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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.