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Don't you ever close your heart. - 100%

Subrick, May 8th, 2020

I've seen it bandied about online that When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, the seventh album by Finnish death/doomers Swallow the Sun, is part of a clandestine trilogy of albums concerning the death of longtime StS backing vocalist Aleah Stanbridge, and when you think about it, it totally makes sense. When paired together with the previous two albums in this apparent trilogy (Hour of the Nightingale by Trees of Eternity and No Stars Upon the Bridge by Hallatar), When a Shadow is Forced into the Light absolutely feels like the conclusion to the "story" the albums tell, that story being primary composer Juha Raivio's attempt to come to terms with the loss of his lover and creative partner. There's a natural flow to the music on all three albums; Hour of the Nightingale is an exceptionally melancholic, sorrowful record, while still retaining an odd warmness to the proceedings, while No Stars Upon the Bridge is a bleak, hopeless, emotionally miserable, seemingly angry record, as if Raivio's sort of letting out his frustrations with the situation through the music. This is where When a Shadow is Forced into the Light comes into the picture, as it's kind of a mixture of the sounds and overall emotions of the preceding two records alongside elements faintly identifiable as Swallow the Sun, and it all works in tandem with one another in the most incredible way possible.

If we're viewing this record as part of a stealth trilogy with the previously mentioned records, it's only fitting that of the three albums, this one has the fewest Aleah handprints to be found. Not necessarily just in the fact that she had been deceased for nearly three years by the time of release and whatever creative remains of hers that were left behind are a finite resource at this point (she is credited with songwriting and lyrics on "Clouds on Your Side", but that's it), but also that, in the context of the emotional journey of the trilogy, Raivio seems to slightly, finally, be coming out of the haze that was suddenly losing a loved one. Don't get me wrong, every single second of When a Shadow... concerns itself with Aleah, but it's through a lens of recovering and starting to move past the tragedy rather than allowing it to envelope you every waking moment of the day as No Stars Upon the Bridge did. Chapter Three of Juha Raivio's musical therapy is a cathartic release of all the lingering feelings he has had towards Aleah's death and the uncertainty that comes with such an occurrence, a slight reflection on the events that led to this point, and this is most identifiable by the near complete lack of musical elements that made Swallow the Sun identifiable as such for so many years. This is the sonic outlier in StS's catalog, as it's more a much heavier and darker take on the style Trees of Eternity played than anything resembling past StS material. Gone are the chuggy guitars and noticeable melodic death metal elements, replaced by lush, thick chords and the most keyboards I can ever recall on a Swallow the Sun record. More than ever before, the keyboards and guitars work in near perfect tandem to create this lush atmosphere of wondrous majesty, akin to standing in a field at night and looking at the sky, with the pianos and strings complimenting the chords and lead lines behind Mikko Kotamaki's increased use of clean singing, which fits the music like a glove. His growl is still used throughout, and aside from the lead guitar lines is the most Swallow the Sun thing about this album, but it's only sporadically used, and some songs completely eschew growls in their entirety, such as "The Crimson Crown" and "Never Left". He's accompanied by harmonies and occasional lead vocals by keyboardist Jaani Peuhu, a welcome addition to the group who I hope gets to showcase his lush vocal tones more on future releases.

The songs are also the slowest the band have ever penned, aside from the Despair disc on Songs from the North, which is similarly sensible when you look at the album as being Swallow the Sun viewed through the eyes of Trees of Eternity. I'd wager to say that Despair was also something of an influence on the more downtrodden nature of this record, although nothing on When a Shadow... approaches that record's funeral doom experiment in terms of crushing slowness. The drumming here is still involved and full of flair, a common thread on every StS record from the very start, although Juuso Raatikainen is a bit more restrained than he was on Songs from the North's Gloom disc, which I'm sure is a symptom of the music being much less melodeath and more ethereal, kinda shoegazy doom metal. Still, while double bass is a rare thing to behold here and blast beats are nonexistent, he still shows character and exceptional skill in his playing, and that's more than acceptable for this collection of songs. The production quality stands up as the best of the band's career, with every element perfectly leveled and with just the right amount of effects to enhance, but not overpower, the experience. StS have always had exceptionally great sounding albums, with not a single one of their records except *maybe* New Moon sounding less than excellent, but this one takes the cake. One of my hopes for this record is that it becomes a blueprint for how death/doom records should be mixed in the future, as this is just about the most perfect sounding doom record of its kind I can think of. It's the logical production conclusion to not just where Swallow the Sun started on The Morning Never Came, but also the logical conclusion for death/doom production dating back to the renowned early Peaceville Three records of My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, and Anathema. Every future Swallow the Sun record could be produced identical to this one and I'd be completely satisfied with that, especially since I'd love to see how this more spacious, massive production style works with a more standard sounding record they would potentially make in the future.

