Swallow the Sun_Songs From the NorthIt has finally come to pass. A metal band fell so in deeply love with their own music that they just had to release a TRIPLE album. Not a three part conceptual piece stretching over several years, mind you, but three (3) full albums dropped at once for fans to have a righteously extended soak in. I suppose it’s no surprise it was Swallow the Sun that broke down the gates of self-restraint. Their releases have always been long-winded treatises on sadness and even their Plague of Butterflies “EP” ran over an hour. Songs of the North I, II, and III collectively run over two and a half hours (153+ minutes), and that’s obviously a lot of plodding Finnish doom/death for the average bloke to slog through. When you realize Pink Floyd‘s legendary double album The Wall ran a scant 81 minutes, the sheer insanity of the thing becomes clear. Somehow the Herculean task of reviewing this fell to me, and before I set off into the endless northern freeze, I think it’s essential to develop the context in which to view this elephantine monstrosity. Had the band dropped these discs over the course of several years, one could logically assume they wanted you to consider each installment as a separate but related piece of music capable of standing on its own merits (see Vanden Plas). By releasing all three at once, the obvious assumption is that this was intended to be experienced in all its mammoth entirety. For better or worse, that’s the prism through which this monsterwork will be vivisected.

The first thing that jumps out at the listener is the strange track sequencing. The first and longest disc is what could be considered classic Swallow the Sun: sad, mid-tempo doom/death. The second disc is entirely composed of melancholy, somewhat folksy goth-rock with a lot of Anathema, Ghost Brigade and Tiamat influences, and not one iota of harsh vocals or heavy riffage. The final disc is hugely ponderous, funeral doomesque material with much less regard for accessibility or memorability. With the music segregated thusly, it’s easy for the listener to play by individual preference, but it makes listening to the collection as a whole a pretty disjointed experience.

Finnish Landscapes 2The traditionally flavored material is all good with a few great moments. “Rooms and Shadows” is an interesting blend of Insomnium, Amorphis and Tiamat and it grabs the listener from the start. The Amorphis vibe is especially strong and sounds like something off Am Universum at times. Mikko Kotamäki distinguishes himself here with great clean singing alongside the uber guttural death roars. “Lost and Catatonic” recalls Brave Murder Day era Katatonia with a brilliant mix of deathly and clean vocals on what is a haunting example of bleak, but rocking melo-death. “From Happiness to Dust” brings out the mid-period Anathema tricks with its stripped down, bare bones presentation and tragically sad emotional palette. “Heartstrings Shattering” also commands attention by borrowing effectively from the goth-infused beauty of Draconian Times era Paradise Lost. The result is a sad, introspective piece with exquisitely somber, reflective guitar work and downcast clean vocals.

Despite the considerable strength of the opening platter, it’s the second disc where things really take off and fly. It’s here the band departs from the doom/death genre entirely for an extended exploration of sad goth and indie/alt-rock, borrowing extensively from the likes of Anathema, Tiamat and the mellower side of acts like Agalloch and Black Sun Aeon. It’s a beautiful journey from start to finish and it may be one of the best albums of the year. “Heart of a Cold White Land” is a chillingly morose gem with gorgeous acoustic guitar work and perfectly glum vocals from Mikko, It’s like a more mellow Ghost Brigade mixed with A Swarm of the Sun and it will haunt your dreams. “Away” is dreamy, hypnotic Anathema worship, and “Pray for the Winds to Come” is a sad, reflective tune with fragile guitars and frail vocals. It’s folksy and downbeat but gorgeous and perfect for watching the snow fall. As the disc winds out wistfully with “Before the Summer Dies,” you’re left in a state of shock that this bittersweet emotional voyage happened in the midst of a crushing death doom project. There are no weak moments on this disc and the entire run-time is a depressive delight.

Swallow the Sun_2015

After two impressive discs, the collective gets dragged downward by the final act which is almost uniformly plodding, mega-heavy funeral doom. It’s well executed and generally more listenable than much of the genre, but the sheer length of the songs and the fact they comes at the ass end of an already humongous listening session (an hour and forty minutes) makes it a mighty tough river to ford. Opener “Gathering of the Black Moths” is particularly merciless at thirteen minutes, and despite some effective and gripping moments (especially Mikko’s insane screaming), it’s a lot to wade through. While only “7 Hours Late” feels like a complete bust, the songs here are just not as captivating as a whole and if you came through gates I and II first, fatigue will cut your legs out from under you. Only parts of each song really resonated with me, with “Abandoned by the Light” being the best of the bunch.

Finnish LandscapesMusically speaking, there’s obviously a cosmic ass-ton to dwell on here, but the biggest impression is made by Mikko. He was already a respected vocalist for his back catalog and work with Barren Earth and Kuolemanlaakso, but Songs of the North is his magnum opus. The sheer variety of vocal styles he utilizes is breathtaking and his clean singing across discs I and especially II is phenomenal. Add to that one of the best cavernous death roars in the industry and you truly have something special in a front man. Markus Jamsen and Juha Raivio also impress with a large collection of crushing doom riffs and an even more shocking collection of gentle goth-tinged harmonies. Along with the exceptional keyboards of Aleski Munter, they weave all sorts of sad, despairing webs over the epic length of the three discs. Munter’s piano segments are particularly poignant, especially on “The Womb of Winter.” Under the pressure to create so much music all at once, it’s hard to imagine any band could have done much better than these chaps did and they should be proud of themselves.

