(In the longest review we’ve ever published, DGR assesses the mammoth new three-disc album by Finland’s Swallow the Sun.)
We’ve had this disc for a bit. I know we’re late on this, but I hope to make it up you guys by essentially deep-diving and excavating this album, as there’s a ton going on with Songs From The North I, II & II that deserves to be highlighted.
I have become one with this album. It is inside me, and I am inside it. At this point, I consider myself the Jacques Cousteau of album reviewers — minus the whole being French, deep-sea diving, and talented part, but still. I believe the analogy holds on its own merits. I have stared into the abyss through the eyes of this album and asked if there was anything worth saving, and still my heart said, “No”.
Songs From The North is an album that a lot of folks have been approaching with equal measures of dread and excitement. A huge cause of this is obviously down to the fact that the up-front description of Songs From The North was essentially this: doom metal band from Finland decides to release a triple-album — as in, not one disc, or two discs, but three separate platters of music.
(Here are some ideas from Andy Synn….)
Recently my good friend DGR and I were having a discussion about the merits of Songs From the North, the new Swallow The Sun triple album, focussing mainly on which of the three CDs we considered the strongest overall, which we thought were the best songs across all three albums, and just generally shooting the shit about the reasoning behind releasing such a mammoth endeavour in one fell-swoop.
As expected, we eventually digressed into a wider discussion of the band’s discography, but came to loggerheads over how we viewed the band’s 2012 release Emerald Forest and the Blackbird. DGR thinks that, though it’s not the band’s best album, there’s still some solid songs on there. I disagree.
Because it doesn’t pass “The Setlist Test”.
This is my last morning in Anchorage for my fucking day job, at least for this trip. When I woke up before sunrise it was 3°F. Now the sun is up, and it’s 1°F — that’s One Degree. I’m definitely ready to come home.
In between packing and eating a formidable breakfast at the Snow City Cafe a few blocks from my hotel I listened to a trio of new songs and watched one new video that I enjoyed. I thought you might like them, too.
PILE OF PRIESTS
This Denver trio released an EP named Unholy Death in 2011, which followed a five-track demo in 2010 named Burn. Now they’ve completed a debut album entitled Void To Enlightenment, which features cover art by the masterful Sam Nelson (Stigma) and is due for release on December 12 (CD and digitally). The band recently released the album’s first single, “Incantations of Old”, and it’s fascinating.
Yesterday and today brought yet another flood of very good new song and video premieres, many of which I’ve collected in this post. This is another instance where there’s so much music I want to share that I’m having to throttle my tendency to spill great piles of words on top of the music. Instead, there will be only small molehills of words.
SWALLOW THE SUN
Yesterday Finland’s Swallow the Sun premiered a lyric video for one of the vast number of songs on their forthcoming three-disc album on Century Media, Songs From the North I, II & III. We’re trying to figure out how to review this album. Current thinking is to divide it among three different writers here at our site. We probably need to think more.
Anyway, this song is “Heartstrings Shattering” and features guest vocals by Aleah (Trees of Eternity) The title is well-chosen.
I haven’t taken a poll, but I think most of us here at NCS are long-time fans of Swallow the Sun. And so today’s news about their next album was exciting to see. But I must say that it is also the kind of news that causes some trepidation — because the new album, Songs From the North, is a TRIPLE ALBUM.
It’s due for release in November of this year. For pessimists and cynics, the idea of a triple album will raise the specter of self-indulgence. Only the best single albums are brilliant all the way through; even fewer double albums can make that claim. But three?
With fingers crossed, I present the official statement that appeared on the band’s Facebook page this morning:
Let’s start this day at NCS with a contrast — two new songs from forthcoming albums that are on opposite ends of the speed spectrum. The first comes from a new Finnish band — Kuolemanlaakso — whose members include some names I’m pretty sure most of you will recognize. The second is from a new release by a French band — Destinity — whose last album I really liked and whose new one is also sounding excellent.
This band’s Finnish name means “Death Valley”. It began as a one-man project of guitarist Markus Laakso (Chaosweaver). After recording a handful of demo tracks, he recruited a group of additional musicians to flesh out the band: vocalist Mikko Kotamäki (Swallow the Sun, Barren Earth), guitarist Savon Surma (“Kouta”) (Chaosweaver, ex-Verjnuarmu), bassist Tuomo Räisänen (“Usva”) (Elenium, The Nibiruan), and drummer Toni Ronkainen (“Tiera”) (Discard, Cult of Endtime).
Together they recorded an album at Woodshed Studio in Germany with V. Santura of Triptykon and Dark Fortress fame, who also mixed and mastered the music. The album is named Uljas uusi maailma (“Brave New World”) and it’s now scheduled for release by Svart Records on November 23. The cover art by Maahy Abdul Muhsin is a real eye-catcher — it’s right after the jump.