There's an existential question that exists in the heart of When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, and it's a question that's simultaneously quite simple, yet intensely difficult to even think of in the moment, and very relatable for anyone who has gone through a deep personal tragedy as Raivio has in the death of Aleah: How difficult will it be to move on? The attempt on his part to answer that question is the driving force behind When a Shadow..., and through the music we learn the answer to his plight. Moving on from your partner's untimely death is really, really difficult, and a seemingly insurmountable task at times, but it is entirely possible to begin to rebuild your future minus the presence of that which you were certain you'd have by your side forever. It's a scenario millions and millions of people throughout time have had to go through, and millions more will ask in the future. People die. It is a fact of reality. It happens every single day, hundreds of thousands of times a day. Who dies is up to the universe, and sometimes that person that dies is someone you love. That cannot be changed no matter how much we may want to go back in time and prevent it from happening. What matters beyond that is how one can regroup and make peace with what happened. For Juha Raivio, if When a Shadow is Forced into the Light is any indication, I hope he has found the peace he so clearly, desperately desired and can begin to move on, even if it's just through minor steps at first. This record was the apparent first step in his recovery. Where he and Swallow the Sun will go in the future is not musically certain, but what is for sure in this moment is that When a Shadow is Forced into the Light is the absolute triumph of Swallow the Sun and Raivio's careers, and topping this monumental, breathtaking record will be the steepest hill possible to climb. I have full confidence he can do it.

Wondrous. - 100%

Talonraker422, December 6th, 2019

There's a certain emotion that very, very few bands are able to instill in me - a sense of pure wonder so powerful that I'm forced to drop everything I'm doing and just listen to the music in awe. It's the same profound fascination I get from staring at the stars in a night sky, a oneness with nature and the world around me. It makes me ponder existentialism in the best way possible, filling me with determination and reinforcing my goal to make as much of my life as possible. Since we're so insignificant in the grand scheme of things, we can forge our own purpose and get as much fulfillment out of our short time on Earth as we can. Ultimately, it makes me grateful to be alive.

Paradoxically, the only record to come out of 2019 that's evoked that feeling in me is probably the darkest of them all. At its core, the album is a harrowing expression of the emotions which followed the death of main songwriter Juha Raivio's wife. However, that's not all there is to it. Abounding despair shrouded every moment of the conception of When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, but rather than embrace the hopelessness as so many other doom acts would, Juha created the album as, in his own words, "a weapon for myself, a burning torch, victorious and proud." So that's what this is really about. It's fighting back against the shadows that surround you, it's finding the hope in despair and the wonder in bleakness.

As personal of a concept as that is, though, it wouldn't have meant anything if it hadn't been executed well. Luckily, 'well' doesn't even begin to cut it here. The instruments create an otherworldly atmosphere unlike any other I've heard before while the lyrics create emotions ranging from despair and resignation in the brutal title track to the aforementioned existentialist wonder in The Crimson Crown. The vocals are brilliant all around - Mikko's blackened screams convey pain perfectly while his more mellow cleans can express a range of feelings, from solace to acceptance to longing. The guitars provide a strong foundation, a constant source of melody but also impactful heaviness. They control the pace of the album, either driving it forward or slowing down to allow moments of introspection.

Additionally, the lower end is really given room to breathe and shine. There's several sections where the guitars completely drop away and allow the subtle synths and bass to take the lead. As seems to be a theme on the album, this element is used in incredibly varied ways. The quiet sections in The Crimson Crown immerse you in a strange fantasy world; it feels expansive and makes me ponder the infinite reaches of our cosmos and what wonders there are to be discovered out there (an effect added to by the lyrics which tell a fantastical creation story - in fact the chorus of this song is where I first felt that profound, enlightened awe I mentioned in the introduction). This couldn't be more different from the quieter parts in Firelights. These are flawlessly designed to invoke unease, combining distorted bass, whispered vocals and the subtle integration of a bell tolling. It's once again completely unworldly, but this time you're not entering an oasis of wonder, you're trapped on an island in an ocean of nightmares. This world has only ever known bleakness and death, and it's up to you to fight back. To find the firelights.

Ultimately, I could sing this album's praises all day. I could dissect the meanings and subtleties woven into every track, but that'd make the review too long. There's highlights everywhere, too many to list, and the experience is in equal parts intensely heartfelt and painfully harrowing. The style stays consistent throughout but new elements are added just often enough to keep it varied, my favourite examples being the cellos and violins that come in on Stone Wings and the uplifting narration that ends Clouds on your Side. I'll be honest, the latter track had me in tears by the end. A softly spoken passage in the language of romance, a reassuring message of perseverance written by Juha's wife... it's beautiful. Here Aleah Starbridge's soul is living on through her words, shining radiantly to give her lover the courage he needs to face a world without her. Death may be stronger than life, but love is stronger than death.

Before now there were eight metal albums I'd ever deemed worthy of a perfect score. I've just found the ninth.

Message overpowers the music - 74%

TheIdentityMatrix, November 28th, 2019

Swallow the Sun are a band with a pedigree of grandiosity, melodrama, and atmosphere. This album lacks none of these, yet still finds ways to pale in comparison to earlier releases like Songs From the North, or the debut The Morning Never Came. It felt like the band was treading water for this record musically speaking. The melodies on this record are certainly there. They show up especially in the vocals on tracks like The Crimson Crown and Upon the Water, where lead vocalists Jaani Peuhu and Mikko Kotamäki interweave and harmonize well. Both are pleasant tracks and connected with me strongly at times. Another track, Firelights, has a similar vibe in its slowed tempo, melodic guitar passages and dramatic/introspective lyricism.

