Review: “Moonflowers” by Swallow The Sun

During their 20 plus year career, Swallow The Sun have been slowly but surely building a Doom-Death mountain, the like of which has been unparalleled with six studio albums before 2019’s Emma Gaala-nominated (Finnish Grammys) “When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light“. How do you surpass the qualities of something so widely held in critical acclaim? During 2020, “Moonflowers” was tracked, mixed, and mastered across several studios with guitarist Juho Räihä handling unclean vocals, guitars, bass and strings at his SoundSpiral Audio Studio (Wolfheart, Before the Dawn). At the same time, producer David Castillo handled drums and clean vocals at Ghost Ward (Leprous, Katatonia) before the completed recordings were sent to Jens Bogren to mix and Tony Lindgren to master at Fascination Street Studios (Sepultura, Carcass)…

When the delicate melodies of “Moonflowers Bloom In Misery“, tinged with Gothic overtones are shattered by the first brutal roar of unclean vocals from Mikko Kotamäki it’s the gut punch moment that awakes the listener from slumber like they’ve just had a bucket of ice cold water thrown over them on one of the most sweltering of days. Its a majestic moment of pure power that hits and shatters the mirror of melancholy in a brutal an unexpected fashion, the plot twist that you don’t see coming and for an opening cut to do such a thing is nothing short of stunning. Each subsequent cut then flows in waves between moods of melancholy and the infinite sadness with Gothic Doom and achingly beautiful orchestration before rising to Death Metal aggression and falling once more, not so much a formula as a holding pattern that provides a canvas upon which Swallow The Sun paint in warm, rich colours. “Woven Into Sorrow” majestically crosses that great divide by allowing the orchestration to bleed into the heavier riffs, making it a real stand out proposition from a band who simply don’t know how to do anything that isn’t of epic grandeur as the likes of Wilderun follow them down that rabbit hole. The musicianship and dedication to craft is simply jaw dropping and there is a mesmeric quality to some of the more melodic parts usually reserved for shoegaze with stunning transitions between different stylings as the likes of “Keep Your Heart Safe From Me” starts heavier before fading to black with aching beauty in downhearted glory. Intricacies lay almost hidden within each chapter of this tale, making it the gift that simply keeps giving.

The second half of the album begins in dramatic fashion with the colossal “All Hallows’ Grieve” which sees Mikko Kotamäki’s vocals intertwine with those of Cammie Gilbert of Oceans of Slumber in heart breaking fashion. It serves to continue the immersive nature of a thoroughly captivating album without introducing anything that changes the mood, instead building the atmosphere as the bands artistic envelope gets pushed that little bit further because with this Swallow The Sun are artists in the truest sense of the word. Guitarist Juha Raivio even went as far as using dried flowers he collected as well as his own blood to paint the cover artwork. The majestic solo into the outburst of pure aggression during the otherwise graceful “The Fight Of Your Life” borders on the territory of Black Metal with the kind of stark contrast that represents a risk that others would fear to take before that styling is repeated during the rip-roaring blast beats of the opening of “This House Has No Name” in unexpected blood splattering brilliance. There is no violence in the mood swings but instead they represent opposing sides of the same coin as it spins of a knife edge. Make no mistake, this is a collection of beautiful songs with stunning arrangements and lyrics which evoke a keen sense of sadness or regret, the likes of which you’ll struggle to find anywhere else as Swallow The Sun surpass themselves once more [8.5/10]

Track listing

1. Moonflowers Bloom In Misery
2. Enemy
3. Woven Into Sorrow
4. Keep Your Heart Safe From Me
5. All Hallows’ Grieve (ft. (feat. Cammie Gilbert of Oceans of Slumber)
6. The Void
7. The Fight Of Your Life
8. This House Has No Name (ft. Antti Hyyrynen of Stam1na)

Moonflowers” by Swallow The Sun is out 19th November 2021 via Century Media

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