This Is What Happens When a Non-Metal Fan Reviews a Death/Doom Album*

Well, I’m going to just cut to the chase and admit that I don’t really spend a lot of time listening to Finnish Death/Doom/Metal music. But this sound is kind of what I expected from Swallow the Sun, a band labeling themselves Death/Doom. It’s pretty morbid. I’m a little terrified, I can’t lie.

Mikko Kotamäki’s vocals are what really caught my attention the most, because there’s not really a huge emphasis on impressive technical shredding solos. I mean, this ain’t your typical Cradle of Filth or anything. I guess that’s more a Metal thing? Or Hardcore? Or Post-Hardcore? Or Thrash? Grindcore? FUCK.

In the title track, however – don’t let the poetic prettiness fool you; the “Emerald” forest is more like a forest of sludge – the percussion is pretty insane (compliments of their drummer, Kai Hahto).

Swallow the Sun bring a nice texture to their music, alternating between wistful, Medieval-esque acoustic outros and spoken word, then mashing it up with signature growls of excruciating death gasps.

On the second track, “This Cut is the Deepest” (not to be confused with Cat Stevens’ “First Cut is the Deepest”…very, very different) actually gives the eardrum assault a break with stylings that call to mind Oregon-based band Grails.

Like I said, I’m no Death/Doom groupie, but I dig “This Cut is the Deepest”. It’s got a thread of electric guitar running through it like, I guess, a cut. How appropriate. While the whole thing stays in this kind of melodic vein, Swallow the Sun still remember to finish it off with the growling spoken word that sounds like some evil enchantment being placed on us listeners, and Doom lovers and/or those gothic kids who wear socks on their wrists will probably appreciate those parts more than I do.

When listening to a genre I’m not normally drawn to (a.k.a. being sent weird albums by my editor) I usually try and pick out musicianship and lyrical content first. [Contributing Editor’s note: The Contributing Editor resents the word “weird”, and expects great thanks in the future for expanding your musical horizons, writer.] I must say though, that musically it all kind of starts to run blandly together. The guitar that sounds like a choir of ghosts, the double kick pedal drums going mental, the dude on vocals sounding like a husky, hoarse-voiced raccoon yowling…

“Hate Lead the Way” has an instrumental breakdown that’s pretty, if not a little too ’90s keyboard-ish, before delving back into those migraine-inducing vocals. Okay, I know I’m starting to sound a bit like a whiny senior citizen now, so…moving on.

Some tracks like “Cathedral Walls” start out mellow, but I just don’t trust it. I’m bracing myself for more screaming… Nope, wait, there’s just some female vocals being thrown down. This is kind of reminding me of some Japanese ballad for some reason. But three minutes in, cue the troll vocals, the creepy choirs in the background making me feel like this is some sort of Lord of the Rings jam out… so on and so forth.

“Hearts Wide Shut” has a guitar intro that I really enjoyed, this sprawled-out piece of music that kind of reminds me of Mogwai, and then there are some cute Finnish vocals before… AHHHHHH! Holy shit. Is this style of singing only doable within the confines of a studio? If I saw this live, would a massive beast come on stage and just start belting into a microphone? My god.

“Death and Corruption” doesn’t even try to ease you into it; at this point in the album, why bother, right?

Maybe my ears are too untrained to be discerning when it comes to Death/Doom, but honestly there’s not a lot of individuality between the tracks. There’s that wailing guitar, touches of keys, that ten-seconds-from-a-stroke drumming and then the troll on vocals.

If I was going to purposefully depress myself by going out of my way to listen to a genre called DEATH, wouldn’t I at least want to die being instrumentally impressed? Or inspired by something innovative? Sorry boys, not trying to be an asshole or anything but this non-Death/Doom listener definitely wasn’t converted by Emerald Forest and the Blackbird.

[*Review title by Contributing Editor]