When I discovered Finnish death doom band, Swallow the Sun, they had just released their seventh album, ‘When a Shadow is Forced Into The Light’. I was immediately awestruck by this utterly beautiful, passionate, emotional album. Every single track moved me deeply. An exploratory foray into their back catalogue only cemented what I already knew – this band was genuinely one of the best bands I had ever heard.
Swallow the Sun formed just over 20 years ago and have carefully crafted their incredible take on death doom throughout the two decades. Vocals alternate between blackened death style uncleans and beautiful, solemn cleans, while the music behind them is consistently incredible. Compositions are deeply moving, multilayered and textured, featuring sweeping guitars, strings, and an atmosphere unlike any other band I could name.
In 2015 Swallow the Sun released the masterpiece, ‘Songs from the North I, II & III’, a triple album with each disc (titled ‘Gloom’, ‘Beauty’, and ‘Despair’) representing a different side of the band’s sound. Where ‘Gloom’ focussed on their more traditional death/doom style, ‘Beauty’ was more folk influenced and acoustic, and ‘Despair’ was in a much bleaker funeral doom style.
Unfortunately, the following year guitarist and songwriter Juha Raivio lost his partner – the brilliantly talented and artist-in-her-own-right, Aleah Starbridge, who herself had been a frequent collaborator with the band.
When they were finally able to follow up ‘Songs from the North I, II & III’ with it carried much more weight.
‘When a Shadow is Forced Into The Light’ is an exploration of the feelings surrounding death, loss, and mourning. It is a heartfelt and sincere expression, and a truly remarkable album.
Two and a half years ago when I first heard it, I didn’t know the band or the backstory. I just thought I’d discovered an amazing new band. Having that additional context, as well as diving into their back catalogue, have only made me love the album and the band more.
Swallow the Sun are one of the best bands in all of heavy metal right now. I cannot recommend them enough.