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For the artwork for their hotly anticipated and extremely well-marketed third album, Swallow the Sun traded in the bust of a naked lady which adorned their previous effort for, of all things, a picture of a door knob. Sadly this transition from the tantalizing to the mundane also marked their music, which suddenly lost its solid death doom erection of yester-album and went embarrassingly droopy.
Having departed Firebox Records' gloomy roster to rub shoulders with Bodom and a whole lot of goth-rock bands on Spinefarm, Swallow the Sun found themselves with enough money to make a music video. They also found that they were expected to record a catchy song to go with said video, and 'Don't Fall Asleep' was born. As it happens, the progressive guitarwork and atmospheric clean vocals of this track provide easily one of the best cuts here, amongst a number of tracks which almost but not quite passed as decent death-doom. The amount of ideas being tossed around on the the album seem a little wasted when only about three of the tracks puts these ideas to good use throughout their runtime.
These ideas, when tossed around however, are pretty good. The almost symphonic, rousing opening of 'Hope' sounds like it could lead into something pretty devastating, but the polite guitars and vocals of the verse just suck the feeling out of the song, while the pumping power chords and throaty death vocals later on move into a chorus that is just a bit boring. With the flawed areas removed there is an excellent three-minute doom/ death song in here, but as it is I'm not a fan of flabby music. The marching death/ doom of 'The Justice of Suffering' is augmented by Jonas Renkse's ghostly voice, but just fails to really gel or hold any emotional power, dependent as it is on very recycled Ghosts of Loss riffs. However, the jumping guitar lines and rolling drums of 'These Hours of Despair' lead into some truly awesome chugging that sets the scene for the end of the world nicely, making use of sinister croaked vocals and cinematic synths. No complaints here.
Similiarly, 'Doomed to Walk the Earth', with its groaning, repeating main riff and mournful epic closing stands far out from the crowd on the last half of the album. It's big, it's focused, and it's bloody good. The weeping guitars that creak across the song's motif are just chilling. 'Too Cold For Tears' uses echoing crystallic keyboards across a minimal instrumental backdrop, and although the pounding heavier parts replete with soggy death growls remind of Ghosts of Loss and in a good way this time, despite that, the rest of this kind of sounds like doom metal lounge music. 'The Empty Skies' utilises a nice, driving riff and some uncharacteristically evil Mikko rasps, coming across like Moonspell in their nastier moments and only slightly harmed by the fact that this track is also probably a bit too long and unfocussed. 'No Light, No Hope' the only track of a sensible, focussed length, relies too heavily on ideas already used in the first half of the album, and sounds a tad repetitive.
In 2007, having struck upon fame and fortune in their home country, this band just seemed incapable of staying on track, picking up a good riff or an atmospheric sound and running with it, developing it like they did with the first two albums. To return to my earlier, classy analogy, this is very much a case of a disappointing, mutually embarrassing case of droopiness ruining what looked like it was going to be a great night. It's hard to rate it; there are a couple of solidly good tracks, and a couple of others with some quality parts thrown in but spoiled by either lazy or just undeveloped songwriting. Make this your last port of call with Swallow the Sun, though if you really like them and never heard Runemagick your likely to think this is the dog's bollocks for doom/ death metal.