There are albums that are easy to enjoy and to listen to: these typically feature one single style of music with few and minimal variations throughout the album. Instead, there are other records that require attention, dedication, because every song is actually a work in itself. Swallow the Sun, the Finnish melodic doom metal band, has always released albums full of many details, plenty of contrasts, with articulated, long and complex songs. Their latest work, named When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light, is absolutely no exception and in fact the album contains eight tracks which are all deep and with lots of different ideas.
The music is generally dominated by dark atmospheres, the rhythms are typically slow, but sporadically we have moments where the tension explodes in bursts of blasting riffs and post-black screams. But even in the moments of greater sonic impact, the melody remains the central component of the music. Anyway, do not expect singable choruses and catchy motifs. All the melodies in When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light are subtle, melancholic, and carry with them a sense of deep sadness. As a matter of fact, the genesis of this album is closely related to some terrible events that have occurred to the band members, starting from the tragic death of Juha Raivio‘s partner (in life and music).
Sadness and melancholy, however, never become oppressive, although they are present at all times. In this respect, the band has really achieved an impressive maturity in songwriting: they really know how to build up and dissolve the tension, and how to balance melancholic and energetic moments so that the songs remain always well equilbrated and relatively enjoyable to hear. The band shows also impressive capacities in combining together opposing elements such as acoustic and distorted guitars, or clean and screamed vocals. Transitions between the different sections of each track are very smooth, and each song becomes a long and passionate journey into the gloomy but still elegant landscapes that are created by the band.
Of course, as I anticipated at the beginning of the review, this music is not for easy listening. The songs, although all beautiful and complex, do not come immediately to the listener’s heart. At least not all of them.
My overall rating for the album is 7/10.
I don’t know if it’s by chance or derives from a specific choice of the band, but the tracks of the LP that impressed me the most are the two songs which, respectively, open and closes the album. The record starts with the beautiful title-track When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light, which sets the atmospheres and the moods for all the remaining songs album, and it’s closed by the elegant, melancholic and delicate Never Left, permeated by beautiful gothic atmospheres. Other good songs are The Crimson Crown and Clouds on Your Side.
When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light can be streamed from Spotify.