Swallow the Sun // Emerald Forest and the Black Bird
Rating: 3.0/5.0 — Enjoyable parts, too much whole.
Label: Spinefarm
Websites: swallowthesun.net
Release Dates: US: 02.14.2012 (?) | EU: 2012.02.01

Swallow the Sun - 2012Finnish doom sensations Swallow the Sun are back. The morose Finns (that’s redundant) have returned in 2012 with their fifth full length record and most gargantuan release to date. Indeed, having discovered that all their music is put out on compact disc, Swallow the Sun has embarked on a quest to fill the whole damn thing with their plodding, thick doom metal. Unwilling to edit themselves, they instead have produced 67 minutes worth of new doom for the consumption of their adoring fanbase. This massive work, entitled Emerald Forest and the Black Bird has spent a long time in my Review Gestation Chamber™ due to being so much music that I have been incapable of listening to it in a single go.

Actually, none of what I wrote is even a joke. I literally have never listened to this album all the way through. I can’t do it. Instead, I tend to split it into two 33 minute sections. From the dulcet tones of the title track’s 2 minute and 45 second introduction to Damnation-era Opeth outro on “Hearts Wide Shut” I’m good. Hell, I even want more. The tracks here are mostly slow-paced goth doom epics that remind me a lot more of My Dying Bride and Barren Earth than I’d previously remembered. Certainly the former is more present than ever before, with spoken parts that scream Like Gods of the Sun at me. The music is effective and there isn’t a bad song here, and while “Cathedral Walls” has taken some heat for having Anette Olsson [Det stavas med två /s/ för fan, Anette. Du är vuxen. AMG) from Nightwish doing guest vocals, it’s a good song with a haunting melody and she sounds great. And while “Hate, Lead the Way” is certainly less doomy at times than one might expect from these embittered bastards, it is a tremendously heavy and effective song.

Swallow the Sun - 2012If I don’t quit listening after “Hearts Wide Shut,” though, then this record just loses me. While the songs are good, it doesn’t seem to be meant to be listened to in a single go. Call it Reign in Blood syndrome, but the album is just too long. This isn’t always a problem, it’s just that it gets laid on so thickly with Emerald Forest… in a way that the band’s previous material, which often had long running times, just never did for me. But after a break, some tea, coffee or vodka (depends on the time of day), I am willing to come back and continue drowning myself in the land of the noontime moon’s crowning glory. The b-side (so to speak) consists of another 5 tracks and while none of them are as strong as “Hate, Lead the Way,” both “Labyrinth of London” and “Of Death and Corruption” are stellar, but not seriously doomy. This is also a good stand alone record, but it’s not as strong as the first half of the CD.

Ultimately Emerald Forest & the Black Bird is a good record that just gets weighed down under a band’s inability to edit itself. While this record contains some of the shortest songs in the band’s career, it still just ends up being too much “ambience” and not enough meat. The album has definite highlights, “Hate, Lead the Way,” “Labyrinth of London” and “Of Death and Coruption” are all fantastic songs. But those three songs and a couple more would have been enough to make listen to this album a hundred times in a row and crave for more. Instead, I’m left thinking that this record doesn’t quite come close to Ghosts of Loss or The Morning Never Came in quality. And that’s a shame, because Swallow the Sun is a special band.

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  • “Instead, I’m left thinking that this record doesn’t quite come close to Ghosts of Loss or The Morning Never Came in quality”.

    I agree a hundred percent. This album disappointed me as I was hoping for a return to those earlier albums since that was attracted me to the band in the first place. This one just seemed to tread in artsy fartsy waters too much without any of the power of previous releases. Mikko’s other band Barren Earth is also treading these waters but not as much.

    • Yeah, that’s a bit of a problem actually. It sounds like Barren Earth and Swallow the Sun are converging in sound, that’s a bad idea.

  • I, once again, agree. I am a huge fanboy of STS and although I like this new one a lot, it is like sand between my fingers instead of a solid piece like all the previous cds. There´s a myriad of musical influences instead of the trademark STS sound. Since I know Raivio to be a huge Opeth fan, I was amusing mself with the thought that he saw his opportunity and took up where O left off…I have to try your “chopped in half”-technique in listening this. I am curious to hear the new songs live 9th of march.

    • Sometimes the records that take the longest to get into are the ones that are really the best. It’s not always the case, but it can be great to take a long time with a record, see the band live and all that kind of stuff. Ghost Reveries was like that for me. I hated it when it came out and it just really grew on me.

  • Dean Hili

    I have to agree with the point on the length of the album, which is a damn shame cause I havent really identified any real weak songs on it, just thats its too long as a unit. some really good music on this album though will be buying it asap

  • I’d like to start with stating that although I haven’t posted on this site before, I have been reading this review site for quite a while and been enjoying some very spot-on and entertainingly written reviews here. Until now I haven’t felt the urge to respond, but I sincerely disagree with the general view on this album given by this review. Allow me to elaborate.

    Firstly, it definitely sounds like you guys need to give this album a few more spins. I’ve been a big fan of StS for a long while now, and listened all of their albums (including Plague of Butterflies) maybe a hundred times (I fear I’m not exaggerating that), and I’ve experienced so far that this album needs a lot of spins to become fully appreciated. Even so, I recognize that it is a matter of taste whether you’ll like this album better than it’s predecessors, but (only) 3 out of 5 points is too meager in my opinion.
    Some of the songs that are claimed to make this record too long are precisely those songs that built up the atmosphere for the other songs to come. I don’t think any of these songs are exceptionally long for StS measures (remember ‘Plague of Butterflies’  or ‘the Giant’?), and I only had trouble getting through the album the first few times, which is quite normal for a doom release. They have most certainly taken a more atmospheric and less straightforward approach in this release, and introduced a much higher level of variety, but is this by definition a bad thing? I think not. 
    Furthermore, I am quite surprised that nothing here is said about the story this album tells. I truly think StS exceeded themselves this time lyrics-wise; a StS album never had such a deep, emotional charge. I’d suggest reading the album booklet and/or read recent interviews with band members to find yourself positively surprised (for example, ‘April 14th’ is an ode to the recently deceased Peter Steele).
    Finally, I’m not claiming that the opinion that is given in this site is unfair or anything – I understand the motivation for the arguments given and of course for some of us these may be very true – but just from one StS fan to another: give this album a chance to grow and you’ll realize that you may have found the best StS release to date.

  • Zadion

     Eeeehhhhh, to each his own. As I’ve stated before, The Morning Never Came is one of the only doom albums I have ever truly enjoyed – the rest of STS’s discography is mostly a few good tracks (The Giant, Don’t Fall Asleep, Plague of Butterflies) on typically boring albums. This is the only other STS album I’ve actually enjoyed all the way through, though it is a bit long (that may just be the fact that doom metal is so damn boring most of the time). Night Will Forgive Us is among my favorites of theirs too – best on the album IMO, though I’m still letting the rest grow on me.