I’ve been aware of Swallow The Sun for a number of years but like Dark Tranquility, I’d not really paid much attention to them. I’d listened to their albums through a few times but for some odd reason I’d never investigated the band further. It was only after visiting Network Rail’s archives with a fellow archivist who is from Finland mentioned about them that I decided to take another proper listen. In short, the fellow archivist knew my musical tastes well. But enough about when I realised how small the world is and onto the album in question.
As has been alluded to in some of the information released by the band, this album is deeply personal for guitarist Juha Raivio. Juha’s partner tragically passed away a few years ago and as such the album was inspired by that experience and is in some ways dedicated to her. The mood of the album is incredibly sombre and rather dark in places with the instrumentation working in harmony to create striking atmospheres and musical experiences.
The title track of the album opens proceedings with the former statement being reflected most prominently in the transition from clean to harsh vocals in the choruses. Overdriven guitar riffs and slow yet driving drums dominate when needed but drop back into the void when no longer required. On the topic of guitars, whilst I don’t know if Juho Räihä contributed to the album, he is a new member and expect to see the Gloria Morti and former Before the Dawn guitarist live with the band.”The Crimson Crown” follows and is one of my favourite tracks on the album. With the exceptional layering of vocal melodies in the choruses and a natural flow to it, the track is a joy to listen to and one which I’ve had on repeat for a few days now.
What struck me about the album is the exceptional use of dynamics and certain sounds from instruments to create differing atmospheres which can both blend into another and collide. One of the most notable moments is during “Upon the Water” when the track slows and fades to just a drum pattern before the overdriven guitars and harsh vocals slide in to bring the heaviness. “Clouds on your side” again showcases the dynamics but also adds in a string backing melody at points to further accentuate the calm before the storm.
Ending the album, “Never Left” brings all of the atmospheres and instruments that were present before into one final sorrow filled song. With its minor chord patterns and the phrase “like you never left” being repeated in the latter half of the track, it is easily the most sombre track on the album and is actually quite sad when reflecting on the back story to the album.
That’s not everything though, as the band also released the behemoth of a track that is “Lumina Aurea”. Released on the winter solstice, the near 14 minute track is totally different to the album which came after it. Featuring Einar Selvik from Wardruna on the Bukkehorn, the track is a dark monstrosity that is not easy to listen to. This pales in comparison however to the creation of the track by Raivio whom states that “Lumina Aurea”: “is a song I would never want to write in my life.”
With both of these releases, the band has created two very different entities. One of them is a somewhat hopeful album with incredible instrumentation and changing atmospheres. The other is a 14 minute monster of deep sorrow and sadness. Yet, in both they have been able to create fantastic pieces of music which further cement their status as one of the best bands to come out of Finland in recent years. When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light is nothing short of a pure joy to listen to and I thoroughly look forward to hopefully catching the band in a live situation soon.
When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light is released on January 25th via Century Media Records