You really have to hand it to Swallow the Sun for attempting such an ambitious project and doing such a good job with it. The sheer volume of material here is so great, absorbing it becomes a daunting prospect few will have the patience and intestinal fortitude for, and that’s a shame because much of the material is good and some is truly great. But that’s the curse of the triple album – the artist gives so much, but in this age of instant gratification and attention deficits, it ultimately becomes too much for most to assimilate. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try though, since the extended journey Swallow the Sun painstakingly laid out for you is one well worth taking. Mileage will certainly vary and most will simply poach the parts they like and create their own playlist, but that doesn’t in any way lessen the achievement here, which is significant and impressive.

Editor’s Note: Although this package includes three complete CDs of music, Century Media is selling it for $13.00. You can argue the merits of a triple album all day long but the band/label is certainly giving the listener a massive amount of music for the price of a standard album. A bargain is a bargain.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media Records
Websites: swallowthesun.net | facebook.com/swallowthesun
Releases worldwide: November 13th, 2015

 

 

 

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  • BaboonKing

    Wow… first Vanden Plas, now this… I think a vacation is in order! :)

  • Name’s Dalton

    tl;dl

    • Thatguy

      Call me a silly old fool, but it’s early in the morning here and I don’t get this.

      • Translation: too long, didn’t listen

        • Thatguy

          Thank you. Good comment.

          • Silly old fool!

          • Thatguy

            C’est moi. Merci.

        • FutureBeyondSatan

          My translation was: too lazy to type, don’t like typing

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Too bad they included a band photo. We could have had a unicorn threesome.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Help me out here people! Upvote this because I can only do it once!

      • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

        Instructions clear. Upvoted your comment. Nailed it.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          I see what you did there… nice one smarty pants .

          Now go and upvote the comment about the Unicorn threesome!

          • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

            Ctrl-F + unicorn threesome led me to this comment. Instructions clear, upvoted!

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            I have finally realized why people never do what I tell them to… It’s because my instructions are not clear!

          • [not a Dr]

            Dealing with this stuff is what computer programming is all about. All day long.

  • Philip Pledger

    You have to hand it to them, though, for releasing THIS MUCH CONTENT for the same price as a regular album. I’m liking what I hear so far, and will probably be picking this up. These longer albums don’t really bother me that much, even with my ADHD, so this should be a treat.

  • Bradley Roberts

    I don’t know if releasing all three albums at once necessarily means that they want us to listen to them all in a row, and the fact that all three albums have distinct styles says to me that they’d want them to be listened separately, or at least not in one single sitting.

  • RuySan

    Listened to their first albums back in the day and it sounded as generic as they come. Kinda like a heavier but more accessible Brave Murder Day but without any of the soul of that album.

    How have they evolved though the years?

    • funeraldoombuggy

      If you don’t like their first albums you most likely won’t be sold on anything else they do.

      I totally disagree with the BMD comparison. But yes they are heavy and kind of accessible because they write really good songs in my option.

      • basenjibrian

        I like Brave Murder Day. (oh no!)

        • funeraldoombuggy

          I LOVE Brave Murder Day! One of my favorite albums.

          • Wilhelm

            The DR score for BMD was 13!! The songs were minimal but amazing.

  • Pimpolho

    It’s better if each part is listened as different album. But if they released all the parts at the same time, like the review said, it’s probably made to be listened as a whole. Great review, Mr. Dhrum.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Yea, I’ll give it a try, though III sounds like an anti-climax. It’ll be interesting to hear how cohesive, related, conjoined (eh, whatever) the parts are.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    I’ve seen an alternate album cover for this. I like the minimal design, but this one’s good too.

    • You wot m8?

      I’m partial to the design they went with. Fit’s the music more than this ^.

    • tomasjacobi

      This is the cover for the digital edition (iTunes, Spotify etc.)
      The “triangle” cover used in the review is from the box that houses the 3 albums in the physical release. The 3 individual albums each has a different photo of the model used in the digital edition cover.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Cool, thanks. Enjoying what I’m hearing so far.

      • tomasjacobi

        LP/CD edition with covers:

        • Gorgeous packaging.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          Nice!

        • They must 1) have really good sales or 2) have a label who really wants them out of their deal.

          • tomasjacobi

            Point 2) is interesting. I guess that depends on whether this counts as 1 or 3 albums in relation to their record deal with Century Media.

        • For $13.00 this is a pretty sweet deal.

          • tomasjacobi

            Well, the actual price is 50 Euro + shipping when ordering from cmdistro in Europe. But that’s not a bad price for 5 LPs and 3 CDs!

    • I like this cover a lot.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Me too. There’s some of the haunting quality of Steve McCurry’s Afghan Girl.

  • UishidoX

    that might be perfect for my 4 hour car ride tomorrow…

  • You wot m8?

    I’ve always really like Swallow the Sun, they were one of the first trve metal acts that I really got into when I was first transitioning into metal. Yes, they stretch the “sad Fin-boy” act to the limit, but you have to admit it works. There is a level of actual emotion to their work, and they are one of the few bands that really illustrates that metal can be truly beautiful while still retaining it’s deathy cred. Just my take on it, fight me.

  • Definitely agree that II is the best of the bunch. My personal suggestion for digesting this is to see I as a standalone album, with II and III as a yin-and-yang double album a la Deliverance/Damnation. It’s still surprising how much of the material is really spot-on though – the back half of I is fantastic, II is nearly impeccable all the way through, and even III has some pretty great moments.

