Swallow The Sun – Moonflowers

A new album two years after the previous one brings Swallow The Sun back to the productive rhythms of the first decade of the century and this could be interpreted as a good sign, considering that between Songs from the North I, II & III and When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light four years had passed and that the full-bodied live 20 Years of Gloom, Beauty and Despair: Live in Helsinki dates back only to last July. In reality, Juha Raivio’s newfound compositional prolificacy does not indicate that the Finnish musician has finally come to terms with the demons that tear at his soul, after the death five years ago of his partner Aleah Starbridge, quite the contrary: the elaboration of the mourning, if possible, is far from complete and is the most likely cause of the arrival of a sound that seems more and more folded in on itself, favoring a melancholic yearning than the melodic fury of the beginning. It must be said, however, that compared to When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light, in Moonflowers we can appreciate again those rhythmic jolts of which Swallow The Sun are the undisputed masters, able to suddenly throw the listener in a more painful and angry feeling than the usual melancholic mood. As far as the value of this album is concerned, as always it is subjectivity that dominates: it is enough to read the many reviews already published that, if compared, sometimes seem to talk about different records, but the problem does not derive from how competent the writer is, but from a different individual perception of the sound contained here. Having said that, I belong to the category of those who consider Moonflowers as a splendid album, very enjoyable in its own way, but not as enjoyable as When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light could be in its unbearable lightness (at least, for me). Swallow The Sun have two jewels to open the tracklist, songs like Moonflowers Bloom in Misery and Enemy useful to remember that our band was one of the brightest names ever in melodic death doom, even if today this label may appear out of place. On the other hand, after a first part in which lightness and roughness coexist in a quite fluid way, exalted as in the rest of the work by the use of strings that almost completely deprive the keyboards of their power, there follows a central part that brings us back to more intimate tones: the growl disappears from the tones used by a more and more convincing Kotamäki, leaving the proscenium to softer and lulling sounds, although equally successful and no less leaden in intentions, if you go deeper. It’s no coincidence that here we find the tracks that have received the most contradictory responses, All Hallow’s Grieve, in which Mikko duets with Cammie Gilbert of Oceans of Slumber, and The Void: these are two episodes where the melodic afflatus comes dangerously close to the limits of cloying, but without ever reaching them. The Fight of Your Life is emotionally aligned with the equally evocative Woven into Sorrow and Keep Your Heart Safe from Me, while the last track in the setlist, This House Has No Home, is a story in itself, containing sudden black outbursts that are however calmed by passages that clearly remind us of the band’s new course. In conclusion, Moonflowers is an album that you never get tired of listening to, also because there are no weak songs, and if someone gets scared because a track lasts six or seven minutes, frankly he should dedicate himself to any other genre that is not doom. The exhortation is to enjoy this artistic effort of Swallow The Sun – which in the limited editions includes all the songs also in a solo orchestral version, while for those who want to match the images to the music on YouTube is available the entire album accompanied by the animations of Dronicon Films – for what it is, that is the genuine fruit of the compositional work of one of the best musicians of our time, Juha Raivio, of which I deliver a revealing externalization posted on his Facebook page: “I don’t know anymore if writing this music will save me, or kill me. But at least it was always honest“. These few words contain everything you need to understand.

2021 – Century Media Records