The production and atmospheric touches on the record also work for the most part. I never noticed any glaring detracting parts of the production. I would say that a main issue for me through multiple listens would be the lack of standout moments. The only exception to this would be the opening moments to the final track Never Left, the guitar build up felt pretty satisfying to hear, but it unfortunately failed to continue the momentum into the main body of the track. Besides that, each track flows into each other with similar structures and melodies, and the end product as a whole suffers for it. If you’ve heard the first track, you’ve kind of heard them all. The harsh vocals are hardly memorable, only showing up for a few lines throughout tracks, or as backing vocals. The context of the record, however, does put a lot of emotional weight behind the tracks and it’s lyrical content. Lead male vocalist Jaani Peuhu had lost his partner prior to the recording of the record which puts into perspective the heaviness of the lyrics and their delivery. It mixes a sense of mourning, despair, with a slight feeling of hope. It's an album about processing grief, perhaps taking one’s “Shadow” and “forcing it into the light” Is a metaphor for working through those difficult and harsh moments in our lives. I felt that lyrically as a whole the album spoke to me in that regard.

Previous Swallow the Sun records were not immune to the monotony issue that this record faces. Their previous record “Song From the North” was a triple album that was able to hide some of its flaws behind that fact, but had multiple tracks running into each other and blending together. Take away the novelty of the three disc project and you get “When a Shadow is Forced into the Light.” A powerful message about how one deals with and works through loss, grief, and emptiness, sandwiched between lackluster songwriting and song structure. It’s overall, not a bad album, in fact it will draw a lot of listeners in with the pleasant melodies, and easy to connect with concept. I just struggle with the record’s lack of memorable moments and feeling of “I’ve been here before.”

Gorgeous, captivating, but not an easy record to listen to - 89%

Agonymph, July 7th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Century Media Records (Digipak)

Occasionally, there are rare instances in which the cliché that great misery inspires great art proves to be true. Swallow The Sun’s seventh album ‘When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light’ is one of those instances. Rhythm guitarist and main songwriter Juha Raivio lost his wife, South African singer Aleah Starbridge, to cancer at the much too young age of 39 and her absence is felt throughout the album. Being a Finnish doom/death metal band, Swallow The Sun was never the most cheerful bunch, but the beautiful melancholy on display here gives the album its unique character within the band’s discography.

Even without knowing the story behind the album, one thing stands out immediately and that is the profoundly sad gothic atmosphere that defines a large portion of the album. There are still outbursts of extreme metal, but tracks like ‘Upon The Water’ and the gorgeous ‘The Crimson Crown’ are so full of arpeggiated clean guitar chords that they feel stylistically closer to Fields Of The Nephilim’s masterpiece ‘Elizium’ than to anything Amorphis ever released. In a way, the album reverses the process of ‘Songs From The North’ (2015), on which the band gave different discs to each aspect of their sound.

Bringing those extremes back together has really done wonders for the dynamics on ‘When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light’. Mikko Kotomäki utilizes his deep, clean vocals for a majority of the album, but he is backed by electric guitars almost exclusively. These alternate between the aforementioned clean chord work and beefy doom riffs that are notably more spaciously produced than the guitars on the band’s earlier works. It helps that the riffs are significantly less chord heavy than on their previous albums; the single notes can really ring through with the intensity they should have.

While an album like ‘When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light’ is best listened to in its entirity to let the atmosphere carry you away, anyone into the darker spectrum of music needs to hear ‘Stone Wings’. The song is mainly carried by a Nephilim-esque eye-watering guitar part and has what is probably the most hauntingly beautiful chorus released this year. There is a more extreme middle section, but even that part of the song is quite melancholic. By comparison: the aggressive middle part of the otherwise sorrowful ‘Firelights’ is the closest the band has ever gotten to black metal. Elsewhere, ‘Here On Black Earth’ contains a surprisingly dynamic guitar arrangement.

No, ‘When A Shadow Is Forced Into Night’ is not an easy record to listen to. It is in the sense that it’s probably the most accessible album Swallow The Sun has released thus far, but the feeling of loss hangs over the album like a pitch black cloud. As a result, the album is not for the faint of heart, but it is in fact the best record the Finns have released thus far. Its superior flow helps too; many of their earlier albums were difficult to listen to in one setting, but once the piano and string laden closer ‘Never Left’ extinguishes, I have been captivated for 52 straight minutes. One of the better metallic releases of 2019. Highly impressive.

Recommended tracks: ‘Stone Wings’, ‘The Crimson Crown’, ‘Never Left’

Originally written for my Kevy Metal weblog

The third tomb of loss and shadows - 90%

Napero, June 19th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Century Media Records (Digipak)

A breath of ancient air flowed through the crack as we finally opened the heavy door of the tomb. It carried an almost imperceptible scent of wilted flowers with it, and washed over us like a wave of cherished memories that were already changing their character. The artifacts, left where they were centuries ago, had been meticulously arranged into a most beautiful scene, and everything spoke of love long gone, but never forgotten. It was time to dust the items, catalogue them, and try to find the deeper meaning of it all.