    • I spun them as a trio and as stand alones. It’s obviously much easily to digest approaching each album separately. Regardless how I approached it, I and II (especially II) dwarfed III in quality.

      • Arjan Zwamborn

        I think your review was mighty and your rating was fair, but I’ve been reading this (amazing!) debate here and I hope you’ll give III another chance; to me, it’s the most challenging yet the most rewarding piece of this trio. I’ve got four or five spins behind me now, and though III does not match II and I in terms of catchiness, the atmosphere is unprecedented. Plus, many of III’s songs can be compared with StS earlier work, such as ‘Doomed to Walk the Earth’ or ‘The Giant’; so the departure from their earlier work isn’t as big as one might initially expect, especially if you get over the fact that there are five subsequent ‘Doomed…’-ish kind of tracks in a row.

        • It is totally loaded with atmosphere, can’t deny that at all.

  • AndySynn

    Kind of surprised at the score, given how positive the overall review comes across. I think… think… I would have given it a solid 4, or maybe even a 4.5 (for the sheer chutzpah) because, well, damn me if there isn’t some of their absolute top-tier work on here. Particularly on discs 1 and 2.

    And even disc 3… well, I know a lot of bands who’d give their left, right, and rear testicle for a single album that good (despite it being, to a certain extent, the weakest of the triptych).

    And I echo many of the comments here, in that it doesn’t feel like they necessarily want you to listen to it all back-to-back, but more are offering up three facets of their sound that you can pick from depending on your mood.

    Still… well done StS. Well done indeed.

    • tomasjacobi

      I think you’re right. If they wanted us to listen to this as one complete album they wouldn’t have organised the material by style like this. It seems obvious to me that the intention is that you can listen to the album that fits your mood of the day.

    • Then why release them at the same time?

      • Probably because they’re all a product of the same moment of the band.
        Maybe they wouldn’t feel so comfortable with releasing, say, part II
        next year, and even less comfortable releasing part III in 2017 when
        it’s all already so old for them. Besides, maybe it could seem like “oh
        they turned into an acoustic band” and then “ok funeral doom now oh man
        these guys are lost.” Just my point of view, and what I would probably
        feel.

        • That’s stupid.

          • AndySynn

            No, it’s really not.

          • Pablo Casado Gañarul

            If it´s organized by style and it´s a product of the same moment of the band, and those are big “ifs” especially the second one”, you could´ve simply released three separated albums and, in my book, that would´ve make much more sense. That move, on the other hand, would´ve carried comments like “YOU´RE ONLY LOOKING AFTER THE MONEY” and, in the end, everyone is arguing in the Interwebs because ¯_(ツ)_/¯

          • No one said that Devin Townsend was “lost” when he wrote and released the first four DTP albums. All four were written (roughly speaking) at the same time, but released separately over a period of two years.

            I don’t really understand people defending the band’s decision. From the review, album 2 is the one that is most worthy, but to get it, I have to buy two other albums I don’t want. Meh.

          • Jan Humhej

            That is different though. Devin Townsend has for a long time been someone who offers various kinds of music. His “brand” is actually to some degree based on that. Swallow the Sun are not in the same boat, disc 2 and 3 here are big departure from their usual sound, so those kind of perception worries in their case could be legitimate. Now whether they thought about this or not at all I of course dont know.

          • The Ichthyologist

            Love that face at the end of your comment, made me chuckle!

          • chris

            Amg has lost his mind.
            Sheer stubborn.
            Like where he placed Killers.
            Good to see he is mentally unstable.

      • tomasjacobi

        From the horse’s mouth:

        “Making a triple album in this godforsaken digital and modern day and age…Many will say it’s madness. I say it is to bring worth, heart and respect back into the music and to the album format where it belongs. This should never turn into a shallow fast food industry where music is only downloaded one song at a time. These albums hold life, death, gloom, beauty and despair in their deepest levels and forms. The three chapters are different but connected, one long journey through these songs written up here in the North”, comments main songwriter and guitarist Juha Raivio on the new, bold, adventurous and characteristically dark triple full-length album of Finland’s melancholic death-doom masters SWALLOW THE SUN!

        • Fucking stupidity. You don’t create respect for the album by producing 2.5 hours of music. It’s only the fucking digital age that even allows this kind of bullshit.

          • tomasjacobi

            Wow, you’re really doing the angry thing today!
            I think they released 3 albums at the same time instead of releasing them separately over a 3 year period. If you buy the CD or LP version you can listen to them separately. It’s only the digital version where the whole thing plays from start to finish.
            And just to break the consensus in these comments, I’m so far enjoying the funeral doom disc the most…

          • The bright neon colors of the new background trigger strong emotions.

          • SelfIndulgence

            “Wow, you’re really doing the angry thing today!”

            Glorious isn’t it?!

          • tomasjacobi

            Or as Gloryhammer would put it:
            “Epic war is FIGHT!”

          • Not really saving the album, eh.

          • Oscar Albretsen

            Hey, allmusic gave this album 4.5/5 stars! If their reviews of new music weren’t always overly-positive, that would be significant! That site LOVES when bands release double albums, but triple albums? HOLD THE FRICKIN’ PHONE! Why did I bring that up here on a much more fair/reliable site? I guess just ’cause allmusic rarely even reviews music on this site. And that it actually got an even HIGHER score there?!?!

