ever in terms of arrangements, adventurism and general build-up. Mikko Kotamäki’s growls and clean vocals are very impressive still and the tasteful guitar playing by Juha Raivio and Markus Jämsen giving this album a sense of exquisite grandeur, which only a very few bands can muster.
This, together with the adventurous drumming style by Kai Hatho and the effective use of keyboards by Aleski Munter give the Emerald Forest a surprisingly proggy feel. Nightwish’s Anette Olson contributed some guest vocals on the aforementioned “Cathedral Walls”. She sings in a totally different fashion than with her main band, but it fits the music very well. In this capacity she reminds me a little bit of Liv Kristine of Theater Of Tragedy/Leaves Eyes fame.
As with many metal releases from Finland, this album is blessed with a stunning production, thanks to the capable hands of Mikko Karmila and Hiili Hiilesmaa. The sound is warm and clear, but it’s still heavy enough to emphasise the metal element in Swallow The Sun.
My ears were graced by the latest albums by Ghost Brigade, Amorphis and Insomnium. Emerald Forest And The Blackbird by Swallow The Sun will satisfy my craving for Finnish quality metal for a long time to come and I wouldn’t be surprised if this record would end up in my year list for 2012.