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Ghosts of Loss has always struck me as a unique entity in the discography of Swallow the Sun. Of course every album has its own feeling and is its own entity, however there is just a certain something to this record. While I must admit this is probably the album I listen to the least from this melodic death/doom band, that is by no means a negative comment towards it or the band. This is a very strong album and a worthy follow up to the much loved debut The Morning Never Came.
Atmosphere is definitely a word that I would use to describe Ghosts of Loss and the songs contained within it. While the genre is supposed to be on the gloomier and darker side of life, there is a certain level of bleakness that is captured here that Swallow the Sun’s other albums have not reached before or since. The songs feel longer and sadder and while there are plenty of melodic sections, even those feel darker than usual. Parts like the instrumental interlude of The Ship and the long beginning of Gloom, Beauty and Despair showcase this ethereal feeling. The songs overall show a varied range. The Giant is a twisting and turning epic that opens the album. Descending Winters is a little more upbeat in tempo and Psychopath’s Lair hammers you with its groovy main riff. The majority of the remainder is full out melancholic doom, and they are mostly done extremely well. Ghost of Laura Palmer is perhaps the weakest track here but even that one grew on me after a while. Worth noting is the way the last three songs flow together, further adding to the grandiose epic feeling of the album.
Another reason this album has a more desolate feel is due to the production. The distorted guitars and bass have a drier feel to them compared to their other albums. The clean guitars have a wonderful tone as well. I really commend guitarists Juha Raivio and Markus Jamsen for the knowledge and skill in acquiring quality guitar tones. They always deliver sounds that help take the music a step higher.
I can see this album being a bit of a hit or miss for listeners but if you enjoy this gloomy style of death/doom I would absolutely give this album a try. It’s best taken in with quality headphones, listening to it front to back and soaking in all the things the music is presenting. It’s a grand feeling and one that Swallow the Sun always knows how to deliver.
Swallow the Sun has often been dismissed as a commercial band by its detractors, what rather surprised me the first time I heard this release. Of course I later got The Morning Never Came and, though I overall enjoyed it, the reasons why this Finnish sextet sometimes receives negative feedback became quite evident. However let’s give it credit for having switched from an upbeat, keyboard-laden debut to a gloomier, less audience-friendly, more intimate style, while most bands usually evolve the opposite way. Indeed, saying Ghosts of Loss isn’t funny would still sound like a euphemism.
I won’t pretend Swallow the Sun’s probably most interesting release is a masterpiece by any mean though. In the realm of intensely crushing but still highly melodic doom, Draconian’s Arcane Rain Fell is a summit very unlikely to be reached again – not even by Draconian themselves I’m afraid, but that’s another point. Granted, the production here is perfect: it’s just as oppressive as doom can be, slightly misty, with the electric guitars sounding thick and the occasional acoustic ones chilly, while the keyboards have been largely turned down compared to the previous album. But the songwriting just appears a tad too formulaic and, I’m afraid I’ll have to say it, slightly boring. Juha Raivio undoubtedly knows his scales, but he still lacks this little something which can’t be transmitted by anyone – genius. The most attention-catching track is, probably not surprisingly, the only one reminding of The Morning Never Came: the faster Descending Winters. Amongst all these slow monsters it appears like both an intruder and a breath of fresh air.
But again, the true qualities of this opus are elsewhere. As its title suggests it The Giant is, well, HUGE. Of course the formula is nothing really novel: it opens gently on highly melodic acoustic guitars and clean vocals before suddenly exploding in all its doom might and glory as a superb opening to the whole album. The comparison with My Dying Bride circa The Dreadful Hours could be hardly escaped, and let’s admit The Dreadful Hours is more thoughtful, but there’s no need to be picky. However, trying to replay a successful trick has always appeared like a dangerous exercise, and with Gloom Beauty and Despair the band just failed it. While the crystalline acoustic intro of The Giant sounds disturbing, beginning a song by a three minutes long intro (more than one third of the track!) exclusively consisting in whispers and muffled down guitars is a perfect nonsense. Whatever the intrinsic musical qualities of the following song might be, and this one isn’t even particularly remarkable to begin with, such an opening would render it worthless for anyone. The doom lover may usually be patient, but too much is too much.
