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Swallow the Sun - Hope

Label: Candlelight Records
Format: CD
Released: 2007
Reviewed By: The Goat

In addition many other things, I am primarily a doom metal fan. As with many of my ilk, I place the blame on My Dying Bride's penultimate classic, "Turn Loose The Swans". All doom metal seeks to eclipse this marvelous work of beauty and despair. Many bands have tried to emulate the Bride boys but few have managed to be worthy enough to attain any positive comparison. The exceptions are simply that, exceptional.


Enter Finland's Swallow the Sun. Here is a band that has demonstrated their worthiness of belonging to the doom elite. Their first release, "The Morning Never Came", blew me away. It matched the power and darkness that MY Dying Bride has without becoming a mere copycat. As I recall, Swallow the Sun was created, initially, as a project by guitarist Juha Raivio, formerly of Funeris Nocturnum, with drummer Pasi Pasanen and guitarist Markus Jmsen. Swallow the Sun soon absorbed more members from Funeris Nocturnum (Mikko Kotamki - vocals, Matti Honkonen - bass, and Aleksi Munter - keyboards).

As is often the case with strong musical projects, Swallow the Sun became its own entity, greater than the members and their lineages. The next release, "Ghosts of Loss", proved that Swallow the Sun was not a flash in the pan doom act. If it is even possible, "Ghosts" surpassed its predecessor. Swallow demonstrated a virtuosity with their sophomore release. It remains one of my personal favorite doom albums.

Swallow the Sun's third release opens with a devastating doom epic of a song, the aptly titled title track, 'Hope'. This is an appropriate opening for this release, yet it seems somewhat tame. It leads the listener into thinking that StS is going to go in the direction of most doom bands after a few releases, into that oft maligned gothic metal category. It is most assuredly the whispery, clean vocals that perpetuate this notion.

Fear not, my Doom Kith and Kin! The opening blast beats and snared yell of 'These Hours of Despair' nip that false impression in the shriveling bud. You have not heard doom until you have heard this song. It mixes both doom's plod and misery with a blackened chorus that sounds like the Mouth of Hell is being opened. This is easily my favorite song. 'The Justice of Suffering' lends itself to a devastatingly mournful mid-tempo dirge, which surprises the listener with an old familiar voice, Jonas Renske of Katatonia. There is also a Type O Negative guitar riff floating along in the song as well, which is a marvelous touch.

The next track is the single 'Don't Fall Asleep'. The pacing of this song is as if Katatonia and My Dying Bride decided to write a song together and this marriage yielding one bastard of a doom song. The keyboards and guitars lift and lift and lift but it is far too late, the future is far too bleak. Just when it seemed like StS couldn't get anymore depressive, 'Too Cold For Tears' lays bare the soul in all its anguished glory. 'The Empty Skies' picks up the pace - a little, but it seems that StS wants to drive the doom in deeper by hammering it in. 'No Light, No Hope', while the shortest song, offers no solace from the grief-inspiring compositions that surround it.

Finally, 'Doomed To Walk The Earth' closes this chapter of Swallow the Sun. Is it a happy little ditty to keep the listeners from offing themselves? Is it an homage to that purveyor of Pollyannaism, Blind Melon? Does it make me think of happy little bunny rabbits and squirrels dancing around in Technicolor? No. It is an ending that is more than fitting for a doom metal album of its magnitude. It does not let the listener forget the experience by offering some sweet to cover the deep wounds. It ends ominously without any mercy shot to end the suffering. Finnish musical melancholy certainly has no rival or equal as far as Swallow the Sun is concerned.

I think listening to doom this good can be hazardous to ones' health, if not their sanity. I am beginning to look at my liquor cabinet a little too fondly - I think I can hear the Finlandia calling me. I think it is whispering to me just keep listening to that sad music - it's okay, I'll be your friend.

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