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Swallow The Sun - "Emerald Forest and the Blackbird" (CD)

Swallow The Sun - "Emerald Forest and the Blackbird" CD cover image

"Emerald Forest and the Blackbird" track listing:

1. Emerald Forest and the Blackbird (9:57)
2. This Cut Is the Deepest (5:20)
3. Hate, Lead the Way (6:13)
4. Cathedral Walls (6:46)
5. Hearts Wide Shut (5:55)
6. Silent Towers (4:01)
7. Labyrinth of London (Horror pt. IV) (8:29)
8. Of Death and Corruption (5:00)
9. April 14th (8:29)
10. Night Will Forgive Us (6:41)

Reviewed by on August 14, 2012

"While the album may not be what fans were expecting, the experimentation and mixing of styles result in a unique blend of familiar and unknown metal worth hearing."

Despite blending differing styles, the Finnish death/doom sound has become a recognizable force in its own right, with several bands putting forth a similar tone to nearly create yet another sub-genre. On “Emerald Forest and the Blackbird,” Swallow the Sun leaves that familiar territory behind to create something completely different that uses a wider range of influences. Long time fans should prepare themselves for a big change in direction, but the change itself isn’t bad, and in fact the album is thoroughly engaging for the newly injected variety.

“Emerald Forest and the Blackbird” is a totally different beast altogether from debut album “The Morning Never Came.” While the mournful doom undertone is there in places, these songs instead alternate between two different focal points: softer atmospheric passages, and a very blackened version of metal. The slow moving dirges, typical of earlier work from the band, are now fewer and farther part – and generally on the clean and soft side of instead of being harsh and abrasive. The gothic pipe organ sounds on “April 14th” are another unexpected development, taking the mournful elements in a direction not typical of more extreme metal.

Based on the early releases it never seemed like black metal would play a role in Swallow the Sun’s music, but the harsh vocals have taken on a more screechy tone this time around, and some of the songs have an Enslaved-esque feel to them. For yet another change of pace there’s even female vocals on “Cathedral Walls” from Nightwish’s Annette Olzon, along with another bout of clean singing from Aleah (Trees of Eternity) on the later tracks. The album seems to follow a particular theme this time around of one particular loss, instead of loss in general, and that thematic element gives an operatic feeling, especially on the opening title track.

Attempting to put a specific genre tag on “Emerald Forest and the Blackbird” is a difficult proposition. The heavy but melancholy death/doom thing is there, but more as window dressing than a solid foundation. The black metal influence is unmistakable, but this isn’t even close to a full-on frozen black metal release. Atmospheric clean vocals and some female singing make their mark, but this isn’t a gothic metal album. It’s a little bit of everything, but mixed together in the right way so that all the elements work together without conflicting. While the album may not be what fans were expecting, the experimentation and mixing of styles result in a unique blend of familiar and unknown metal worth hearing.

Highs: The death/doom sound takes a black metal turn, and the female vocals and atmospheric parts work well.

Lows: There's a big change in sound here that may be hard to swallow for long-time fans.

Bottom line: Swallow the Sun leaves behind its trademark sound to experiment with gothic and black metal.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)