The tomb had an inscription on the heavy slabs of stone forming its entrance. It took us a while to decipher the meaning behind the meticulously chiseled hieroglyphs, but it spoke of a Shadow, stepping into the Light, and as such, it held a measure of alien poetic beauty, the deeper meaning of which escaped us for the time being. And indeed, the interior of the hall was a work or art inspired by love undying, a testament to something of immeasurable value lost in the tragic and unyielding sands of time and eternal twilight. The intricate frescoes on the wall adorning the slow melodies of the hall with strings and choirs, the overarching feel of grand architecture laying the weighty foundation for the almost symphonic design, and the feel of memories etched into every detail of the songs all spoke to us. The words came from the bottom of a scarred heart, already healing, but also one that would never be the same again. It was all intertwined with folkish scenes and somber moments frozen in time, crafted to perfection, and left as an enduring memorial to loss, and the pain of healing.

We took our time to wonder at the beauty in front of us, immersing our minds in the scene before touching anything, for fear of spoiling the carefully arranged atmosphere. But it was our purpose there to read into the unwritten story behind the collection of art, and to dissect its inner logic, to read the wordless story behind it all. And that we did. The architect was a familiar character, someone who had designed other works of grandeur we had excavated in the past: his works were always thoroughly thought over and balanced designs of awe-inspiring echoing corridors, grand galleries that made us feel small and vulnerable, and humblingly massive façades full of beautiful details. But the last three had been different: they felt personal and heartfelt, yet also like the stories behind a soul worn raw and bloodied by fate.

Indeed, where the first monument we found almost half a decade earlier, clumsily transcribed by yours truly as The Moment of the Nightingale, was a wonderful and soaring, yet sentimental and melancholic edifice with slender arches and a sky full of stars as its ceiling. It was the artistic interpretation of the nocturnal song of its namesake, and voiced with its soft tones the sorrows and fragility of existence. It was full of beauty and the first emotions after loss, and the woven tapestries that formed its lithe walls and cloud-like ceiling were almost translucent in their tearfully tragic mourning of the fleeting moments of happiness. It was a melancholic structure, but not dark or woeful, and far from expressing despair. It had hope and cherished memories as the mortar between its blocks of stone.

The second monument we unearthed, named The Bridge of No Stars as we managed to translate its coarsely hewn cartouche, was a raw and cruelly heavy colossus, brutally carved out of the jagged rocks on the bottom of the architect's ruined heart. It held no tapestries, and just a few flecks of beauty were ingrained in its textures, in the form of the mementos of the lost one's songs. The murals were mercilessly dark, painted in black and deep charcoal gray, and their shapes were painful for the eyes to witness. The unfinished rocks were obviously laid by a mind in the throes of deep sorrow, and they bore the imagery of lament too heavy to put to words alone. It bordered on the structural expression of the horrendous tradition of mortification of the flesh, expressing regret and grievous guilt. During the excavation, we felt the weight of the builder's lamentation and the passive aggression at the unjustified transience of life and love.

All three of the monuments are architectural wonders, and their significance ranged from the beauty of a new Taj Mahal delicate enough to appear suspended in air, through the ruined, cruel and eerie magnificence of the jagged remains of dark and colossal Luxor built of black stone, to the latest intact tomb of a love of a lifetime and the private and vulnerable private grief entombed in it. The newest find seems like the work of a mind that has passed the worst turmoils of sorrow, repenting and bewailing, and appears to finally be reaching a new balance and acceptance. A journey of trial and solitude seems to have ended. We can only hope that is the case.

For what would be the next thing we unearth, should the theme continue its present course? If the lament never ended, and the ancient architect never found another source of creative power? If he stayed the course, never let go, never found a path across the stony desert of grievance? Verily, there is a risk of a new ruin, a macabre continuation of a unrelenting drive at expressing nothing but new facets of the singular grief hammered already so many times into the enduring shapes of stone memorials. Through the finest private memories, across the morass of anger, guilt and lament, to the final likeness of acceptance and liberation from the shackles of sorrow, we have seen the journey of a wretched and wrecked, yet finally healing soul; the three monuments paint a trail of healing and open a possible new road ahead. Returning to the same thematic would surely turn morbid, tear open the scars once again, and expose a private pain, already perfectly expressed, to too many, one time too far. The Shadow had stepped into the Light from the third tomb it built, and if the Shadow was not completely erased by the rays of the Sun, what remained of it should have found a new purpose. Sorrow is endless, they say, but its ever so bittersweet nectar can turn sour if milked for too long. The magnificent trilogy of gravestones is perfect as it is.

We hope that our shovels and trowels hit something different the next time we strike them into the ground. The work here is done. At least it should be.

