Next awesome album I found during my travel across doom metal: Songs from the North I, II & III (2015). Yes, a triple album, something insane for the times we live in, where people just listen to single songs here and there. In an interview with the components of Swallow the Sun, one of them stated that he didn’t like the fast-food culture music is also turning into, and that’s why he didn’t care it wasn’t such a good idea to release a triple album. And I’m on his side, that’s why I like to appreciate albums as a whole piece of art, like a whole beyond its parts.
First, who are Swallow the Sun? They’re a Finnish band that started their way in metal on the year 2000, that’s more than fifteen years ago. Their music mixes a characteristic melodic doom metal style with some elements from death metal. I’ve listened to previous albums by them and I have to say they haven’t introduced much variety or changes in their sound, until the point many of them seem to be the same notes but played in different order. Despites of that, with Songs from the North they’ve made an effort to experiment and grow, and the result has been awesome.
So let’s start by the beginning: Songs from the North I. This is my favortie album and consists of eight tracks, all above five minutes long, and presents the more classical sound of the band. Despites, the songs have variety and proof their ability to compose and combine great melodies with heavier intervals. With you came the whole of the world’s tears opens with sweet acoustic guitar that then turns into heavy riffing and slow rythm, in the line of pure doom metal. 10 Silver Bullets turns the atmosphere much darker and disquieting, and I’d highlight the growls and vocals. Rooms and Shadows is my first favorite out of the album because of the beautiful melody built by the lead guitar and the sad chorus. Heartstring Shattering is less obscure than the previous tracks and incorporates again acoustic moments along with hypnotic rythm and easy to follow melody. Also, it’s in this track when female back vocals make their first appearence, a detail I specially love in this band, beacause the voice of the girl is so soft and comforting. Silohuettes takes a more death metal approach and turns even epic during the chorus. The Memory of Light is my next favorite song. Vocals are great, as long as the melody and the lyrics, and the chorus is just insane. The next track, Lost & Catatonic is darker than the previous ones and has an interesting intro that alternates from heavy guitar to shy guitar picking and, as always, includes a melodic, sing-along chorus. The final touch to this first album is put by From Happiness to Dust, a heartbreaking tune more experimental than all the previous ones that ends with a violin fading into silence. Another one to my bag of favorites.
Songs from the North II gets out of the way of expression to chase beauty and aesthetics. Music here is not metal, but acoustic and folk songs inspired in nature, landscapes and the changing of seasons. This album posses an incredible sensibility and extreme good taste, and it’s so evoking that it’s hard to describe it with words, so just listen to it. The first song, The Womb of Winter, is a minimalistic piano compositions that drifts from a dark and disqueting mood to another sweet and hopeful, somehow transitioning from the tone of the first album to the one in the second. The hightlights are The Heart of a Cold White Land, Songs from the North (the girl vocals are amazing) and the more progressive Before the Summer Dies.
Finally, Songs from the North III is a big contrast regarding the previous two albums. Here things turn really heavy and obscure, as any trace of melody fades away to give room to dark riffing, slow rhythms, wild growls and cryptic composition, close to funeral doom. The Gathering of Black Moths retain a bit of the melodic tone, again making a transition, and plays with repetition and contrasts bewteen silent moments and more intense ones. 7 Hours Late dives deep into funeral doom with the extremely slow rhythm and dark atmosphere. And after this comes my favorite track of this album: Empires of Loneliness. Lyrics, telling the story of a man that decides to throws himself in front of a train, are as striking as painful and expressive is the music. Abandoned by the Light follows the style of the previous one, with some emotional moments. Finally, the trilogy is closed by The Clouds Prepare for Battle, another doom piece that turns more emotional during the final part.
In a nutshell, Songs from the North is a true piece of art and the work of experienced musicians that know how to take advantage of their classical style and also feel confident enough to experiment with different genres and approaches to introduce novelties. The first album can be enjoy by anyone that knows or doesn’t know the band as it presents a good sample of what Swallow the Sun plays. Metal and non-metal listeners will love the simple beauty of the second album and, for the fearless ones, the third album offers enough obscure tracks to chew on for a while.