1. Hope 2. These Hours of Despair 3. The Justice of Suffering 4. Don't Fall Asleep (Horror pt.2) 5. Too Cold for Tears 6. The Empty Skies 7. No Light, No Hope 8. Doomed to Walk the Earth
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, Swallow the Sun seemed utterly unremarkable and an unnecessary addendum to modern doom metal’s already cluttered ledger. And then one fateful day ‘Through Her Silvery Body’ happened to come on shuffle once again and its subtleties finally sank in. Finally given a fair shake and some time, Swallow the Sun revealed themselves to be a band with unique aspirations, talents, and methods. Most importantly, their sense of atmosphere was genuine; many doom (particularly melodic doom) bands today peddle rather generic reprisals of the doom archetype and convey not an ounce of its visceral immediacy in the process. Doom is an attractive genre to play for how simple it appears on paper, but it is rare that a band will adequately represent its proper spirit. And, although ‘Hope’ is hardly a repeat of ‘The Morning Never Came’s compelling strains, Swallow the Sun continue to prove that they understand the essence of doom metal as well as anyone in the business today.
Fundamentally, ‘Hope’ does continue many of the band’s established traditions: eight cuts of morose plodding; a run-time of approximately an hour; deliberately repetitive, massive guitar phrases supported by interspersed keyboard melodies; Mikko Kotamäki’s varied yet always somber vocals leading the way, etc. Fans of this Finnish sextet—who are still quite young at that—will undoubtedly find their fill and more here.
That being said, there are some notable developments on ‘Hope’ that may come as a surprise to older fans. For one, the band’s pace is dropping. This isn’t yet funeral doom, far from it, but after the first few tracks of their typically driven tempos, ‘Hope’ becomes downright ponderous, in its atmosphere, or vibe, as often as in literal beats per minute. For example, the lengthy centerpiece ‘Too Cold for Tears’ features both: relatively progressive passages dense with notes and a foot-dragging instrumental interlude that fades out almost entirely before a crescendo minutes later at the climax.
And at the same time, despite the downshift, Swallow the Sun will likely widen their fanbase with this release. ‘Hope’ showcases the band’s quickly maturing chemistry (technically as tight a doom outfit as there is) as well as their grasp of complex structures and composition that make even weaker songs like ‘Don't Fall Asleep’ impressive. The guest appearance of Jonas Renkse (Katatonia) also rubber stamps Swallow the Sun as a bone fide doom act and will likely help catch the eyes of more mainstream fans.
Another change on ‘Hope’ is the low gravely mumble that vocalist Mikko integrates into his already commendable repertoire. It is well suited to the strongly emotive atmosphere of these new songs, but hopefully he does not plan on employing it too frequently; his growls and clean vocals are both strong enough to rely on without playing down to the self-pity of mumbling. The first two tracks are resounding examples of his abilities (unfortunate mumbling included), where he conveys tremendous emotion with lines such as, “Crush my mouth, for it still sings praises to you” and the blunt but brutal, “Light, joy, hope, trust. All is lost.” Too, behind the kit, Pasi continues his tenure as one of Doom’s most unconventional drummers. Where many would simply pound out a lagging snare-kick-cymbal crash repeat, he rather employs the majority of his kit for legitimately ‘metal’ fills and invigorating beats that do much to give Swallow the Sun their distinctive flair.
Parts of ‘These Hours of Despair’—the shimmering female harmonies—do sound rather like an adaptation of Shape of Despair’s ‘Angels of Distress’, but the latter is such a monumental track that a few respectable derivations are welcome, this one no exception. And besides, Swallow the Sun have otherwise established themselves as an independent entity—inspired by their forebears but not obliged to them. Their gestation, both in the mind of an individual fan and as a developing band, has taken time but the reward has been worth the wait. By balancing traditional elegant nostalgia with modern-day aggressive forethought, Swallow the Sun connect the previous era of doom to our own and lay the groundwork for the generation to come.
Maximum Metal Rating Legend - Click for Full Details