Light at the end of the tunnel - 85%

kluseba, June 10th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Century Media Records (Digipak)

Heartfelt loss can provoke great inspiration. This is certainly the case for Swallow the Sun founder and guitarist Juha Raivo who lost the love of his life under tragic circumstances and went on to release astonishing records with atmospheric doom metal band Trees of Eternity and funeral doom group Hallatar. Swallow the Sun's last single Lumina Aurea was one of the bleakest songs I have ever heard in my life but there was a natural beauty hidden in this drowning darkness. The band's new record When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light might be a first step back towards a more positive mindset. It might be the last step towards partial recovery of the soul.

I'm not as pretentious to compare myself to the ordeal Juha Raivo had to go through. But I deeply empathize with him. A long time ago, a person I loved from the bottom of my heart unexpectedly left from one day to the other. It came as a complete shock and took me several weeks and even months to be in a positive mindset again thanks to the support of my family members and friends. This loss came at the worst possible moment during my most challenging year at the university, with my most important training just ahead and with two jobs I had to do simultaneously. Many people wouldn't have been able to face these challenges but I somehow managed to excel in my classes, passed the most challenging training I have ever had and performed very well in my two jobs. I even managed to write some of the most inspired texts back then. The terrible event had sparked my creativity and this inspiration helped me to rise from the ashes and become stronger than ever before. It also changed my view of the world as I became more relaxed, pragmatic and careful. Even though I could have all the reasons in the world to despise what that person did to me and especially how she did that, I decided to move on and forgave her.

I can sense all these elements on this record as well. When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light still has a gloomy undertone but it sounds much more airy, melodic and relaxed than anything else released by Juha Raivo over the past three years. The opening title track amazes with enchanting clean vocals and uplifting melodies that make this track unexpectedly catchy. ''Firelights'' might be the softest song ever by the band but isn't shallow by any means as it was even supported with a music video and convinces with a dreamy neofolk atmosphere that helps the creator and listener to dream themselves far away. ''Clouds on Your Side'' includes songwriting ideas from the person Juha Raivo has lost and impresses with wonderful mellow symphonic elements and the recitation of French poetry that make this song particularly surprising.

Swallow the Sun's When a Shadow is Forced into the Light still has some of the band's traditional death and doom metal soundscapes but is much more an ambient and neofolk record with airy melodies, dreamy symphonic elements and inspiring poem recitation. Even though it barely classifies as metal record, it's certainly Swallow the Sun's most personal record and probably also its best. This is the kind of album to listen to on your own in an empty room in order to unfold its profound magic as the listener can discover new fascinating elements with each spin. Don't be afraid and drown into the darkness to find your way into the light. As we all know, light can't exist without darkness and that's why one has to embrace both.

When sorrow is forced into its beauty - 98%

Dying_Hope, February 11th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Century Media Records (Digipak)

Here it is, the new Swallow the Sun album. 3 ½ years after the monumental triple attack at the heart called "Songs from the North I, II & III". I was waiting for this, and the gap between these 2 albums seemed endless for me. In my review for "Songs from the North I, II & III" I mentioned that it seem impossible to me that Swallow the Sun could top it in any way because I think that "Songs from the North I, II & III" contain the essence of this band and shows its greatness in almost every thinkable way. But I also said I'm sure that they're able to hold this high level of songwriting, and that they're also able to progress even though it will just be shown in small details here and there. To sum it up: "When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light" is really on par with the masterpiece that is "Songs from the North I, II & III". A beautiful piece of art.


But this is not your usual Swallow the Sun album. It feels way more lighter, hopeful in some and cathartic in a other way. Songwriter and mastermind Juha Raivio seem to see light at the end of the tunnel again after the tragic death of his girlfriend Aleah, because "When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light" gives hope and is calm in a spiritual way. Juha seem to be able of letting go slowly. Somehow this album feels a little like the last part of a "Aleah Trilogy" started with the Trees of Eternity album "The Hour of the Nightingale" that consists of music by Juha and lyrics/vocals by Aleah. It was released a few months after she passed away. This was followed by an album called "No Stars upon the Bridge" by Hallatar, a band Juha formed to honor Aleah and release some of the last lyrics she wrote, and let flow his sorrow into this death/doom metal masterpiece. While "The Hour of the Nightingale" sounds atmospheric and warm but somehow sad, "No Stars upon the Bridge" was just complete bleak, soul-crushing and heartbreaking. "When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light" seem to be the crack in this blackened sky from where the first sunrays are shining through, where nothing is forgotten just accepted, and where peace finally rises. I can understand Juha's pain in every way because my Father passed away a few months ago and Juha's and Aleah's music is carrying me through this sorrow so far. This may be the reason why this music resonate so well with me, because Juha's music with Trees of Eternity, Hallatar and Swallow the Sun is born out of the same feelings that my family and I are forced to feel now. And "When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light" will help anyone out there who is forced to handle the pain of loss. It enlightens, heals and warms your soul. Let out your pain because no one is really gone. We are more than our physical body, trust me.


