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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