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I'm a bit surprised Finland's Swallow the Sun isn't a better known band by this point. There was a fair amount of buzz surrounding them when they released their first couple albums, but the momentum has seemed to dwindle over the years. The band has always released solid efforts, melodic driving doom metal with a mix of blackish/death vocals and a lot of atmosphere to propel the bleak emotions into the listener.
New Moon is their 4th album, and offers little in the way of groundbreaking material, but it's yet another consistent album which should satisfy fans of the better produced melodic death/doom. Think Shape of Despair, but a little more up-tempo and exciting, with a use of clean and harsh vocals, acoustics and keyboards to create meandering forays into the night. Most of the tracks range from 5-7 minutes in length, and there is enough happening to avoid boredom, though the slow pace and simplicity of the melodies can begin to grate if you're not in the mood. A few of the tracks that stood out most to me were "Lights on the Lake", with its superb, restrained use of female vocals, and excellent use of melody; "Sleepless Swans", a glorious crusher with some simmering organs haunting just the edge of perception; and "Servant of Sorrow", a crushing doom cruise which recalls the best of a band like Yearning or Isole:
'Too late to leave, blinded by the last light
Too far, too late, too deep
To escape from the hands of this night
Winter has our hearts, it finally tore us apart'
New Moon boasts a steady, top of the line production standard and it's big, sad, stories should draw upon the strings of sorrow in any fan of the bands I mentioned elsewhere in this review, in addition to Opeth, mid-period Katatonia, and the like. It's a pleasant listen, though it fails to evoke any true feelings of despair and doom.
Highlights: Lights on the Lake, Sleepless swans, Servant of Sorrow