The album starts with the titletrack whose gloomy sounds gives a vague route to where this journey will take us: Beyond, into salvation. The bombastic introduction gives way to an acoustic part right before Mikko Kotamäki's voice appeared for the first time. His clean vocals reign supreme here, wonderful vocal lines pierce into the soul. The song floats on violins in the chorus and Mikko screams his lungs out with his significant black metal shrieks for the first time on this album. "The Crimson Crown" is similar to "The First Cut is the Deepest" in some way and manages to suprise with a grand calmness and a heavy atmosphere. A feeling of redemption is felt throughout the entire song. Mikko's vocals warms the soul and the instruments play their notes calm and soothing, it grands you a feeling of rest. Here shows a significant aspect that will run through the whole album, the growls are completely absent on "The Crimson Crown". On this album they were just used especially to give a song a special note or a new color. In fact for some fans who loved the death metal side of Swallow the Sun this album could sound very soft, but as I mentioned before, this is not a usual Swallow the Sun album. The best way to go into this album is to take it as it is, and you will love it even though you are here to hear death/doom metal. In fact 90% is doom metal and 10% is death metal.


Each Swallow the Sun album has a hit, a hit single that won't leave your head. "The Morning Never Comes" has "Swallow", "Ghosts of Loss" has "Fragile", "Hope" has "Don't Fall Asleep", "New Moon" has its titletrack, "Emerald Forest and the Blackbird" has "Cathedral Walls", "Songs from the North I, II & III" has "Rooms and Shadows" and "When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light" has "Firelights". "Firelights" begins with typical single notes on guitar and a few whispered words by Mikko, in the chorus (that won't leave your head that fast!) his voice sounds so dramatic and soothing at the same time, one of the greatest lines I've heard in a long time from a band. Unique! In the middle the band bathes in black metal for a short time just to go back to the melodic chorus immediatly. A hymn to cleanse your soul! "Upon the Water" starts with meditative drums and melodies of melancholy. Here the black metal shrieks are way more present than on any other song of "When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light".


"Stone Wings" and "Clouds on Your Side" are beautiful examples of doom metal with "pop" appeal. Don't get me wrong, there is no sell out or something, but this is so melodic and ear catching without losing its identity, and that is great songwriting! These two songs could play easily on the radio even though "Clouds on Your Side" contains some growls. "Here on the Black Earth" and "Never Left" are the last two songs, and they close this album so perfectly. "Here on the Black Earth" is so damn sad that it let me shiver everytime I hear it, and the same does "Never Left".


So "When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light" is a journey of salvation. Juha Raivio has created an album that can help to heal your sorrows if you just let it. This album marks a progression in detail and is on par with its predecessor in emotion and beauty. Mikko Kotamäki's vocals has improved alot again, this guy gets better with every album. For me this is one of the saddest albums ever. Try it, and let it heal your soul. I think that this album will be a important one in the discography of Swallow the Sun because it opens new ways without throwing its identity over board. I'm really excited about what future albums will sound like, but for now we have 52 minutes of healing music, these sounds have a soul. Hear it, feel it, live it, and let it heal you! Thanks for your time, my friend.

Love is always stronger than death - 95%

andreipianoman, February 7th, 2019

I've never listened to a full album from Swallow the Sun before but I'm aware of what this one is about and of the tragic events that led to its existence. "When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light" is probably one of the most heartfelt, honest and genuine creations I've ever had the chance to experience and although I was expecting it to be a deeply emotional album and also a really dark one, the way it made me feel came as a massive shock. That being said, I don't believe that I am (or anyone else is) fit to judge the meaning or the emotional content of this album. It is a profoundly personal endeavor that almost makes me feel like a trespasser of Juha Raivio's emotions, like he's put his soul on the table for the whole world to see. I wouldn't dare to imply that I understand anything that this album expresses so instead I'll just shine some light on my experience listening to it.

A blend of doom, death and black metal with the highest emphasis on the doom metal elements is probably an accurate description of the genres that come together in this piece of music. However, the sound is very polished and hi-fi, but not in a negative way. It is actually a crucial element in the album's overall atmosphere. The final result seems to me pretty unique and very unexpected. The main reason for that is probably that despite it being such a dark album, it doesn't feel to be conveying any negative energy to the listener. It is very immersive and has a really full and clear sound that somehow wraps you up and instantly captivates you. And while there is a lot of focus on sadness, pain and loss, to me it felt somewhat dreamy and peaceful.

There are primarily two different sounds that come together in this record, the "soft" and the "harsh". The "soft" is the blend of clean guitars with a very good delay effect, slow but deep sounding drums with a strange echoing feel, the bass coming through very clearly and Mikko Kotamäki's beautiful, clean vocals. The"harsh" is quite predictably the opposite. It's when the overdriven guitar kicks in and Mikko switches to his raw and cathartic screams or on some occasions to really deep low growls. And what makes the album so beautiful is the perpetual alternation between these two sounds, sometimes showing elements from one, placed into the other, like for example in the chorus of Stone Wings or Firelights where the heavy sound hits but Mikko stays with clean singing.

