Swallow the Sun’s version of Doom-Death has never been as abrasive as the likes of My Dying Bride, instead the Finns opted for a more wistfully romantic take on the genre. That’s not to say the likes of early albums, The Morning Never Came and Ghost of Loss don’t have some devastating melancholy running through, it’s just Swallow the Sun have always had a more progressive and optimistic quality about them.
New album, When A Shadow Is Forced Into the Light, their first for nearly four years, sees the band embracing their progressive side and delivering an album which could comfortable sit alongside fellow-former Doom-Death stalwarts, Katatonia. In fact, listening to the new Swallow the Sun record, it is spirit of Katatonia which is brought most vividly to mind. That’s not to say When A Shadow Is Forced into the Light is a lazy attempt at homage to the Swedes, rather it is an accomplished album which revels in its own maturity.
The title track opens with a mournful violin over a staccato drum beat, against which the unhurried tempo begins to build. An acoustic guitar forms the delicate platform for clean vocals, with just a solitary drum measuring time. Even when the growls arrive they do so over the same, restrained music, but there never feels like there’s a conflict going on. Instead, Swallow the Sun demonstrate what they do best by juxtaposing the gentle with the aggressive, the hard with a vulnerable side they are not afraid to demonstrate. A close listen and there’s a faint whisper of a Marillion keyboard part hiding just beneath the surface.
The clean vocal delivery are far more prevalent than before, matching the progressive nature of the music on tracks like The Crimson Crown, with its empty spaces and Rothery-esque guitar passages, and Firelights, which becomes a spoken word piece by its climax.
The albums central axis of Upon The Water and Song Wings are two tracks which perfectly encapsulate Swallow the Sun 2019. The former is probably about as savage as When A Shadow Is Forces Into the Light gets, quiet passages giving way to a growled chorus and a driving riff. The latter is arguably the album’s high point: patient in its set-up as repetitive guitar sores with occasional keyboards and a vocal delivery that brings to mind Moonspell at their darkest.
When A Shadow Is Forced Into the Light feels as through it is a album perfectly titled. Even though it’s a killer on your word-count it encompasses Swallow the Sun’s embracing of new musical frontiers beyond the umbrella of the Doom-Death genre.
A highly recommended release for both fans of the band and anyone looking for more accessible darkness in the vein of Katatonia and Moonspell. In fact for anyone wanting to listen to some great music.