October 2020 Feature Release - The Fallen Edition
It's now October which of course means that we'll be nominating a brand new monthly feature release for each clan. This essentially means that we're asking you to rate, review & discuss our chosen features for no other reason than because we enjoy the process & banter. We're really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on our chosen releases so don't be shy.
This month's feature release for The Fallen is 2008's highly regarded "Plague of Butterflies" E.P. from Finnish doom/death metal exponents Swallow The Sun.
Swallow The Sun are a band that I have found lots of time to digest (pun intended) over the last two years or so. Their 2019 album, When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light, was a spiritual successor to Trees of Eternity's Hour of the Nightengale, an album I herald as one of the best records of the 2010s, and not just in metal. And for what it was worth, that record was solid as well and Swallow The Sun's discography has been pretty redundant, even calling for their mammoth triple album from 2015.
And so with this EP Plague of Butterflies, a single, thirty-four minute song, what we ended up getting is pretty impressive. This band know how to write a good song and how to hold onto that idea for as long as they can without having it sound repetitive or boring. It starts off harmless enough, but when we enter the second large chunk of the song, we start to hear the death metal elements creep in with relatively faster tempos and crunchier grooves. But its the final portion that hunkers down and brings this piece to an absolute stand still. Whether or not you like that will heavily determine your enjoyment of this.
I didn't find it that bad. In fact, the first few minutes of "Evael 10:00" is a return to the opening riff, which I very much appreciated, but it falls off the rails a little bit near the conclusion. In the end, the booming guitars and soaring strings sound awesome during the loud sections, almost bordering on prog metal. But the poor mixing of transitions between loud and soft sections hold this song back from being an all time classic. Still highly recommended though.
When I first came across Swallow The Sun I really, really enjoyed them, and they put on a great live show when I saw them in 2019, but as time as passed they started to drift to the wayside as I found other Doom and Death Doom bands that grabbed my attention. They still have a very unique sound even to this day though, with their Death Doom style leaning way to the Doom side and creating creepy and haunting atmospheres rather than suffocating and crushing ones. Their songs always had so much more depth thanks to the background strings and other slightly progressive elements and their confidence to really slow down their compositions with cleaner, melodic parts before transitioning back into the heavy stuff.
The biggest problem I've found I have with Swallow The Sun is the sheer length of their albums and ideas, with most of their albums being a massive undertaking to slog through since their style, as refined as it can be, doesn't change a whole lot. They always seem to find new, little ways to add to their creepy atmosphere, but their Death Doom formula has pretty much remained the same old stuff. In this case, the same old same old turns into plodding monotony that I've seldom had the motivation to go back to. So, what does that mean for the 1 hour "EP" Plague of Butterflies?
The title track is obviously the focus, and it does a fantastic job of boiling down Swallow The Sun's style into one extended piece that touches on pretty much everything that lets them stand out. The transitions in and out of the more Death focused riffs are great, the overall atmosphere is haunting and mysterious, and the track progression through all its different movements is impressive, even though I didn't think it was very cohesive on my first listen. "Plague of Butterflies" is definitely a grower in my eyes, since there's so much song to get through. Even though it's technically broken up into three separate parts, it's not as clear-cut in where these begin and end, leaving the listener fully responsible for piecing this 35 minute mammoth together. Although their style can be incredible to listen to whenever it all comes together, Swallow The Sun have always been slightly wonky to me, with their harsh vocals not quite hitting the mark it feels like they should, and the clean vocals being extremely hit or miss, especially on this one. I've gone back and forth as to how much I truly enjoy this track, and I think I'm settling on a higher score than I initially thought just due to the amazing use of the strings and choir elements throughout, since it's so easy to have these elements come off as corny in Doom Metal like this.
I do think that this 35-minute track is quintessential Swallow The Sun and probably their greatest release. It's a more succinct package that shows what Swallow The Sun does best rather than their other, even more extended works. The rest of the songs are so-so, pretty much just B-sides or maybe songs that didn't make the cut for New Moon at the time.