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Sadness And Stuff - 81%

GuntherTheUndying, November 26th, 2012

I must admit, these Finns definitely know how to make one sad. It is of little surprise, of course, that Swallow The Sun's insignia of melodic doom/death metal quickly shot the band to the forefront of their musical alcove within just a few years. Some may call "Emerald Forest and the Blackbird" a towering magnum opus, or perhaps a creative descent akin to the backsliding interests of a disheartened soul struggling to break free from the tentacles of reality, but it's a Swallow The Sun album above all else. The girth within "Emerald Forest and the Blackbird" is surprisingly fertile and innovative; the band has a clear grasp on advanced songwriting techniques and the dark atmosphere needed to capture the whole picture of Swallow The Sun's method. A harrowing release touching a variety of angles at its best and an entertaining listen at its lowest points, I really can't protest the work of these doom/death metal harbingers.

Everything here is remarkably fresh. I mean, a staggering number of the anthems retrace the same formula that widely represents most of "Emerald Forest and the Blackbird," perhaps even most of Swallow The Sun’s discography, really. Needless to say, Swallow The Sun is still Swallow The Sun, and you can expect all the melodic passages, all the shearing doom sections, all the clean vocals, all the harsh vocals, and all the mournful despair compactly rolled up in that signature ball of Finnish grief. The interesting thing about Swallow The Sun is that they always keep the emotional atmosphere negative and daunting, but through a variety of musical mediums. For example, the whooping title track runs in a dramatic turn of events, quickly swaying from harsh, violent passages to mournful sections utilizing clean vocals and mighty atmosphere. They surprisingly have a lot of creativity hiding out in the record’s many chambers.

The second song, "This Cut is the Deepest" is an acoustic rocker leaning towards the Katatonia spectrum of depressing rock, and it lacks harsh vocals or aggression, making it the purest Swallow The Sun tune around. Very effective and powerful track if I may say so. They quickly counter the subdued semblance with "Hate, Lead The Way," which is easily one of the most intense and brutal songs they've ever penned. We're all about extremes now, is that it? Anette Olzon Blyckert, former Nightwish vocalist, makes a credible cameo on "Cathedral Walls." Not big on Nightwish, but her voice is an elegant addition to the somber instrumentation. The rest of the package churns out adequate pieces ranging from acceptable to downright sensational; they've done no ball-dropping here.

All in all, an album from Swallow The Sun which perfectly sums up everything they have to say in an artistic manner is the only absolute truth regarding "Emerald Forest and the Blackbird." Maybe some of the sonnets aren't up to previous works, but they've still forged songs like "Hate, Lead The Way" or "This Cut is the Deepest" which provoke vast amounts of emotional color and atmosphere. That's the point of mournful music like this, right? If so, Swallow The Sun, pat yourselves on the back; you've earned it. If not, cherish "Emerald Forest and the Blackbird" for its balancing act between musical hatred and heartbreak, never discoloring the sadness that gave life to both.

This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com

Can't get enough! - 95%

Immortally_Insane, October 21st, 2012

Twelve years ago a mighty force of death and doom metal joined the massive list of Finnish metal bands to grace the world with their beautiful music. Swallow the Sun has released a total of five full length albums over the years, with their most recent being Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, released in February of this year. This album is a masterpiece of beautiful, droning and flowing melodic doom metal, with some death metal elements tossed in to create quite the delicious recipe for an album.

The album begins with an amazing ten minute long song, the title track for the album, “Emerald Forest and the Blackbird”. When I first played this album I could not resist this track. I spent nearly an hour focusing on this song, putting it on repeat and just relaxing. It’s got a great blend of spoken vocals and hard-hitting music, with moments of relapse and a hypnotic woman’s voice cooing in the background. Out of nowhere it explodes into harsh vocals, hard and heavy drums, and great string manipulation that manages to give me chills each time I hear it. This track is a great opener to define the direction of the album that follows.

“Hate, Lead the Way” is a heavier track on the album with harsh vocals, faster drums and guitar work, yet maintains a heavy focus on the keyboard work, making this song a great blend of styles. “In this place we all die alone.” A bold statement is made with this song both lyrically and musically and the band should really be proud of this sound they’ve ended up with here. It’s extremely unique and quite the pleasant listen all around.

Anette Olzon Blyckert, best known for her work as the more recent vocalist of Nightwish sings on track four, “Cathedral Walls”. I have never really liked her for the previously mentioned band, but with this tone of music, and singing alongside Mikko Kotamäki seems to be her element. This song is astoundingly beautiful, and both vocal styles really stand out. I can’t get over how talented Mikko is, with the ability to sing me to sleep then pull off a traditional death metal vocal style so flawlessly is such a rare find. This amazing ability can also be found in “Labyrinth of London”, a song that bounces back and forth from heavy to droning while maintaining its composure as a single sound quite well.

