Finland’s Swallow the Sun is a band I’ve been into ever since the cover art for their debut on Firebox back in 2003 caught my eye. Their music back then was a mixture between doom and death with a big emphasis on melody. The next album was birthed in 2005 and was quite the progression. The clean vocals which were all but rare on the debut were given a much bigger role and suddenly the band could be compared to bands like Opeth and the like, albeit it a doomier version. Now in 2007 they’re on Spinefarm Records and releasing their most mature album yet which is called ‘Hope’. On my promo copy there is a picture of open elevator doors containing the band’s logo. When I glance down my eyes hit a big black sticker saying “This is not the final artwork, not even close!”. It seems a lot of effort went into this album’s release indeed. A special website to promote ‘Hope’ has also been launched which you can visit by clicking here.
‘Hope’ contains eight tracks of incredible melodic doom metal featuring clean singing combined with the death metal grunts we’ve come to expect from this band. If you thought the emphasis was on clean vocals on the last album, think again, this album has more clean vocals then the previous two combined. It shows that a lot of effort went into the vocal work and it has to be mentioned that the singing is absolutely stunning this time around, it was already great on previous albums but here it all comes across incredibly emotional and powerful. There also seems to be more range to it all. For instance, listening to a song like the single ‘Don’t Fall Asleep’, the atmosphere the clean singing creates reminds me of Katatonia’s recent album, ‘The Great Cold Distance’. Check out the video for this song here. Also for those of you who are worried that this band has wimped out because of the emphasis on clean vocals, don’t. The grunting death metal styled vocals sound darker, more ruthless and come across way more powerful than I’ve ever heard on any other album this band did, and there’s plenty of it. As for the music itself, there are more melodic hooks than ever before. Most of the songs have several elements that could be called catchy without resorting to a processed, blatant mind numbingly commercial approach aimed at the masses. The instruments are utilised to their full extent to add to the atmosphere and the production is crystal clear making this album a very pleasant listening experience. As a whole I see this as 2005’s ‘Ghosts of Loss’ progressed to a higher level. This album takes the best parts both previous releases had to offer and evolves further on this concept.
Hope is an incredible album and at the same time the best Swallow the Sun has ever made. It will be hard for them to top this release but time will tell. A strongly recommended buy if you like successful doom/death mixes like early My Dying Bride, Anathema, Katatonia and for music a bit more recent, Novembers Doom and Saturnus. If you’re already into this band go out and get this, you will not be disappointed.
Band: Swallow the Sun(int)
Label: Spinefarm Records
Genre: doom (doom / death / stoner / sludge)
Review by: David