(Seattle-based NCS contributor Gonzo wrote the following review of the debut album by the Swedish named Sweven, which was released on March 20 by Ván Records.)
When I found out Swedish weirdos Morbus Chron had called it quits after releasing one of the best albums of 2014, Sweven, it was disappointing news. Blending a smorgasbord of musical elements ranging from the throaty assault of Horrendous and the tempered patience of Opeth to ’70s psychedelia, Sweven showcased a band that was positioned to carve their own path through a saturated metallic universe.
Six years after Sweven’s release, that path has taken an unexpected detour. Morbus Chron frontman, guitarist, and songwriter Robert Andersson has unveiled The Eternal Resonance, the debut album from his newest band, Sweven.
It’s worth mentioning that Sweven, for those curious, is an old English word meaning “dream” or “vision.” Beyond paying obvious homage to Morbus Chron, it might be the perfect descriptor for Andersson’s newest project. And naturally, the comparisons to Morbus Chron will be inevitable. Admittedly, they’re not without merit. The Eternal Resonance contains all the same dynamics that made Sweven’s previous incarnation such a goddamn treasure trove for metalheads – Andersson’s unhinged snarl lurking underneath an old-school Swedish death metal backdrop infused with psychedelic grooves, long neoclassical-inspired passages, and enough subtlety to make every listen unveil something new.
But I’d be remiss to not mention that Sweven takes the road paved by Morbus Chron and adds a few more lanes and some wild twists and turns. The songwriting feels effortless for a band with such a unique sound, with each track coming off more like a stage in a journey than an individual composition. Whereas Chron tended to put the emphasis on faster tempos and pounding tremolo assaults, Sweven is more content to just take their time. The approach pays dividends from the minute you put the record on, with “The Spark” building into a perfect precursor for what’s to come in “By Virtue of a Promise.”
The way the band uses silence and a general calm-before-the-storm vibe throughout The Eternal Resonance is a feat that few bands can pull off so well. Intros and quieter moments can too easily be used as fodder to pad a song’s length, and that can absolutely murder a song’s momentum faster than a 20-year-old guitarist from Stockholm can plug in their HM-2 pedal. Bands that end up as Opeth clones are particularly guilty of this, but Sweven is decidedly not in that category. Andersson knows exactly what he’s doing with the way he structures these songs, and it makes for a rewarding listen.
For being an album rife with complexity, then, it’s kind of amazing to me that The Eternal Resonance is just as well-suited for background music as it is for putting on a pair of noise-canceling headphones and losing yourself in it. Even in its heaviest moments, songs like “Reduced to an Ember” and “Mycelia” never overwhelm with volume or ferocity. Waves of heaviness roll in smoothly at times, punctuated by Agalloch-like acoustic interludes. The intensity seems to build to a searing final crescendo in “Visceral Blight” before closing on a surprisingly operatic note in “Sanctum Sanctorum.”
Those of us who thought we’d heard the last of Morbus Chron won’t be the only ones pleasantly surprised by The Eternal Resonance. In a year that’s already looking full of surprises, musically and otherwise, Sweven have firmly planted themselves in the Nordic soil shared by some of their countrymen’s strongest acts in the business today.