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I've Heard Better - 72%

ian_w, November 5th, 2007

Finland’s Swallow The Sun have been a Doom favorite ever since the release of their lauded The Morning Never Came and Ghosts Of Loss has long been a personal favorite of mine as well, so when I tracked down a copy of their 2007 full-length Hope, I was excited. However, my excitement abated when I realized that they hadn’t begun to top the previous two albums.

Swallow The Sun play a melodic death/doom mix that has recently been gaining popularity within the metal scene and to their credit, they play it very well. They go back and forth between monstrous riffs and clean interludes regularly, giving each song its own feel and pacing, which in Doom is always a boon. The keyboards take less precedence on this album than their previous efforts, which is truly a shame as my favorite part of this band has always been their atmospheres. Few are as good as keyboardist Aleksi Munter at creating an overwhelming feeling of dread and despair through the use of his ethereal progressions. The guitarists also deserve a mention on this album, because they are one of the few elements that seem to be stepped up on a large scale. Both Juha and Markus trade off leads seamlessly and keep things interesting. The melodies are very dominate, but too often resort to the same minor harmonics and other painful clichés in any sort of melodic metal.

My biggest complaint with Hope is the vocals. Gone are the overwhelming guttural roars and raspy screams laden with desperation. Vocalist Mikko seems very subdued in his delivery and it sounds rather routine. The drumming is also a step down from their previous works, although that is most likely a product of the wimpy production this disc received. Doom needs to be bass heavy, and yet the entire bottom section seems to be missing. Older Swallow The Sun would make me jump when the heavy parts thundered in, but Hope doesn’t follow suit.

The lyrics are still as morbid as ever, with the predominate theme being love lost. The vocal delivery, as lackluster as it is, is still well timed within the context of the song and at times feels like another method of percussion. But again, due to a lack of punch and conviction, what could have been a major highlight for Hope merely makes an interesting side note.

Overall, this is decent effort, but as I and many of their fans know, Swallow The Sun is more than capable of topping Ghosts Of Loss. Hopefully with their next effort, they take the time to work out production issues and bring back those factors that made them one of my favorite melodic Doom bands.