There’s no need to detail most of the tracks. Once The Giant has set the tone for the entire album, everything else saved Descending Winters is little more than variations around the same theme. Of course it may still be differentiated between a consistent, leaden track like Psychopath’s Lair and the pretty vapid Fragile, probably the weakest moment here. Of course the growls become rather monotonous after a while. Still as most albums supported by a carefully built atmosphere, this one deserves to be listened to as a whole and not as a series of individuals that, again, aren’t the most remarkable ever. I couldn’t prevent myself from singling out Ghost of Laura Palmer though, if only for the fact I haven’t seen it mentioned elsewhere while it might well be both the darkest and the best of the eight songs – indeed, better than the well-known Giant. Yes, the title is totally cretin, but after all little more than any other (Forgive Her? Gloom Beauty and Despair? Psychopath’s Lair?) and since when do you judge the book by its cover I may ask. Just realize that while some tracks seem to like a bit of structure or substance the main riff here is as elementary as HEAVY, I mean one thousand pounds heavy as every good doom has to be, and that it’s just the most obsessive, creepy track of the whole album, the culmination of what I called the act’s intimate work.
I wouldn’t say it’s indispensable to get an album from Swallow the Sun. But if you have to get one, more than the a tad overrated The Morning Never Came, Ghosts of Loss should be the way to go. It might not be their most attractive at first glance (well, it has boobs on the cover though, that’s never negligible), but probably their most sincere.
Highlights: The Giant, Descending Winters, Psychopath’s Lair, Ghost of Laura Palmer
I run into Swallow the Sun when I started to get into Finnish Metal scene.
"Ghost Of Loss" is the second full length album. The first album "The Morning Never Came" was a bit more up tempo and had no funeral doom metal influences. "Ghost Of Loss" is the same dark music, but a bit slower and has slight funeral influences.
Swallow the Sun writes powerful, and emotional and melodic music, using elements of doom metal, melodic death metal, and funeral doom metal. The structure of songs is very epic. They try to captivate you with heavy riffs, atmospheric keyboards, and dark melodies. Vocals are fucking powerful as well. Vocalist has quality clean voice, and deep sinister death metal voice, which is perfectly balanced throughout the songs. Album has no weak songs, however, the most powerful for my ears were: Descending Winters, Psychopath Lair (sinister fucking riffs and cool keyboards), and Fragile (dark and beautiful song). The only weakness is the luck of real guitar solos. In my opinion few real guitar solos would add elegance for songs. Also, the funeral doom metal sections were a little bit boring and too long. But it depends on the listener. I just do not enjoy funeral doom metal too much. Overall, I would recommend this album for people, who like death metal, doom metal, melodic death metal.
I discovered Swallow the Sun for the first time when visiting a local library. I checked out shelves that contained some metal albums and picked out StS's first album, The Morning Never Came. I listened to it and I loved it. When I heard that they were going to release a second album soon, I had quite high hopes for it. I still don't know if they were fulfilled.
Three first songs, including the massive opener The Giant, the video song Descending Winters and my favorite of the album, Psychopath's Lair, are the strongest efforts on this album. On the first song singer Mikko Kotamäki proves that he can do decent clean vocals also and that his growls are deep enough. I don't know why, but I just love this guys growling. The video song Descending Winters is a nice piece of doom and includes nice melodies and tight riffing. Second best song of the album, while the next song Psychopath's Lair is the best. It's the shortest song on the album (5:11), but it is long enough to be a variable song. I just love the main riff. This one is the shiner of this album.
Unfortunately rest of the songs can't hold into the quality of the first three songs. I can tell you that, since I have never been able to tell one song of another after listening to the album. These songs have of course some good parts, but I really can't listen to them without boredom. Someone else might enjoy them, but I don't.
I can't recommend this unreservedly, the first three songs are good, with Descending Winters and Psychopath's Lair being extremely good songs, but the rest of the album always nearly lulls me to sleep. Listen to some song samples on their homepages if you are interested.