REVIEW: SWALLOW THE SUN – “When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light”
Music embodies a fleeting emotion that either stretches the confines of imagination or narrows it down further. In its integrity comes a sense of loss for the listener- an emotional detachment which becomes more apparent with narrowing down perceived confines of imagination. Swallow The Sun’s newest offering ‘When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light’ positions itself on the centre of all of this.
It might be alright to describe the music as creatively repetitive and one can’t help but blame the genre for this. But that’s alright. A genre’s possibilities is always at odds with the possibilities of feeling it. Sculpting or composing creative spaces into awe inspiring spaces and dreamscapes is a mark of artistic maturity. The brilliance of the new album is testimony to the band’s artistic maturity. The title track “When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light” opens this massive sounding album. Everything Swallow The Sun has for a legacy is incarnate in this track- emotion, depth and oodles of rich textures. From clean guitars to thundering bass and drums to harsh guitars and vocals to vocal harmonies; this song is about everything the band can pull off that can push the genre to its extremes. Of course, this opening track is sort of a template as to what to expect from rest of the album and excitement is what one ought to expect unconditionally. But before you dive deep into the album and make the mistake of treating this album as entertainment at face value, know that this album is in memory of Aleah Stanbridge, Juha Raivio’s life partner. What stems from this album is strength and raw emotion in the guise of memories of a loved one. While excitement is certainly a fair response to the album, discarding emotional weight that comes with the album for sheer entertainment value undermines the creative flow that made the album.
Intense melodic sections that weave itself in the tapestry of heavy sections of composition brings out emotions that words simply cannot articulate. Songs like “The Crimson Crown”, “Firelights” and “Upon The Water” intensify what emotionally rich sections can potentially do wonderfully with very heavy music. “Stone Wings” carries forward the modus operandi established in the music insofar but with a slightly different feeling to it. It is almost like the album begins to properly consolidate the emotional content and baggage that has has come with the music so far. This song is a reminder of the seriousness that created this album to begin with. The music becomes more ambient centric featuring heavier sections with “Clouds On Your Side” and “Here On The Black Earth”. Trade-offs between mellow ambience and heavy riffing characterize the album a this point. String sections plays a role to bridge the heaviness and the ambience over simply being melodic. The composition maintains a very fine balance without giving into nuances of the sections that primarily make the music at this point. All of this comes together to create beautiful soundscapes.
The album closes with “Never Left”. At this point the string sections come together with its own melodic sections in harmony with the leads and the rhythm sections of the music. This dark yet oddly optimistically upward song is a roller-coaster of emotions. In essence it is symbolic of a lifetime and an epilogue that honours the positivity that gives life the strongest of wills to carry on. Arguably this is one of the finest songs by the band till date.
‘When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light’ comes with an intense prologue to the album in the guise of an EP called ‘Lumina Aurea’– an EP with one single self titled epic track of sonic theatricalities. This EP captures a style of story telling extremely unique in itself. A range of sounds, ambient sections, textures, musical sections, chants and much more create a very surreal and yet a brutally honest take coming in terms with one’s self, in this case its Ravio’s despair. The EP features Wardruna’s Einar Selvik and The Foreshadowing’s Marco I. Benevento.
‘When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light’ is quite the experience. The album brilliantly widens the musical scope of a genre that has many repetitive elements to it. The album is loaded with tons of feelings and an artistic nuance that stems out of raw emotions coupled with a nostalgia we will never know of. As far as the band’s sound goes, Swallow The Sun completes the experience with top class musicianship and the finest quality production that metal music can fathom. The current line up features Juha Raivio (guitar and keys), Juho Raiha (guitars), Juuso Raatikainen (drums), Matti Honkonen (bass), Mikko Kotamaki (vocals) and Jaani Peuhu (keys and vocals). All in all, ‘When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light’ and its prologue EP ‘Lumina Aurea’ are well made albums but demand substantial attention when you give the music a spin.