You open your eyes and look at your surroundings. You stand in the middle of an ancient graveyard, the tombstones partly cracked and fallen, a mausoleum standing in the center, overgrown by vines, its heavy stone door slightly ajar. A creepy fog is wafting around the graves and the heavy set brick structure in front of you. The pale light of a full moon gloomily shines through the cotton ball-like clouds, giving the scenery a ghastly look.
This could happen to you while listening to the deceivingly positively titled new SWALLOW THE SUN album "Hope". Just like their previous two Doom/Death masterpieces, the Finns are treading familiar terrain with their latest offering of melancholy, but without just rehashing what they had done before. All the ingredients these six Finns had used in the past are still there, but they still manage to progress within their particular sound, which is characterized by the following: a very warm and full sound, elegiac melodies, intense atmosphere, very deep Death Metal vocals and also a good clear voice and of course never-ending slowness.
Opener "Hope" starts very warm and full sounding, with clear guitar and a soft clear voice, before SWALLOW THE SUN take away any glimmer of hope with their epic, heavy and atmospheric Doom Metal with a grave-like voice, sending us into the depths of despair, while "The Hours Of Despair" right after surprises with a heavy and also pretty fast beginning, just to intensify the doomy feeling after that, with a great atmosphere and brilliantly intertwined clear and harsh vocals, kicking off another wave of classic, brilliant Doom/Death Metal that will suck you in whole with "The Justice Of Suffering" and "Don't Fall Asleep (Horror Pt. 2)".
Then, though, we see a little drop off for the second half of the album, still providing us with solid, good Doom/Death, but somehow with a little less of a spark of genius than the first truly inspired cuts on the album, which is a bit sad, as one naturally would hope for a bit more after such a strong beginning, yet it is still not enough to really drag the album down much, as the quality still is far above average.
My promo also contains a bonus track, which is the second song of the single "Don't Fall Asleep", and would have been great on the regular album as well, but like this makes the single an almost essential buy for fans of the band, as "These Low Lands" is a cover version of the song "Alavilla Mailla" von TIMO RAUTIAINEN & TRIO NISKALAUKAUS, which has been greatly implemented into the SWALLOW THE SUN sound, a true elegy with dreamy melodies, inspired leads and a great use of alternating clear and growled vocals, a brilliant track!
Overall "Hope" is one of the first reference points for the Doom genre in the new year, surely this sound has been done before by other bands, but the conviction and compelling nature of the compositions that will grab your soul and twist it dry that makes SWALLOW THE SUN such an outstanding band, so Doomheads, you know what to get in February!
(Online January 16, 2007)