To sum things up here, this band has yet to disappoint. As an avid fan of all of their albums this one is quickly becoming my favorite and definitely most played. The softer elements, like the clean vocals and female singing, really put forth the true emotion behind each and every track. Even the heavier songs have a way of speaking to you that I haven’t quite experienced from another doom metal band. I am absolutely looking forward to where they go from here because I cannot seem to get enough of Swallow the Sun.

[Originally written for metalholic.com]

Diminished Fifth - 70%

Papyrus11, April 4th, 2012

Disappointment? A subject that doom metal bands may write about, but it shouldn’t be felt by the listener about the music itself. But that’s exactly what happened when I first listened to Swallow the Sun’s fifth album. More specifically I thought ‘what happened?’

Just to make it clear, I don’t think this album is a complete flop it’s just not as good as albums they’ve put out before. My main concern is that it’s just too damn soft in places. Take the second song on the album ‘This Cut Is The Deepest’ for example. Clean vocals only, acoustic guitars and a melodic, flowing, heavy-ish kind of atmosphere. It sounds a bit like where they were going with the ‘New Moon’ song from the last album, but where that song had a strong, catchy and emotional chorus this song just floats around never really going anywhere with no hooks to speak of. This is similar to the opening epic title track that is a bit of a formless mess; its quiet moments mixed with heaviness just don’t seem to hit home like this band’s prior songs. Opening with two duds is a serious problem for this album, and the cause of my initial concern on first listen.

Luckily the third track picks things up: Hate, Lead the Way is a vicious song, with black metal style vocals and a churning melodic structure mixed with heavy guitars – a classic STS track basically and the best song on the album. Interestingly the shorter songs seem to be the best on this album – maybe STS want to head in a Katatonia type direction and make their sound more accessible. A song like ‘Cathedral Walls’ with its additional vocals from the Nightwish singer could suggest this, but I don’t know how well STS would fare without their heavy doom moments, stripped down to rock song type structures and vocals. Not well, I think. The track ‘Labyrinth of London’ proves that STS can still write brilliant mini-epics, equal parts extreme and lushly melodic, showing that in writing this type of song is where their strengths really lie.

Additionally, the vocals of Mikko Kotamaki are brilliant, as usual. He has always been one of STS’s key assets due to his mastery of multiple styles and voices; he alternatively uses monstrous death vocals, raspy black ones and clean singing and in doing so adds a lot of unique characters to the songs. The guitars, bass and drums are all fine and well played, creating the cavernous heaviness, but it’s the keyboards that really push things forward, making the songs sound huge with STS’s trademark melodic doom sound.

It pains me to have to give a Swallow the Sun album a less than amazing score, because I am a huge fan, but ‘Emerald Forest and the Blackbird’ just isn’t up there with their best work. It has some good songs and some poor ones but overall it is their slightly softer and more ethereal sound that trips them up. That’s a matter of opinion of course, some will love it, but to someone new to the band I would say forget this album and look to their back catalogue for some much better stuff. I personally will hope for some greater work from this normally amazing band in the future.

Originally written for: http://hauntingtheobscure.blogspot.co.uk/

A Change in Direction for the Band. - 95%

stallan, March 17th, 2012

Emerald Forest and the Blackbird is the fifth full length album from Finnish melodic death/doom metal band Swallow the Sun. There are 10 songs here, totaling about 67 minutes. It is an album that will surely divide fans, as overall this is quite the departure from previous works. Some will call this a sellout album, the songs are mainstream sounding, or something along those lines. But if you keep an open mind, there is plenty to enjoy. If you are like me, you may find this album to be just as epic as their other records.

This is the band’s most melodic outing. There are acoustic guitars, 3 songs with female vocals, and most songs contain a lot of clean/acoustic guitar playing with Mikko Kotamaki singing as opposed to growling/screaming. A prime example of the new sound is the ballad This Cut is the Deepest. That is not to say that the trademark heaviness is not to be found however. Even the black metal influences that first appeared on New Moon have returned, i.e.- Hate, Lead the Way. Overall the songs contain a mix of the two sounds, for instance Of Death and Corruption, a song with clean verses and heavy choruses (as a side note, that song contains a really ripping guitar solo).

Featured on two songs is Aleah Stanbridge, who previously sang on Lights on the Lake (she has a side project with Juha Raivio called Trees of Eternity. Good stuff, check it out). She provides a vocal melody for the opening song, which is the title track. In my opinion one of the best songs on the album, it flows from one section to another to create an epic masterpiece. The other is the fourth part in the Horror series, a song called Labyrinth of London. She sings the chorus with Mikko. It is quite different than the other parts of the saga, and is a very solid track. The other guest is Anette Olzon, of Nightwish. She provides the chorus on Cathedral Walls, the first single. She gives a beautiful performance. The song was an excellent choice, as it is a good example of all the elements found on the album.

