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Finnish melodic deathly doomsters Swallow the Sun come with album number four and no recent lack of promotional backing in an attempt to square their name alongside one of the legends of their (sub-)genre Katatonia who also have a new album out at almost exactly the same time. I'm reading that StS' new record does indeed share its' title with the new 'Twilight' movie but given I know nothing, and care even less, about that franchise I'm going to gloss over any potential similarities or coincidences that may or may not exist between the two products and go straight in for how well the more metal of the two comes across.
In what could also be construed as an excuse for lazy journalism "New Moon" is one of those albums that bears immediate and strong relation to it's influences and contemporaries right from the first listen, which from these a newbie to the world of Swallow the Sun could make a strong assumption of how the band sound without so much as hearing a note of music. The recipe of a more melodic and cleaner StS than ever before relies upon a mixture of Katatonia, Opeth, My Dying Bride, Paradise Lose and Novembers Doom - it's doomy and gloomy all right, but as would be noted by a fan of older albums like "Hope" and "Ghosts of Loss" not as sinister as the band once were.
"New Moon", aside from being an album with clear Katatonia-isms to it also takes StS down the same road the Swedes have travelled in recent years, just a few stops behind. Whilst however Katatonia have gone too far for my liking, StS nail the dual needs for 'melancholy' and 'heavy' well, shown in a number of songs like the "These Woods Breathe Evil", "...And Heavens Cried Blood" and the excellent "Lights On The Lake (Horror pt. III)". "Lights..." it is that shows the greatest experimentation in nature due to the incorporation of the gorgeously fragile vocals of a lady named only as Aleah and a more developed song structure than any other. Showing an Opeth-ian tendency for wandering vast territories "Lights..." mixes Aleah's gentle vocals against a backdrop of raging, screaming black metal terror before getting the return bus all the way home again in a tune that feels significantly greater than it's eight allotted minutes.
Mikko Kotamäki utilises his sophisticated downbeat clean vocal frequently in the chorus of the title-track among others, moments evidential of where StS are likely to head on future releases. I feel it is these sections that will be the making or breaking of the band in the catchy, rising-to-a-peak formula that is becoming a greater part of their writing tendency, which being the realist I am is a sign of the band looking to expand their sound to grab the growing audience for some of the other acts I've mentioned thus far. That said, such choruses do make for an infectious and largely enjoyable listen.
The overall package here is one of utmost competency and dedication and symptomatic of a band that are on the upwards curve. The artwork contained within is sumptuous, the production is clear, layered and distinctly audible and the performance of no individual member can be rightfully dismissed, yet however I feel it is because of all of everything mentioned rather than a truly great album in this instance that will see Swallow the Sun's profile continue to rise. After many listens I have grown to like a number of songs but I must ask myself, does the album as a whole feature quite the delicate balance of melancholy and riffage that have made certain My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost or Katatonia releases the classics that they are? And the answer to that sadly is just a little bit short of 'no'.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net