          • tomasjacobi

            You probably don’t want to hear this, but I love how angry this is making you.
            I’m hereby calling on ALL bands to release pointless triple- and quadruple albums.
            #FeedTheAnger

          • Pablo Casado Gañarul

            This flowchart is even better than Ken´s, and that one was GLORIOUS.

          • Well, that settles it.

  • How can you call an album that can’t be listened to from front to back a good score?

    • It can be listened to from front to back if you have 2.5 hours to kill. Two of the three discs are remarkably good and even the “bad” disc is still decent, though I’m not the biggest funeral doom fan out there.

      • I dunno, your criticisms of my Maiden apologism when I gave it a 2.5 ring in my ears when you’re giving a “very good” to an album that, as a whole, is not very good.

        • Most of this is either very good or excellent. It’s only the funeral doom finale that kills it for me.

          • Ratings are a sham and you’re confirming it. How can you possibly call this good as a whole. You, per definition, are justifying it by its parts.

          • I smell a rebuttal review brewing and I don’t like it. BTW, you’re a crank pot.

          • How’s your medicine taste, Steely D!?

          • I didn’t question your 2.5 for Maiden. I likely would have given it the same thing.

          • Alright boys, shake hands and make up!

          • Nope, this can only be settled by a poison pool noodle duel at the summit of Mount Doom during a blood moon.

          • Pimpolho

            Well… It IS Friday the 13th…

          • You wot m8?

            So when I asked about future multi-album reviews on that Vanden Plas review… “To be used oh so sparingly” he said. You filthy liar!

          • Never again. NEVER!

          • Sounds like somebody needs a safe space and a hug.

          • You just handle me shaking your foundations by pointing out that scoring is dumb.

          • I love scoring. I enjoyed scoring all parts of this here mega album. I’m scoring this debate too.

          • And no, the score is reflective of the overall quality of this enormous thing.

          • No, because if the back third of normal length album pulled it down you’d never get a 3.5!

          • If the front section is really high-level and the “bad” portion is lesser but not awful, I could and likely would.

          • Words, words, words. The number at the bottom really doesn’t mean a hill of beans other than reader convenience – and of course to feed the trolls. Always must feed the trolls.

          • funeraldoombuggy

            Yummy.

          • Thatguy

            Ratings are a sham and i see your point AMG, but a triple album is unprecedented. Probably a rating for each disc would be fairer – but also absurd.

          • I planned on including a breakdown score per disc but scrapped it when AMG got all crank pants.

          • Thatguy

            Aha.

          • Defeats the purpose of a rating system. It’s if I were to give a record 4.5 for the first 3 songs, a 3.5 for the 2nd 3 and finally a 2.0 for the last 3.

            Obviously I’m trolling a bit, but I think the entire concept of a 3 record release is fucking stupid.

          • I think I made it pretty clear I don’t think a triple album is a grand concept, but they did manage to generate a lot of good music.

          • But I had this precise argument with people in the Maiden review. As a percentage of a whole it’s irrelevant if it’s great. The whole concept of an album is that it’s a conceptually cohesive piece. If it’s not, don’t release it as one. Anything other is a failure of the form.

          • That might be a tad too restrictive of a viewpoint on what is at the end of the day, art.

          • … we give a number to every album we review here, man. I’m not sure we’re in a place to suddenly broaden the expanse of our understandings of that number.

          • Thatguy

            ‘…a lot of good music.’ So thus at least a 3.5. Yep

          • Monsterth Goatom

            Here’s my take after having listened to all three albums in a row. First off, to quote tomasjacobi’s quotation of Juha Raivio, it is indeed a journey, but, in my mind, a journey downwards, thought not necessarily in the sense of quality. Each record is a step deeper down into… emotional pain, the subconscious? I’m not sure myself, but I do feel that there’s an increasing emotional weight with each record.

            I’m also reminded of Shakespeare’s late romances like Winter’s Tale or the Tempest, or Mozart’s Magic Flute. We start in light and laughter, journey through darkness and hardship, and emerge once more into the light. So, I guess we’re missing album IV, as we end here in darkness.

            I admire their endeavor to rise to the condition of Wagner in terms of epic length, but the quality isn’t consistent over that length.

          • Nice analysis. What disc did you like best?

          • Monsterth Goatom

            Probably the first, but I can see myself gravitating more to the second as the months get colder.

            At first II didn’t do much for me, but, as III played, my affection for II grew. The despair of III had me casting emotionally-charged glances back at II. Being in the depths of the emotional Winter that is III, I longed for II. Brings to mind one of my favourite lines from Shakespeare: “bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang”.

          • That’s deep.

          • Monsterth Goatom

            One of those days. Listening to this has increased the deepness of my deepities. Gonna listen to Havukruunu’s latest now to bring myself back up.

          • tomasjacobi

            Havulinnaan is great and it has gotten better the more I listen to it.

          • Monsterth Goatom

            Love it, especially the guitar tone. So many great moments. The start of Rautalintu makes me want to grab my Conan gear and sword.

          • tomasjacobi

            Exactly. I’m a total pacifist, but that song makes be want to march off to war!

          • Martin Knap

            this makes me think of something I read recently: “When Richard Wagner listened to a passage of Beethoven’s Third Symphony (Eroica), he found that it conjured the image of ‘the loveable glad man who paces hale and hearty through the fields of Nature, looks laughingly across the meadows, and winds his merry hunting-horn from woodland heights’. “

          • Thatguy

            Does indeed defeat the purpose of ratings – which gets back to the absurdity of rating and your ‘reductio ad absurdam’ of the idea is sound. But maybe an exception could be made

          • But why? This kind of onanism should be discouraged.

