Swallow The Sun – Songs From The North I, II & III

What can push a band dedicated to a niche genre like doom to release a triple album in the year 2015, in a historical period of more skeletal than thin cows from the commercial point of view? It’s true, Swallow The Sun are perhaps today, among all the reference bands of the genre, the one that still has a minimum of commercial appeal, given the openings to more gothic and melodic sounds beautifully highlighted in the previous Emerald Forest And The Blackbird; in addition, let’s add that the Finns are released today under the aegis of Century Media, to seal the impression of an operation planned with care and far from representing the expression of an insane creative bulimia but, having said that, the enjoyment of almost three hours of music of this kind is still an affair for few. If it’s legitimate to have some doubts about the final result of such a huge amount of work, its structuring ends up causing some regrets because of some not entirely sharable choices made by Raivio and his associates. The content of the three cds is divided in a clear way according to the musical style proposed, so we find a disc 1 (entitled Gloom) that follows the footsteps of the last full length, with its wide melodic and atmospheric openings, a disc 2 (Beauty) completely acoustic and a disc 3 (Despair) that brings Swallow The Sun to beat a difficult ground and explored only in part in the first two albums, such as funeral death doom. Fortunately, the creative mountain of ours has not given birth to a mouse, in the sense that Songs From The North I, II & III is a work that will surely remain etched in the memory of fans as one of the best of the year, but we can not overlook the fact that the acoustic album turns out to be the classic crock pot enclosed between two monumental artistic expressions such as Gloom and Despair. The nine minutes of With You Came The Whole Of The World’s Tears are enough to understand that Swallow The Sun are back without any trace of tarnish due to the three years that have passed since Emerald Forest And The Blackbird: Raivio’s compositional imprint is a trademark capable of amplifying the emotional range of the melodic digressions, while Kotamäki is now an absolute certainty even on clean vocals, ensuring that the alternation between growl and a more sparingly used scream never seems forced. At least until Heartstrings Shattering, the first disc is of unreachable levels for many, while the second half is slightly less involving, though still of very high thickness. After an hour of profusion of emotions, Beauty represents an inevitable drop in tension: impeccable from the executive point of view, the second cd lacks that evocative afflatus that should be inherent in predominantly acoustic music, to avoid making it inoffensive in the long run; unfortunately, only Songs From The North is up to the situation, thanks to the contribution in mother tongue of the talented Kais Vala, while the rest flows in a pleasant way but without leaving a really tangible sign. With the first notes of The Gathering Of Black Moths, which opens the final album called Despair, we are thrown into leaden atmospheres, where only melodic cues represent a faint flame of hope. The interpretation of the funeral by Swallow The Sun, however, suffers from the gothic soul inherent to their musical style, so the trend is painful but never too claustrophobic, and the despair evoked by the title given to the cd appears tangible in its melancholy inevitability. The Finns go down on the favourite ground of the champions of the genre in these last years, I’m talking about Eye Of Solitude, and the battle is not unequal, since Raivio pulls out of the hat a package of magnificent songs, which is sublimated in the extraordinary Abandoned By The Light: here guitar and keyboard (always by the talented Aleksi Munter) alternate in proposing painful scores and able to make shiver the souls that drink these notes. At the end of this sort of listening endurance test, what remains of Songs From The North is a lot and it will not be easy to erase from memory the beauty of several songs contained in the trilogy. If we wanted to be insatiable, as it’s right to be in the presence of what I consider one of the best bands of the scene, a double disc would have been the right way to talk about this work as something close to a masterpiece: this is not the case because unfortunately, even if we would like to ignore it, the acoustic cd is there and we cannot omit it for the overall evaluation. But, let’s be clear, when a band like this gives almost two hours of magnificent music, it’s easier to forgive three quarters of an hour, not bad but frankly superfluous, so Songs From The North must be welcomed with the greatest satisfaction by the fans of this wonderful musical reality called Swallow The Sun.

2015 – Century Media Records