In terms of the sound, the production is stellar, overall clean/bright sounding. Every instrument has a clear tone and a good place in the mix (one could argue the bass’ presence, but that is a debate for every album ever made). The guitars have their usual (by that I mean awesome) crunchy distortion and clean tones. The acoustic guitars have a rich sound. Kai Hahto uses his new Pearl Reference Pure drum kit, and it sounds superb, as do the cymbals. The keyboards are amongst the best sounding I’ve heard from Aleksi Munter.

For performances, everyone puts out their A game. The standout member being Mikko. His singing is really strong here. And of course his extreme vocals are as good as ever. Aleksi tries some new stuff with his keyboard work, and it sounds excellent.

The album cover and cd booklet art are good. I really dig the illustrations and colour schemes. There aren’t any pictures of the band members though.

To summarize, Swallow the Sun went in a new direction here and succeeded, thanks to the always genius songwriting and some really good performances. Metallica and Morbid Angel could learn a lesson from these guys. My only complaint with the album is that the lyrics aren’t quite as good as previous albums, but otherwise, this is brilliant stuff. I can’t stop listening to it.

Sour. - 49%

Andromeda_Unchained, March 15th, 2012

Swallow the Sun's fifth full-length Emerald Forest and the Blackbird has come to me as an unfortunate disappointment. It's always a shame to see a band you've come to love and respect fumble, and it pains me to see one of the finest melodic death/doom metal bands to release something so... boring.

I know Swallow the Sun have always been drawn out and in the past it has always been to their benefit, however here the band seem all too content to meander through softer acoustic guitar passages, and Mikko Kotamäki is all too happy to utilize his clean range, which while accomplished is featured way more prominently than before. It honestly feels like Swallow the Sun are trying to be more like My Dying Bride here, and to be frank, if I want to listen to MDB, I will.

The fact of the matter is, I look to Swallow the Sun for suffocating Finnish death/doom and with the exception of "Labyrinth Of London (Horror Pt. IV)" they don't offer much of what made them so special. I can understand the band trying to branch out, but this is just too much. Fuck, I wouldn't begrudge the band pushing out to new frontiers if it was demanding of my attention, but this is just so meandering, and almost crawling to the point of oblique.

Emerald Forest and the Blackbird is well played, and I'm sure the absolute die-hard STS fans will find something special, but for me this just doesn't cut it. The album lacks cohesion, and a lot of the songs could be trimmed to better effect. For something so long and drawn out there isn't much to Emerald Forest... I could live with that if there were some cool crushing riffs to leave me dangling, but I just can't establish any sort of relationship with the music here. Stale, sterile, I hope this is just a misfire, as I would hate to see Swallow the Sun become an absolute snooze fest of a band. Poor form, guys.

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com

A watered down Emerald Forest - 65%

ArcaneForest, March 4th, 2012

Swallow the Sun has consistently put out great albums and eps since 2003. After New Moon, it has been three years since Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, and what a letdown it is. Is this a "concept" album? Or an attempt at one combining various songs without direction thrown together? I believe the latter.

The title track is a roughly 10 minute watered down song that sounds like it was left on the floor from the New Moon sessions hat wasn't good enough to make it there. It is in typical Swallow the Sun style, i.e. deep growls combined with melody and heavy parts, to soft/clean vocals, bridging of verses and choruses, repeat. This style has worked well for them and they were among the best at it...until this album. The rest of the album follows much of the same pattern and becomes very predictable and just downright boring in all honesty.

This album also includes a fourth sequel or continuation of songs known as "Horror". The first being Swallow (Horror pt. 1) from the album The Morning Never Came. The song on this album is titled Labyrinth of London (Horror pt. 4). The lyrics are straight from a Jack the Ripper story. Bland, nothing new, and the music coincides with the same dullness. It is a disappointment that this song be included with the three great previous ones. It does not belong or do justice to the emotions and the continuation. Swallow the Sun should have stopped with Lights On the Lake (Horror pt. 3) from the New Moon album.

Of course, this album is released on limited edition vinyl, as is becoming the trend. A white edition and green edition, both of which so far only available to order from Finland. Don't waste your money on the vinyl, let alone the cd version. Maybe in another 3 years they will put out a decent album.

Swallow The Sun - Emerald Forest and the Blackbird - 90%

lordazmolozmodial, February 20th, 2012

The Finnish melodic deathdoom metal band "Swallow The Sun" is tainting all the walls of the doomdeath metal scene with the new record "Emerald Forest and the Blackbird". This album is a total aggression and depression eclipse, the existing of life is fully obscured by the aggression and the charming compositions and performance, The album is a cryptic poem and the members used their instruments to write its words and the vocals declare every word perfectly, absolute gloom of sixty-five minutes are enough to steal you from your world and get you trapped within this epic poem.