          • Thatguy

            You could be right…

          • Don’t encourage him.

          • Thatguy

            Ha.

          • Heh

          • More emotionally exhausted than mad, but thanks for asking!

          • tomasjacobi

            I don’t know, man. I think there’s a case to be made for onanism!

          • Monsterth Goatom

            The band name != Pink Floyd.

          • Unprecedented for a reason. Sometimes the “research gap” is there because it’s a stupid fucking idea.

          • Thatguy

            It’s a crazy idea I agree – but someone had to do it.

          • No, no they didn’t.

          • Thatguy

            Seriously – I generally hate double and triple albums – wanky self indulgent and thin on actual good material – but this sound like it is better than that. I will see what I think when I listen myself.

        • And as I recall, at various points you were toying with scoring Maiden even lower. At no point did this feel average or bad and much of it exceeds good by a wide margin.

          • But because of the uneven quality. Go read my defense of the score. It’s precisely the opposite of what you’re saying. I’m arguing that the whole weight of the thing had overloaded it. Which is precisely what’s happening here, even if the different pieces are good, it’s not cohesive. Dropping 2.5 hours of music on people to listen to and/or review is stupid.

          • I agree with you on that ultimate point. It was a strange choice.

          • Thatguy

            I agree with that ultimate point too…and probably no-one is going to love all three discs so no review will be entirely positive.

          • Norfair Legend

            ;)

          • Yup.

          • chris

            Sad sack

      • basenjibrian

        Because I have no common sense I (hangs head in shame) I listen to music while bicycling. On LONG bicycle rides. Unlike the frozen north, it is still nice cycling weather here in California, so….this will be the soundtrack tomorrow!

  • Innit Bartender

    I was expecting disc II to bring out Opeth-Damnation comparisions, but it seems it’s not the case. In any way, very nice review! And very good album. I think I’ll keep just II though…

    • Best thing that ever happened to Damnation and Deliverance was that they were released separately.

      • Thatguy

        And I do agree with that.

        • ‘Course you do. Because I think it and therefore it’s right.

          • Thatguy

            Yes, master

      • FutureBeyondSatan

        Have you listened to the remasters, yet?

      • Innit Bartender

        Right! But aren’t they being reissued in a 75-disc box complete with “O” wine glasses, monocle and door mattress?

  • funeraldoombuggy

    I can’t wait to listen to this, big StS fan, been holding off listening to any advance tracks so I can listen to it together.

    Note: Plague of Butterflies EP is only 35 minutes long and it’s one song they wrote for a ballet that never happened. The run time on some of the CDs is over an hour because they tacked on their demo/first ep.

    Thank you for taking the time to review this.

    • That was intended as a jovial poke at their general long-windedness.

  • Pablo Casado Gañarul

    -This release is a landmark and the two first sentences are like “2015? We’ve been avoiding this shit too long… THE KRAKEN HAS BEEN RELEASED”
    -Finally, justice has been served and Gloryhammer reigns with furious and mighty space power over AMG.com
    -My english is awful, sue me.

    • We just might.

      • Pablo Casado Gañarul

        That´s because you´re still experiencing the astral rage of cosmic dwaves from Aberdeen xD

        • Tis true. I’ve been unable to obtain the calming salve of Unicorn testes to ease my astral rage.

        • THE RAAAAGE! THE ASTRAL RAAAAGE! THE ASTRAL RAGE OF COSMIC DWARVES FROM ABERDEEEEEEEEEN!

  • Hideous destructor

    Good review. I think your justification of your rating is perfectly reasonable based on the content of the review.
    Interestingly other reviews I’ve read rate part 3 the most highly. Gonna have to get it and decide myself.
    The whole triple album thing is a marketing ploy that I’m gonna fall prey to…

  • A Feed From Cloud Mountain

    How does the final mix of the record sound? I have to ask because the
    YouTube version of Heartstrings Shattering was ass. Mikko’s growls were
    way too far back, and it all sounded like a demo version in my opinion.
    YouTube is YouTube though, after all.

    • I had no issues with the sound. Some tracks are recorded with a higher DR than others but it sounds fine.

      • A Feed From Cloud Mountain

        Excellent.

        Nice review as well, definitely alleviates some of my worries. I had to laugh at a comment on Rooms And Shadows “I feel like they are going down the same path as Opeth.”

        Yeah this totally sounds like 70’s prog.

        • What?? Though you can make the analogy to Deliverance / Damnation, nothing here sounds much like Opeth at all.

          • Thatguy

            I think he was being sarcastic. Rarely works in print.

          • A Feed From Cloud Mountain

            Well he followed it up with “Not sure I like that.” And given it’s YouTube…

            Just started working through Songs I though, and 10 Silver Bullets absolutely crushes. Definitely worth the price of the album by itself.

            I can no longer feel my neck, pls send help.

          • Thatguy

            By he I meant you
            This is nothing like Opeth or 70s prog

          • Thatguy

            Or am I just causing further confusion?

          • Thatguy

            I like confusion

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Don´t be that guy… again.

          • A Feed From Cloud Mountain

            Haha sorry, I was being sarcastic. I thought about adding a /s in order to distinguish that, definitely should have.

