Album Review: Swallow the Sun – Songs From the North I, II & III

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Finland is known from some excellent bands including Wintersun, Ensiferum, and Children of Bodom, amongst many others. However, one of my absolute favorites out of the Finland area has to be Swallow the Sun. Let’s just say I have a thing for Progressive Metal and Swallow the Sun is right on up there with Opeth in my books. Those are such strong words, I know, many Opeth fans  are probably scoffing at this right now. Those fans probably haven’t really given Swallow the Sun a solid listen. I discovered Swallow the Sun back in 2003 when I was visiting family in New York. I was scrounging through the  metal aisles of the Virgin record store in Times Square. To be fair, I had seen their name before on random music sites from back in that time period, but never their albums for sale (why you shouldn’t rely on Best Buy for music all the time). Upon finding that and a few other rarities I made sure to buy them, as I wasn’t sure when I would find these records anywhere else. To this day, I am still glad I bought that album as I have bought every album since then upon release.

A few short months ago, Swallow the Sun announced that not only would they be releasing a new album this year, but that the album itself would be  a triple album. . . Can you believe it, a triple fucking album!! Most of the time we have to wait years to get an albums worth of music out of the bands we love, let alone three. Songs of the North is taken in three steps, as announced by the band over the course of the next few weeks. The first album Songs From the North I is to follow their footsteps as a nice Progressive Metal album with clean and Death Metal vocal styles. It wasn’t long into the first album that I could tell this whole album was something special for the band. Probably one of my favorite songs on the first album is the second track ’10 Silver Bullets’ followed closely by the premiere track from the album ‘Heartstrings Shattering.’ SFTN pt.I has all the elements we already love about Swallow the Sun, this album should be a very easy listen for all their fans.

Songs From the North II takes a completely different route. Well not different from many of the other metal bands that have gone been out for a while, this album is completely acoustic. Full of beautiful melodies, unlike Opeth’s Damnation album which was really quite haunting sounding still. The band takes their music very seriously and if its proven anywhere in their entire catalogue it would be on this album. It is easy for a metal band to knock out a metal album, throw them a curve ball and it might not be as simple. SFTN pt.II captures Swallow the Sun at their weakest and makes them stronger. I have always said if you want to make a band stronger than they already are, take them outside their element. Look at Devin Townsend he is always pushing his boundaries and because of that his solo career has gotten him more accomplished than Strapping Young Lad did. While yes SYL was a beast of a machine, his solo career allowed him to try Folk, Euro Pop, Acoustic, etc. Point being, when a band expands they not only do they grow as musicians, but it opens new doors to them that might not have been there before (keeps them from going stale *cough* SLAYER *cough*). If I had to choose a favorite off this album (all the tracks are fucking awesome), it would more than likely be the song ‘Pray for Winds to Come.’ I don’t know what it is about the song, but every time it comes on I get chills. Songs From the North II is a great chill album to help you get your mind off things for a while.

Songs From the North III, is their experimental album and at a whole opposite end of the spectrum of Songs From the North II. This album is for all you Doom Metal heads out there. I can’t see this as a stretch from their regular sound, however they do a phenomenal job on this album. It is brooding, vicious and just downright heavy as fuck. With most of the songs clocking in at about 10+ minutes its safe to say there is no turning back on this album, once you start the dark journey of SFTN pt.III you have to finish it. I must say, I have only dabbled in Doom Metal, up until recently have I really branched out and started appreciating it more. I had always liked bands like Draconian, Ahab, Novembers Doom and bands like that. But it took seeing local doom act Fister live a few times to really appreciate it. The songs are long and spaced out unlike a Progressive Death Metal song that always has something happening throughout the song and that can take some getting used to. Listening to this album I can assure you that if you are into the Doom Metal scene you will not be disappointed by this album. I would tell you which song is my favorite but I have been listening to this album for almost 20 minutes and am only halfway through song two, haha. I would love to see these songs particularly played live, I think a set of just this album would be mind blowing, only to be followed up by another set of the rest of their music.

Rating: 5/5 (No doubts about it, this has something for everyone)

RIYL: Opeth, Ne Obliviscaris, Anathema, Ahab, Fister, Yob

Track Listing:

CD 1
Track list Total runtime
1 – With You Came the Whole of the World’s Tears 9:03
2 – 10 Silver Bullets 7:12
3 – Rooms and Shadows 7:20
4 – Heartstrings Shattering 7:46
5 – Silhouettes 5:56
6 – The Memory of Light 6:17
CD 2
Track list Total runtime
1 – The Womb of Winter 3:35
2 – The Heart of a Cold White Land 4:47
3 – Away 5:22
4 – Pray for the Winds to Come 5:28
5 – Songs from the North 5:16
6 – 66,50’N,28,40’E 6:42
CD 3
Track list Total runtime
1 – The Gathering of Black Moths 13:00
2 – 7 Hours Late 10:02
3 – Empires of Loneliness 11:02
4 – Abandoned by the Light 8:48
5 – The Clouds Prepare for Battle 9:05

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