The album is overall very melodic. There is not one single part that seems only harsh, aggressive or noisy. The riffs are all written with a lot of melody incorporated in them and there are also some very soulful guitar leads that add to the depth of the whole sound. Then there's also the keyboard that blends everything together with some subtle choir aahs effects and also a very good use of violins and cello that at times may seem dramatic but are mostly used for extra intensity in emotion. However, despite all this sadness, emotion, melody and an ongoing feeling of longing and emptiness, the album seems to be working its way to a higher meaning. When the separate single Lumina Aurea was released (which I only listened to once and I think something died in me when I heard it), Juha Raivio stated that if he kept going down that road things wouldn't end well, and that instead this album is about how "Love is always stronger than death.’ and that it is "Victorious and proud". And I somehow feel that when listening to it because in a most peculiar way, after listening to 52 minutes of sad and painful music I feel refreshed, energized and at peace. It sounds like working through all that darkness and coming out on the other side, like a rite of passage. I can't tell for sure if this is really what the album means but it is how I perceive it. Also the title and lyrics of the closing track seem to perfectly express that idea of love going across the boundaries of death. It's just so much to take in and try to understand but in the end, it seems of less importance to me to try to interpret the meaning of all this instead of just feeling it when listening to the music. So unless you've also gone through a terrible loss, in which case it's unknown territory for me and I won't dare to address the matter, I suggest you do the same.

From the Heart of the Dark, the Night Falls Like Silence - 95%

hardalbumreview, February 6th, 2019

Four years after the release of their magnum opus Songs from the North, a triple album introduced in 2015, and after the tragic demise of Aleah Starbridge (the front man Juha Raivio’s life partner and Trees of Eternity’s lead vocalist) in 2016, the Finnish Death-Doom giants have returned with an album which leaves no heart untouched. A short while ago, late 2018, a single album was put forward which best depicted the dark depths of their sorrow: Lumina Aurea, a heart- wrenching blend of black and funeral doom with dashes of folk created by Einar Selvik of Wardruna.

Upon listening to the single, one might fear they have lost sight of light in their career and that they might have given in to loss. However, what the new LP, so aptly called When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, does is that it turns the grief on its head and creates what could be claimed to be the most melodic and most emotive work of the band so far. It sure isn’t as grand and sizeable as their previous album, but it is indisputably just as courageous and estimable as it brings to surface the delicate, more nuanced side of the band yet keeping the recognizable, dominantly melancholy and doomy sound of the band. So not only does it not impair the image of the band, but it so graciously adds to the substantial repute of them.

Swallow the Sun’s seventh studio album is everything dark: a dismal atmosphere, heavy death-doom riffs, throbbing piano notes, crushing drums, solid bass, wide-ranging singing styles and a concise use of orchestration. There is no rush to bombard the listener with metal, nor with words; everything has its chance to be presented in the most impactful way and to the maximal effect. Words are added when time is ripe. The band is in no hurry to start singing, they let the music sink in and pierce to the core and allow enough time for the anguish to settle and take effect. The rainy sky at the beginning of The Crimson Crown, for instance, is a testimony to the clever use of ambience to create the desired setting to begin the music and to further the impact, the instruments are given ample time to showcase themselves before the singing starts (approximately 2 and a half minutes into the song).

By the use of tactful diversity, both in terms of musical production and vocal delivery, this album has succeeded in crafting a work of art which is captivating in its entirety. Besides the musical elements (instrumentation and ambience), the second lead vocalist of the band, the new keyboardist Jaani Peuhu, has brought with himself a rather new sound, not a kind which would put the listener off, but a figure to enhance, even for a bit, the vocal experience of the listener, previously shouldered by the magnificent Mikko Kotamäki. The duo collaborates so finely to enrich the music of the band, from black screams to death growls to hyper clean vocals, even to whispers, a fair amount of each.

All this musical excellence does not overshadow the poetic prowess and the musicality of the lyrics. One reason that there is such an irresistible appeal in vocals could be that the words of the lyrics not only constitute the message and meaning to be conveyed to the audience, but also contribute to the overall sound of the music. There are dark themes such as loss and emotional barrenness, yet love and light are also expressed. This album is by no means a mere journey though wastelands of darkness; it is one from darkness to light and that is what singles this album out from the plethora of other works within the genre and they do it so well that they do not simply stand out, they stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Rating:
Lyrics: 9.5
Artwork: 9.5
Musicianship: 9.5
Vocals: 9.5
Overall: 9.5

Great Successor - 88%

Gothic_Metalhead, February 3rd, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Century Media Records (Digipak)

Following the critical acclaim of their previous album "Songs From The North I, II, III", Swallow the Sun try to reach the same level of success by recording and releasing "When A Shadow Is Forced Into the Light." Between its predecessor and this album, a few has happened for the band. Juha Raivio grieved the loss of Trees of Eternity fellow band mate and partner Aleah Stanbridge, and Swallow the Sun brought in two new members for the album Juho Raiha (Guitars), and Jaani Peuhu (Keyboards). It would also be difficult to reach the same success musical devotion and creativity as "Songs From The North I, II, III", but the band continues to grow with this album. In a way "When A Shadow Is Forced Into the Light" are the band's more melodic sounding album, but manages to still sound great beginning to end without losing their edge and creativity. While it's not as good as the previous album, and contains shorter songs from the band, this album is still a good follow up album.