  • Lord_Polymath

    Swallow the sun has always been formulaic and boring.

    • Thatguy

      Hey, that’s my thing – to be opinionated and contrary!

      • tomasjacobi

        You need to up your game; you seem almost reasonable in these comments…

        • Thatguy

          Ha!

      • Lord_Polymath

        Ahh, I relinquish control to you then. I’ve just never been a fan of Swallow the Sun. Dumping a metic shit-ton of music on me won’t likely change that.

        • Thatguy

          To each his own. I rather like them.

      • Uh, I’m the guy with the eponymous blog called Contrarian Metal Guy.

        • Thatguy

          Contrarian Metal Guy… Then the tag ‘Pickiness’

  • Rob Liz

    “Releasing three albums at once is stupid”. Nice analysis, AMG.

    Swallow the Sun decided to do what many bands don’t do these days and take a risk. It could have either gone really bad, been enjoyable with some lulls, or been fantastic. I’d say the middle one is pretty accurate.

    I applaud these guys for this endeavor. Now they’ll take off for 5 years after the tour cycle and recharge their batteries, I’d be surprised if they didn’t ;)

    • Such excellent analysis is why you continue to read, good sir.

  • El Lado Oscuro

    Steel Druhm friend, the record is way too boring. Respect but disagree. A 2.5 at best

  • Art Saves

    The second disc is easily the best one. I’ll definitely give all of them their fair share of listens but if they don’t step it up after a couple of listenings I’ll keep to only disc two. :)

  • MelbCro

    Good review, but I disagree with you saying Disc 3 is the weakest. I think its the strongest, while disc 1 is the weakest.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Releasing a triple album is like a big “Fuck you, we do what we want!” and that´s Metal as Hell. Each single disc of the album having a different feel makes sense to me, it´s like having three distinct parts to a single work, so the whole thing makes a nice arc, even though it´spread over three discs.

  • JJ

    This is the first time I’ve had to set aside an entire evening to listen to iTunes samples.

  • Heifer Madness

    Psst- Nobody tell Druhm about the 30 EPs Buckethead released last month.

  • Wilhelm

    I never liked StS but I really liked the embedded track, that makes sense though since it was always the singers growl that I couldn’t stand. If they wanted to be clever, they should have made four albums from this and released one in every season, instead of releasing three at one time, which is kind of silly.

  • Finq

    I really like the 3rd CD.
    Empires of Loneliness and Abandoned by the Light are as good as Funeral Doom gets for me.

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    So when this is album of the month, are you gonna use part 1, 2, or 3’s artwork to curtain the blog?

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      This is going to be album of the month for three months straight, each CD for one month, November, December and January.

  • Arjan Zwamborn

    You guys.. you guys liked it? I felt my heart jump a little when I saw this review at the top of the page, and I didn’t know what I expected, but this is a really positive review :)

    I’m still getting into this humongous heap of music, but thus far I prefer the first disc the least, with some songs that sound a little like B sides taken from Emerald Forest… (though some are great). The second and third discs, though, are phenomenal.

    In the end I personally applaud StS for pulling off this monumental achievement; and let’s be honest: it feels like major fanservice to me, being a long-term sucker for their music.

  • Lasse Momme

    This has gotten out of hand. By next year we’ll have slipknot releasing quadrologies about the latex industry and Cannibal Corpse releasing their next album in the form of spoken word poetry on Audiobook logging in at 24 hours.

    The End times are coming. Sadly they will probably arrive before the record finishes.

    • You mean after Cannibal Corpse releases their concept album about the Crimean War?

      • Lasse Momme

        yes of course, mustn’t forget that one!

        that’s a pretty damn good callback, btw.

  • One More Thing

    It feels like the Twilight Zone with how vehemently opposed AMG is to this record(s). I thought that, of all people, he would appreciate it for being three unique perspectives that are viewing the singular idea, each from a different angle. To see that he dislikes it so much confuses me (simply because of how I’ve come to understand his views/tastes over the years). I was anticipating his response to be far different. Did his account get hacked?

    @Steel Druhm – I really enjoyed your review. You did a damn good job detailing it considering the challenge that it posed. While it’s not a concept album and it was released as a conjoined whole, I think I understand what StS were trying to do by releasing this the way that they did. So my question for you, Mr. Druhm, is that if you listened to the last disc on it’s own, what score would you have given it by itself? Did it suffer mainly from being part of one long listening experience or were there things that didn’t match the consistency found on the first two discs?

    • I think if I had received Disc III by itself it would have gotten a 2.5 or 3.0. I’m not a fan of funeral doom and the lenghth of the songs and the pace wore on me.

      That said, there are good and great moments here too and some very emotional pieces of music which I like. This was the toughest part of the trilogy to make sense of.

      • MelbCro

        That’s interesting, Funeral Doom is an acquired taste and a difficult style to enter as a new listener. As a fan of that sub genre I love disc 3 the most.

        • That it is. And as far as funeral doom goes, the material on Disc III is more accessible than most. It’s not my cup of tea but I appreciate a good amount of the music anyway.

          • Pimpolho

            But i thought you were the Ahab guy! D:

          • Yep I reviewed their 2011 album. Wasn’t a fan of the genre then either but liked a lot of what they did there.

      • One More Thing

        I appreciate you answering that for me. The added perspective will help me give the third disc a fresh set of ears when I get to it. Thanks again!

