Soaring, epic, elegant doom metal

Emerald Forest


Swallow the Sun

“Emerald Forest and the the Blackbird”


One of the most interesting aspects of being into music is suddenly finding yourself immersed in a genre you may never have gone anywhere near previously.

Most of us here are musical inquisitives I guess.

We like to be challenged and are constantly on the look-out for new music to seek out.

I liken this search to many of my trail runs out on my Pennine doorstop.

A labyrinthian web of dead ends, marvellous open valleys, mist-shrouded mountains, tracks twisting round tortuous cliff-edges, sheep-trods leading to vast open moorlands – this is how I visualise my own journey through the musical vista. The scenery constantly changes, a steady run on a gentle track can suddenly turn into a monstrous climb with leg-sapping rocks, roots and sheer cliff edges …..

This is how I’ve come to enjoy a genre I never thought I would.

Running along that relatively gentle path, listening to quality metal such as Riverside, Dream Theater, Haken and Headspace for example, led on to other bands such as Enochian Theory where, on their stunning album “Life … and all it Entails” a few death/doom metal growls are subtly introduced, cleverly and almost delicately.

These fit the music perfectly and made me go back to Opeth’s “Blackwater Park” to re-discover this fine album, growls and all.

Then I was put on to an English Band called Twilight’s Embrace who have released two stunning EP’s – “Reflections” and “Traces” – which are tight, immaculately played minor miracles with not a single note wasted.

As usual, a good few twitter conversations followed with my ‘metal guru’, Matt Spall (@ManofMuchMetal) and he suggested a Finnish band called Swallow the Sun.  Matt is obviously adept at spotting tastes and trends in other people and he suggested I listen to their “Emerald Forest and the Blackbird” album thinking I would enjoy it.

Some albums need a few listens to, some albums grab you by the throat, others you could quite happily never listen to again.

This one fell into a new category : the ‘wtf’ category.

I like my music with a cinematic scope, with an atmosphere and feel that could quite easily carry a whole movie. One of my favourite and totally unconnected artists, is Craig Armstrong. This Scottish composer has produced some stunning work that is widely used in commercials and film soundtracks. It can often be heard tinkling away in documentary backgrounds but stands proud as music for music’s sake. I highly recommend Armstrong’s “The Space Between Us”.  Sigur Ros are another band who straddle the music, art and film worlds with their ethereal soundscapes.

In a similar way, Swallow the Sun are the soundtrack to Lord of the Rings, to the mighty battles for Middle Earth, to heavy medieval swords, to monstrous fog-laden valleys and to dark forbidding Scandinavian skies.

Track titles such as “Cathedral Walls”, “Silent Towers” and “Labyrinth of London” suggest a grand scope to this music and that is certainly what you get.

Multi-layered guitars, powerful riffs, beautiful keyboards, pneumatic percussion, heavy growled vocals interspersed with clean vocals – it’s all there in a huge, and sometimes overwhelming, sound that is simply epic in it’s vision and execution.

The key to their style is, I believe, the melody and harmonies they employ with the instruments rather than the vocals.  Yes, the growling can be hard to take at first but give it time and a few listens then suddenly the vocal style simply becomes a part of the overall sound and it is soon hard to avoid the sublime melodies soaring all around the generally Gothic vibe.

Another essential aspect to the Swallow the Sun sound is the tempo. It is not frantic, there is a calmness (despite the hell being unleashed) and an elegance to their compositions that is common in many Scandinavian bands. Airbag, Gazpacho, Leaves and Lorien are all bands from this part of the world who allow time and space into their recordings unlike anywhere else in the world.

Matt has also recommended other bands to discover in this doom/death or whatever you want to call it scene that are similarly dramatic. Bands with names such as Omnium Gatherum, The Foreshadowing and In Mourning hint at further delights to delve into.

But for the time being, Swallow the Sun are my new favourites in this genre and I would recommend them to anyone looking for elegant, soaring, epic doom metal …………


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