The music for "When A Shadow Is Forced Into the Light" has some unique combinations of modern metal sounds, melodic moments, and the bands signature use of death-doom. From listening to some of the songs, I actually want to call Swallow the Sun a gothic metal band, but still manages to keep the bands signature melodic death-doom rather than moving away to other stylistic changes. It has some really dark sounding guitar parts, string instruments, soft depressing melodies with some actual good atmosphere like from songs like "The Crimson Crown", "Stone Wings" and "Upon the Water." These songs were beautiful to listen to and shows a lot of sorrow behind its music through its atmospheric keyboards and vocalist Mikko Kotamaki. In fact, Mikko Kotamaki still manages to sound great through its clean singing much like in previous releases. He even does some nice squealing, and growling as well even if there wasn't enough of that in the album. I like that even though the tempo is slow and simplistic, it manages to reach out well, and shows some great highlights in the albums most aggressive parts. Though the complaints I had with the album is that there isn't enough heavier parts which is not a bad thing, but what made Swallow the Sun such a great band was its use of death-doom and making it more melodic. In Previous releases, Swallow the Sun did have melodic keys in its much heavier parts, but didn't bring enough heavier parts on most of the album. "Firelights" in particular is a solid song, but for some reason it sounds like a song for which the band is trying to reach for that "Best Metal Performance" at the Grammys. Despite that, the music of the album still sounds great, and still appreciates the fact that it's more melodic because it does give the band sensitivity and it adds a lot of texture to the album much like its previous release.

"When A Shadow Is Forced Into the Light" also still retains it's depressing lyrics. I love how most of the songs kind of remind me that the lyrics are inspired by the death of Aleah Starbridge. Most of its lyrics are full of grief showing signs of emptiness, lack of hope, loneliness, mourning. It does show that that tragic moment gave inspiration to the bands lyrical themes as it manages to have more depressing lyrics than it is depressing music. There is a lot to read which also shows that Swallow the Sun never run out of ideas when it comes to songwriting. "Firelights" even has some great lyrics, I think just by reading them it shows passion much like the rest of the albums lyrical themes. The album's lyrics never get out of touch, it is coherent, and brings more depth to "When A Shadow Is Forced Into the Light" and it is able to maintain its consistency.

"When A Shadow Is Forced Into the Light" was among my most anticipated records of 2019, and Swallow the Sun did not disappoint. The band still managed to make depressing death-doom music, but being able to have more melody in its singing, atmosphere and overall musical landscape. Even though it's not as good as "Songs From the North I, II, III", it is still a great successor album and continues Swallow the Sun's streak of good albums. No favorite track necessary, each Song sounded great.

A New Journey for the Band - 95%

stallan, February 1st, 2019

Swallow the Sun's "When a Shadow is Forced into the Light" is a rebirth for the Finnish melodic death/doom group. It is the addition of two new members, an evolution in their sound and most importantly, a musical way for mastermind Juha Raivio to process his grief after the tragic loss of his beloved Aleah Starbridge.

A lot has happened since the band's monumental triple album Songs From the North. Sadly Aleah passed away, keyboardist Aleksi Munter left the group, followed by guitarist Markus Jamsen. While Juha mourned the loss of his partner, he released both the Trees of Eternity and Hallatar albums. To mark Swallow the Sun's return, they released the 14 minute funeral doom single "Lumina Aurea" along with the announcement of this album. Whereas that track blends folk, black metal, drone and funeral doom to create a dark and emotional journey, this album goes for the opposite. Juha knew he needed to write something more melodic and positive to help him on his journey, and thus this album is prominently clean vocals, with live strings and lots of melody in the guitars.

Upon my first couple listens I did yearn for a bit more heaviness but it was not long until I was completely under the spell of this album's magic. Don't get me wrong, there are heavy sections to be found and Mikko's growls and screams are in top shape. But the expression presented with the stylistic choices, individual performances and the overall production is outstanding. There is so much beauty, yet also so much sorrow that it is overwhelming. It may not be the crushing doom that some genre enthusiasts will crave, and I have already seen people degrading the band and this direction. But in terms of feeling and the listening experience, this is pure doom from the heart. Every note is 100% genuine. There is no selling out here.

There are new types of sounds, different guitar tones, live strings, grand piano and most notably, co-lead vocals provided by new keyboardist Jaani Peuhu. This offers so many new elements to the band's sound and brings a lot of textures to the songs. Drummer Juuso Raitikanen and bassist Matti Honkonen have never sounded better in both playing and tone. New guitarist Juho Rahio delivers a couple great solos and teams perfectly with Juha. The guitar sounds are very rich in both the cleans and distorted tones. Mikko's vocals are at an all time best, again both in his clean singing and extreme vocals. It is a wonder to witness everyone's evolutions as musicians and songwriters. From a production stand point, this album is a masterpiece. I have no doubt that Juho, Jaani and Juha being a mix of producers, engineers and studio owners helped greatly beyond words in achieving the breathtaking soundscape of this record.

In summary, I would advise people not to be put off by this new direction but to have an open mind and follow the band on this journey. The music invokes sympathy, empathy, love, grief and so much more. I really can't predict where they will go from here but I am excited to see and hear what the future holds.