  • madhare

    On the one hand, I agree that there is lot of pretentious self-indulgent wankery that should not be encouraged. Artists fall in love with themselves and lose all ability to edit their own work. Like Maiden. They are basically putting out the same stuff over and over, and it would benefit from cutting it down and making it better. This is exacerbated by the limitless digital age.

    On the other hand, I also understand that there are artists who wish to express a range of things and emotions. But that goes against the grain of format and market conventions. Usually markets (and marketers/labels) want one simple and one-angled product. It can be profiled and packaged neatly and sold to the right market segment.

    StS could have compiled this stuff into one album. It would start with couple of “sad, mid-tempo doom/death” songs, followed by couple of “melancholy, somewhat folksy goth-rock” songs, and ending with couple of “hugely ponderous, funeral doomesque” songs. Run-time of, say 70 minutes, 9.99 at the store. But that probably would have angered everyone. Both fans and critics. The reviews would have talked about “inconsistency”, and how “the band doesn’t know what it wants to do or where it’s going”.

    Of course, the other option would have been to just release one of these and scrap the rest. But that might have felt too one-sided for them.

    So I totally see how splitting up the variety of emotions into separate entities makes sense. And also get that they wish to release them all now, instead of putting two of them on a self. Like others said, this is – or these three are – the emotional state(s) where they are now. They might want to be somewhere else in the future.

    Is it self-indulgent? Yes. Is it caused by the digital format? Yes, totally. But the digital format also frees the artist here. This kind of solution is only possible because of the digital format. But of course, a bit more editing probably wouldn’t have hurt.

    In the end, because it is a collection of three different things, I have no major objections here. As long as each component works as a whole on their own. I accept this solution much more than putting out a double album which just repeats the same same watered down drivel over and over (say, Maiden).

    Besides, releasing three albums with a combined rating of 3.5 from a critical reviewer is something that lot of bands would easily give all of their left testicles for. Self-indulgent. Huge risk artistically. And still, it isn’t a total flop like most of the self-indulgent wankery. Have to applaud them for that.

    • madhare

      Besides, I think this also works well for the fans. (Which, btw, I’m not. StS is okay, but Insomnium is better! :P ) If they don’t like all of the albums, they can just treat them as “bonus material”.

      It’s still much better than a bonus album full of alternative versions, old demos, remixes, one more remix (feat. DJ Bobo), one more alternative remix (pirate dance version), and “just one more we though was kind of fun in the studio” (with more cow bell).

      I totally hate when, for example, Blind Guardian does that. All those bullshit extras are taking up space on the hard drive and I never listen to them. But I feel can’t just delete them because I paid for them.

  • John Mosley

    I don’t understand all the negative remarks about releasing a triple album. It’s like having a threesome sexual encounter; sure there is a lot going on, it can be exhausting, and somebody is likely not going to get off, but enjoy a rare threesome at least once in your life. Don’t bitch that it is less “cohesive”.

    • I’m pretty sure AMG would DEMAND his threesome to be “cohesive otherwise it defeats the whole purpose of the art form.”

      NOTE: Hope he laughed at this one.

  • BladeOfDarkness

    In my book, the decision to release three stylistically different discs as one album / release is better choice, than to release similar material as two separate albums, as SATAN’S HOST did. On Amazon, ”Pre-Dating God” costs $13 each part, but ”Songs From the North I,II,III” – $14. For me, parts II & III are like some sort of bonus stuff – guys show that they could do things differently, but don’t want to disappoint fans (and waste their money) as could happened, if they made separate release’s (”WTF, I wanted good ol’ Melodic Doom – not unplugged bullshit or funeral boredom …”).

    Concerning problem, how to rate such release, its similar as with some ltd.ed. digipak with three bonus tracks – if there is also ordinary version available, without bonuses, you could make separate review for bonus stuff. Otherwise, it don’t have a lot of sense. From the other hand, if the first disc is usual/main stuff, but the 2-nd and/or 3-rd is some experimental or demo material, it makes sense to base review on the first one. And its different for re-releases, where the bonus stuff should be the mine goal of the review. OK, its a little bit complicated :)

    I guess, that the first part is the best, although some songs are too long

  • So this is the second triple disc/album released this year (Kamasi Washington’s The Epic being the other one). I must say I’ve enjoyed both of them very much. I could do with a triple album from Necrophagist too :)

    • You’re not asking for much, are you?

      • No absolutely not! I’m sure Mr. Suicmez has a lot of music by now. Maybe some pop influenced-comedy-technical death metal ¯(°_°)/¯

  • Meat Tornado

    I read this after listening, and I disagree with a couple statements.

    I particularly enjoy that the album is divided into three parts, each being a distinct face of StS. I think the band had intended each to be listened to individually AND as a whole. I think it works well.

    I did listen to the whole thing straight through, and never found myself bored. I hope the final score isn’t a comment on its length. An album’s quality shouldn’t be judged by people’s ability to comprehend it, especially if they don’t have a good attention span. That’s their fault, not the band’s.

    I would give it at least a 4.0, if not a 4.5 on the arbitrary and dubious AMG scale.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      I think the scale is pretty clear and well defined..

      • Meat Tornado

        Well the text defines it yes, but it is arbitrary and fairly meaningless.

        The writers themselves disagree regularly on scores given. And I think at some point someone has mentioned doing away with numerical scores altogether, because it is extremely difficult and unfair to assign a predefined value to something so subjective as music. There are metrics like the dynamic range that can be looked at objectively, but an overall score is arbitrary and dubious and means different things to those of us reading.