This is the fifth studio album after the successful releases (The Morning Never Came, Ghosts of Loss, Hope, and New Moon), a new direction has been made by the band with this record, and this release features guest vocals by Nightwish vocalist Anette Olzen, and she has done a great job in the track "Cathedral Walls" that has been released with a music video in the beginning of 2012. The artwork shows a Emerald eye surrounded by black feathers, with a scene of forest inside the eyes and with some taints around the whole figure.

The album opens its door with the track "Emerald Forest And The Blackbird" that contains a huge size of fast and slow riffs, this track features guest vocals by Aleah Stanbridge (she also did guest vocals on "Lights on the Lake (Horror pt. 3) from the album New Moon), many passages of clean vocals parts and halls of aggressive harsh and vocals you will cross while listening to this track, Kai Hahto on drums did great efforts by making the drum line capturing the violence of guitar sounds, about ten minutes of a fascinating carnival ends with an acoustic guitar section by Juha Raivio. The using of the spoken vocals in the beginning of the song evokes many touching feelings and it also gives a good prediction about the direction of the whole song, the chantings of Aleah Stanbridge behind the spoken vocals and behind the total sound added more angelic sense to this amazing track. The song "This Cut Is The Deepest" is my favorite track title in this album, this track is one of the softest tracks in this record because it didn't contain any harsh or growling vocals, only clean and spoken vocals filled the atmosphere of the song. The track starts with a Strumming Guitar section, and as the clean vocals of Mikko Kotamaki sink deeper into this deep song, a vital bass work by Matti Honkonen appeared to complete the sound of the drums beat. Many feelings can be felt When the distorted guitars appear to add grimness to the structure of the total sound, and the lead guitar work completed this beautiful work with some fascinating melodies, making this song one of my favorite in this album.

The track "Hate, Lead The Way" is a violent piece of art, this song shows darker style and more aggressive direction than the other songs in this album, the amazing vocals work that Mikko Kotamaki has done in the Finnish black metal band (Alghazanth) has been summoned once again in this track, six minutes of roughness melted in a doomy taste, the guitar riffs cover the encircled drums-beats utterly fiercely, creating one of the darkest track for Swallow The Sun. The fourth song is "Cathedral walls", the majestic performance in this track speaks a million words, the delicious taste of depression and roughness is used here to write one hell of a song, every single melody in this song is a long story of flooding despair and hopeless life. Anette Olzon and her angelic voice was the completeness of this song, her melodic vocals range helped to beautify the performance of the band. The song "Hearts Wide Shut" faces its birth with a soft acoustic guitar section that has been followed by a slow drums beat and an essential bass line, and a lead guitar enters the field to make this song similar to the previous song, making this song "Cathedral walls part two", but this song has more vital melodic keyboards work by Aleksi Munter. The song "Silent Towers" is the shortest track in this record with only four minutes of length, more melodic clean vocals has been done by Mikko and the composition of this track reminds me of the Swedish band "Katatonia".

Labyrinth Of London (Horror Pt. IV) is the fourth piece of the conceptual musical story "Horror" after the three tracks "Lights on the Lake", "Don't Fall Asleep" and "Swallow" from the previous albums. The song is drenched in thrilling melodies, a huge size of melodies are contained in this track and the band performed this song in a very talented way making it a highlight song, you will lose yourself easily inside this track as the keyboards work and the guitars are unveiling your anticipation. The song "Of Death And Corruption" starts with a growl and a charming mid-paced guitar riffs, and suddenly everything fades into the clean vocals of Mikko, and the growling starts after the end of the part with a very mighty keyboards work, this song contains a great lead guitar works and a guitar solo before the ending of the song. The track "April 14th" shows more main role for the drums and the keyboards, Kai Hahto (who also plays now with Wintersun) is one of the winning cards in this record because his work was really flawless and mighty, the spoken vocals parts in this song reminds me a lot of the English band "My Dying Bride", and the clean vocals also reminds me of "Katatonia", so this song is simply a mixture for two of the greatest doom metal acts in the history of the metal music. The final song in this record is "Night Will Forgive Us" and it presents a fantastic variations of styles, the using the acoustic guitar sections and the distorted guitars and the cleanharsh vocals added this song to the same category of the other songs in this album. The general beautiful taste of Swallow The Sun remains constant until this track, no one single average track can be glanced in this record.

This album is a huge musical work, it's definitely one of the best doomdeath metal albums of all time, If you are a fan for this kind of music then this album must be capturing the first place on your library, and If you are not a fan for the doomdeath metal world then this album can be your gate to enter, this is truly one of the most professional metal albums.

Composition: 10/10
Production: 10/10
Level Of Originality : 8/10
Level Of Ferocity: 8/10

Originally written for:
http://www.jorzine.com