I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering what Chuck Schuldiner would have done musically had he not been taken from us far too soon. Would he have maintaining the style heard on the sole Control Denied release or move things onward and outward into ever weirder environs? These questions were front and center in my head as I digested The Eternal Resonance, the stunningly odd and original debut album by Sweven. This is the new project by former Morbus Chron founder Robert Andersson, and Sweven borrows its moniker from Morbus Chron‘s swansong release from 2014. What occurs on The Eternal Resonance is a strange mutation from the Morbus Chron sound, incorporating 70s prog rock styles, stream of consciousness jams, and numerous other influences into an old school death metal framework. This results in a deep, complex and unpredictable album that requires a lot of time to absorb and digest with surprises around nearly every corner. It catapults Andersson’s already high flying ideas of what death metal can be into a whole new strata of creativity, and that alone makes this a worthy experience.
At over an hour of very progressive music, The Eternal Resonance is not an easy listen, and most of the compositions are long, winding and exceptionally busy. The band does throw you a bone with opening instrumental, “The Spark,” as it’s the least layered and challenging piece. It’s a bright, vibrant slice of proggy playing, with beautiful and delicate guitar work, and it sets the stage well for what’s to come. The first real creativity bomb arrives with the 9-plus minute “By Virtue of a Promise” where the band really lets it all go. It opens with soft, tranquil notes, easing you in with airy, ethereal moods and an upbeat vibe. When Andersson’s tortured vocals arrive it’s like a monster dropped in the middle of a new age recital. He walks a line between very old school death howls and a black metal wail, and his delivery feels all the more disturbing because it’s placed in the context of such mellow, calming music. The song twists and evolves many times over its 9 minutes, from soft proggy noodling to more urgent segments that vaguely recall post-metal, but it never really gets heavy in the classic sense. The guitar-work is stellar throughout, and the extended solo around the 6:22 point is the highlight for me.
“Reduced to an Ember” introduces a light jazz improv touch into the template along with a strong 70s prog rock influence, and at times things remind me of a mellower, more expansive version of Borknagar‘s Empricism era. Once again the extreme vocals stand in stark contrast to much of the music though things do get more aggressive here. The heaviest moments arrive with “Visceral Blight” which introduces thunderous blastbeats alongside quiet, sedate segments, and you’ll get whiplash as the music lurches back and forth.1 My favorite moments come during closer, “Sanctum Sanctorum,” which showcases masterful transitions between soothing moments and urgent, in-your-face upsurges that appear and vanish like breeze across a lake on a hot summer day. It’s a beautiful composition, entirely without vocals until calm chanting arrives in the final minute to guide things out. You’re left wondering what the hell you just listened too for an hour and there are no simple answers.
As amazing as the material can be, this isn’t a perfect album. The musicianship is top-flight but some of the long-form songs explore too many ideas and take too many side quests on the way to whatever end they were meant to arrive at. Some of the transitions aren’t as effective as others and some songs feel too long despite impressive moments. The biggest issue with The Eternal Resonance is that it feels too long as a whole and its convoluted nature makes it a real challenge to focus on for the entire runtime. There’s something new around every turn and after a time this wears you out. The clear star of the show is the amazing guitar-work from Andersson and Isak Koskinen Rosemarin. Together they weave all manner of exotic harmonies and race across many genres and styles. Sometimes you hear Steely Dan, sometimes, Opeth, and millions of other things in between. Andresson’s vocals are a bit of an acquired taste but they do work as a strange counter-point to the mostly non-metal music.
This is the kind of album where a score seems somewhat pointless. This is too complex a creation to be reducible to a number. It’s a work of great effort and creativity that some will find uber pretentious and opaque and others will see as the next stage of metal. I’m still not sure where I sit on that, but I do greatly enjoy the bulk of the album. If nothing else The Eternal Resonance made me listen in a more intense way than usual and I was rewarded for the effort. Who knows where Sweven goes from here, and we likely haven’t even seen their final form yet, if indeed they have one. I both fear and look forward to what might come next.