        Look at Tribulation getting a 3.5 and RotM. There are other 4.0s and 4.5s that never make it to RotM. Kind of makes you think that the scoring really is nonsense.

        • We have 13 reviewers on staff. Do you expect any 13 people to agree on an album’s quality? Where does that happen?

          As for Tribulation getting RotM, that is generally an executive decision by AMG Himself and sometimes the album he thinks is best might not have been the highest rated that month.

          • Meat Tornado

            That’s exactly why numerical scoring is arbitrary. The numbers mean different things to different people. It’s not a bad thing at all. And at no point did I say all 13 reviewers agree on scores. Not sure where that came from. All I’m saying is that the scores mean different things to different reader, and possibly to you guys. A 3.5 to me might be closer to a 4.0 for you. Scores are arbitrary when rating subjective material. That’s all. Not knocking your review or AMG. Just responding.

          • tomasjacobi

            Just to nitpick: The numbers don’t mean different things to different people on this blog. People just have different opinions. The numerical ratings are clearly defined; 3.0 is good, 3.5 is very good etc.

          • One More Thing

            I think the only time that’s ever happened here was when Surgical Steel came out. I remember everyone being on the same page with that one. Outside of that, lol it never happens. #anthropoceneextinction

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          The scores have a very clear meanings though … As a score the reviewer says this album is ‘Very Good’. Which in context is a strong and clear endorsement from this site for the album(s). It’s mostly a very positive well written review which doesn’t leave any confusion as to why it didn’t score as ‘Great’ or even ‘Excellent’.

          I think the AMG scoring scale works well and I’d be very disappointed to see it made redundant.

          Personally I would’ve ranked Tribulation higher maybe 4.25 ;) and this probably lower. But then I don’t come here for my own opinion on music…

    • So you think our scale is arbitrary and dubious because you would give this album a higher score? Interesting.

  • Ivan Fernandes

    Is there any rule about the length of a record? And if there is, lets break it! This dicussion about the 3 cds (5 LP!!?!?!) is ridiculous… Specially when comming from the reviewers themselves! The fact that it cost exactly the same as a standard record should make people think…

    • We don’t have a rule for album length per se but we’ve complained about the excessive length of albums in the digital age. I also added the editor’s note pointing out you essentially get 3 albums for the price of one.

  • Meat Tornado

    I also see AMG himself talking about the decision to release all 3 as one package. I would actually argue the opposite: a double or triple album should have discs that are distinctly different. Ex: Soilwork Living Infinite; I can’t tell the difference between the two discs because it’s so cohesive, it’s just one 20 song album. I think this one is beautiful because it’s StS in 3 acts, kind of like an epic play or opera. It does take a longer attention span to listen, but I really like the 3 act format, and I think it would be less powerful if released in separate dates, whereas other more similar double albums would be better with a few months in between.

    Maybe listen to it with the 3 act mindset, that each is telling a different part of the same story. Its really cool.

    Props to Steel though for reviewing such a huge album.

    • Much thanks.

    • Pablo Casado Gañarul

      You had me at “Meat Tornado”.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    I had to order this album. Music sounds sweeet, and 3 CDS for the price of 1!

    • I did the same exact thing.

    • basenjibrian

      Wellllll… for the price of 1 1/2 maybe :)

  • I refrained from commenting first, cause it was already a debate and I’m probably too biased for my opinion to really count.
    But now, with what happened on Friday, I’m just more biased, because I’ve been listening to this album all weekend and it fits my mood perfectly.

    So whatever, I love this album.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Its a mighty pretentious thing to do, dumping a 2/12 hour slab of music on your fans…I’ve given this a really good go over the last couple of days and i haven’t been able to actually listen through.
    I think Vol 1 is great but I’m over the concept before I’m even half way through Vol 2 and I’m left uninspired to listen to Vol 2 by it self. Vol 3 is a bit tedious. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to sit through 21/2 hours of this, even on a long solitary drive this would become a very boring experience. At 60mins I think Vol1 drags a bit too but as a stand alone release I really dig it and will go back to it.

    • MelbCro

      who says you have to listen to it one sitting?

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        No one of course.
        I have to say Vol2 is growing on me, but you have to question the wisdom in how they’ve released it. Why release a themed and volumed body of work that can’t be be appreciated in its entirety due its absurd length. I like the band, but I don’t want to wade through a shit ton of music from them.

        To me this feels more aimless than opus. It just goes on and on and to my ears becomes a bit of a chore.

        My two cents worth, If you combined a slightly trimmed version of the best songs of Vol 1 with the high points of Vol 2 into a solid single listening experience…. We’d be talking about an album of the year contender.
        As it is I just don’t think this works.

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          The packaging is fantastic though

  • basenjibrian

    OK. Post bike ride initial review: The third part is epic. Blows away My Shameful and other recent funeral doom release.
    Enjoyed the other two, but returned three times to part III. But, unlike Steel, I LIKE funeral doom, so.

  • Squall

    Actually, Swallow the Sun isn’t even the first metal band to release a triple album this year. Check out Potmos Hetoimos’s “The Paragon Trisagion” – there’s a lot more variety (and, consequently, less cohesion).

  • Mark Reardon

    Been listening to the three albums a lot. Usually when l get home with a nice scotch. Yeah l have that kinda job. I love what StS did here. Few bands could do what they did but more should