(In this post DGR reviews the performances by Kreator, Swallow the Sun, Solanum, Blessed Curse, and Black Mackerel at Sacramento’s Ace of Spades on Sept. 24, 2012.)
I understand that there are people out there who don’t have weekends off and likewise work crazy schedules where their two days off aren’t in succession, but Monday shows always seem a little crazy to me. Few people are brave enough to venture out of their homes, knowing full well they either have Tuesday off or have work the next day, to attend a show on a Monday.
I also know that being in a band is a 7-day per week job, so Monday on their end is just another day. But I’m musing about Monday shows in part to explain what seemed like a somewhat small turnout for this one.
Ace Of Spades was about 1/3rd full, which is around 200-300 people, which is a lot, but Ace Of Spades is a pretty big place and this is the first time I’ve ever seen a show where people had space to pit, rock out, and in general have their own personal space without having to worry about crashing into other folk. Parking was also easier than hell to find this time, too.
I’d like to extend a fuck yeah to those of us who did go to a show on a MONDAY, because damn, it seemed like we had a hell of a time, didn’t it?
(In this post, DGR reviews the latest album from Finland’s Swallow the Sun.)
Considering the amount of hype that we at NCS generated for Emerald Forest And The Blackbird in advance of its release, it’s difficult to fathom why it’s taken as long as it has to finally get some proper thoughts up about the full disc. That was, until I read Islander’s post earlier this month about the best albums of 2012 so far and noticed that my list was one of the few that included Swallow The Sun’s new album.
I’ve also been in a pretty goth/death/doom-heavy mode as of late. I think I currently have eight different reviews going at the moment, and three of them belong to bands whose music includes dirge elements (the other two being the great Inborn Suffering and Barren Earth releases), so that’s probably another factor.
And finally, Swallow The Sun seem to be one of those bands who are constantly overlooked, especially for a group whose past four releases (counting Plague Of Butterflies, since I started with Hope) have been consistently great if you’re in the mood for trying to find some beauty in utter misery and desolation.
Swallow the Sun have slowly been morphing their sound, so it isn’t as overtly oppressive and miserable, instead becoming something more cold and hopeless. The group’s previous disc, New Moon, was one of my favorites when it came out, and I still think people owe it to themselves at least to give the track Lights On The Lake (Horror Part III) a listen, because it is one of the best examples of an excellent song just lifting a whole album far beyond its initial first impression of, “This is pretty good”.
Emerald Forest And The Blackbird feels like a continuation of what the band were doing on New Moon. They’ve slowly shifted away from their initial style of slow, crawling, funeral-esque doom and started working in elements that are more melancholic and more melodic in nature. Emerald Forest includes a hefty amount of clean vocals, as well as significant usage of acoustic guitar. There’s even one song in this disc’s expanse of music that is a somewhat straightforward acoustic ballad, no matter how depressing the subject matter is.
Our Finnish friend fireangel — one of the two creators of the very informative and entertaining Finland-based blog called Night Elves — alerted me to this juicy bit of news: the new album by Swallow the Sun, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, is now streaming in full at the Finland-based INFERNO site.
And, in an interesting twist, guitarist Juha Raivio provided quotes from Twin Peaks to accompany each song. Do you remember Twin Peaks?
The album is scheduled for release in Finland on February 1, and it’s being offered for pre-order here. I haven’t had a chance to listen to this album stream yet since I’ve got to do some actual paying work at the moment, but I’m going to listen as soon as I can — as you should, too.
December and 2011 are both over, and with the end of the last month, it’s time to round up what we saw over the last 30 days about forthcoming albums.
We usually try to post these updates on the first of the month, but the first of this month was New year’s Day, and I was moving kinda slowly that day. Plus, I’ve been focusing on year-end lists from a variety of sources, and, well, I’m late with this. I have more excuses, if you’d like to hear them. No? Okay, I understand. I’ll just shut up and get going with this list.
So, here’s the deal: In these METAL IN THE FORGE posts, I collect news blurbs and press releases I’ve seen over the last month about forthcoming new albums from bands we know and like at NCS (including occasional updates about releases we’ve included in previous installments of this series), or from bands that look interesting, even though we don’t know their music yet. In this series, we cut and paste those announcements and compile them in alphabetical order.
Remember — THIS ISN’T A CUMULATIVE LIST. If we found out about a new forthcoming album before December, we wrote about it in previous installments of this series. So, be sure to check the Category link called “Forthcoming Albums” on the right side of this page to see forecasted releases we reported earlier.
This month’s list begins right after the jump. It includes some real eye-openers. In fact, it’s not too soon to say that 2012 is already looking like yet another royally skull-fucking year for metal. But as usual, this list is half-assed rather than comprehensive. I confess that in December I was even more half-assed than usual in keeping my eyes open for news about new albums. So, feel free to leave Comments and tell all of us what I missed when I put this list together. Let us know about albums on the way that you’re stoked about, even if you don’t see them here!