Many of the bands I cover on this site have been in my playlists for several years, at least. But I’m relatively new to Swallow the Sun. I’ve only been listening to them for a year or so, though I’ve been aware of them and their surrounding genre for some time. The band is back with a new record called Moonflowers, and I was eager to hear it. It releases on November 19th.
Swallow the Sun hail from Finland. The band consists of Juha Raivio on guitars, Matti Honkonen on bass, Mikko Kotamäki on vocals, Juuso Raatikainen on drums, and Juho Räihä on guitars. Moonflowers is an interesting release because it is technically a double album, though not really. The album has eight tracks, but also includes a bonus disc that contains classical interpretations of each track. This is something a bit different from the typical instrumental versions we’ve been seeing lately. These are completely revamped versions made for people who like classical and film scores. They are excellent versions, to boot.
The band plays dark, melodic, melancholic metal. They lean into the death doom sound quite a bit, but you will hear plenty of orchestrations, clean vocals, and tightly written tracks, as well. I love how chunky and dark their guitars sound on this record, but also how well they are mixed with the strings and drums. Everything feels like it makes an impact on the overall sound, and all of the musicianship pays homage to the emotions on display.
This is certainly an emotional work, like a delicate painting of great depth. Since the passing of guitarist Juha’s wife, Aleah Starbridge (as the fans call her), I feel like Juha’s lyrical content has become even more expressive, gloomy, and piercingly effective. Not only is his writing excellent, but the metaphors and poetry that he uses stay with me. This album has some of the best lyrics I’ve heard this year.
But the lyrics are only one part of the puzzle. For every heart-rending moment, there is a satisfying guitar lick, a huge riff, or an addictive orchestral arrangement. All of these parts work smoothly and gratifyingly to create a whole work of art that is mature, shadowy, and Romantic. The obvious Gothic overtones only add to the beauty and serenity that can be found, just as much in the chaotic moments as in the cinematic or doomy ones.
This illustrious and sophisticated album is nigh unto perfect. I love the two singles, “Enemy” and “Woven into Sorrow”. The former is more straightforward and heavy, with lots of harsh vox and a catchy chorus. “Woven into Sorrow” has a longer format with plenty of room for transitions, contemplation, and darkness. I love how poetic and powerful it feels.
Yet, the rest of the album is just as good. The opener “Moonflowers Bloom in Misery” feels reserved and melodic for the most part, but a brash contrast of harsh vox and charging guitars arrive to create a huge climax near the end. “Keep Your Heart Safe From Me” is a favorite with its smooth chorus and uneasy atmosphere. Coming right after that, though, is “All Hallows Grieve”, a gorgeous song with Cammie Gilbert of Oceans of Slumber guesting (didn’t even have to verify that one, as her voice is unmistakable). This song has such a bleeding and weeping chorus, one that speaks of sorrow that permeates our very bones. It makes me sad, too, since I can imagine Aleah being the guest here, and that adds to the weight and brittleness of my heart strings when I hear it. Such an incredible track.
The final three tracks don’t let up at all. Humanity in all its darkness and despair is on full display. “The Void” has such a likeable gait and cinematic, soaring central guitar lick. It is easy to get swept away mentally while it plays. “The Fight of Your Life” has some of my favorite lyrics overall, and it is full of subtle hooks that I’ve learned to appreciate more and more with time. Finally, “This House Has No Home” drips with anticipation and longing. Reeling between heavy and soft moments, the song pictures someone in the throes of despair and loneliness, and that absolutely crushes me. This song has just the right amount of heaviness to accomplish this task.
Moonflowers is a brilliant album, and it packs a wallop lyrically, as well. This is an intensely human affair: a work of art with blood, tears, and sweat throughout every second. I love its sense of seclusion and poetry, and its affinity towards exquisite melody, but also its tenacious and raw metallic side. Swallow the Sun have another masterpiece on their hands.
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