REVIEWED: Swallow The Sun's 'When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light'
Of all the cruellest and most psychologically shattering of emotional states, nothing cripples the human spirit more brutally and absolutely than the tragic loss of a loved one. The quiet, shell-shocked numbness. The great, gaping void within that aches like some horrific incurable wound. The raw, gnawing grief slowly devouring the very fibre of your being from the inside out.
Yet out of these agonising, tear-stricken moments of darkness come some of the most jaw-dropping and exquisitely rendered works of art that human history has ever witnessed. And, like the doom-laden, deliciously gothic verses of Edgar Allan Poe or the lofty spires and symmetries of the TajMahal, Swallow The Sun’s latest melancholic masterwork is no exception to this all too commonly proven rule.
Penned in loving memory of composer Juha Raivio’s beloved soulmate, Aleah Stanbridge, there’s no mistaking the palpable, pitch-black strains of heartbreak that inhabit this gorgeously rendered death-doom epic. Having been reportedly penned within a mere three weeks, ‘When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light’ is as crackling with aggressive energy as it is brimming over with the complex multitude of emotions you’d expect of such tragic personal circumstances. Take, for instance, ‘The Crimson Crown’s’ stirringly emotive swell of gilded strings and glimmering notes so exquisitely delicate as to have been plucked from the star-fretted heavens above. Erupting in Raivio’s trademark, fluidly cascading fretwork, the affecting warmth and understated subtlety that defines this haunting stand-out is a soothingly cathartic balm for the troubled soul.
Then, through a bewitching wash of inky distortion, ambient trappings and deathly poetics, ‘Firelights’ plunges us headlong into a turbulent undertow of grief-stricken, exquisitely orchestrated torment. With its hauntingly tender central refrain accelerating into a dizzying, blackened climax of gargling fury before ebbing away beneath a nightmarish slew of luxuriantly gothic organ notes, the impeccable balance and clarity with which these many and varied dynamics are handled is a genre-straddling marvel to behold.
But as far as harnessing raw, untethered emotion in its most hauntingly exquisite form goes, heartrending standout ‘Stone Wings’ is nothing short of unparalleled. From distortion-drenched chord progressions to spiralling flurries of glistening notes that whirl like restless leaves borne aloft on a gentle autumn breeze, it’s with bewitching musicality and aching bitter-sweetness that the unsuspecting listener slips deep beneath its duskily enticing throes. And it’s here, in these blackly beautiful, utterly transporting moments, that we’re temporarily relieved of our earthly cares and sent, for a time, somewhere far removed from this tragic and weary physical realm. Yet again, these Finnish masters of melancholy have achieved something truly, indisputably magical.
'When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light' is out now on Century Media