Review by TheIdentityMatrix for Swallow the Sun - When a Shadow Is Forced Into the Light (2019)
Swallow the Sun are a band with a pedigree of grandiosity, melodrama, and atmosphere. This album lacks none of these, yet still finds ways to pale in comparison to earlier releases like Songs From the North, or the debut The Morning Never Came. It felt like the band was treading water for this record musically speaking. The melodies on this record are certainly there. They show up especially in the vocals on tracks like The Crimson Crown and Upon the Water, where lead vocalists Jaani Peuhu and Mikko Kotamäki interweave and harmonize well. Both are pleasant tracks and connected with me strongly at times. Another track, Firelights, has a similar vibe in its slowed tempo, melodic guitar passages and dramatic/introspective lyricism.
The production and atmospheric touches on the record also work for the most part. I never noticed any glaring detracting parts of the production. I would say that a main issue for me through multiple listens would be the lack of standout moments. The only exception to this would be the opening moments to the final track Never Left, the guitar build up felt pretty satisfying to hear, but it unfortunately failed to continue the momentum into the main body of the track. Besides that, each track flows into each other with similar structures and melodies, and the end product as a whole suffers for it. If you’ve heard the first track, you’ve kind of heard them all. The harsh vocals are hardly memorable, only showing up for a few lines throughout tracks, or as backing vocals. The context of the record, however, does put a lot of emotional weight behind the tracks and it’s lyrical content. Lead male vocalist Jaani Peuhu had lost his partner prior to the recording of the record which puts into perspective the heaviness of the lyrics and their delivery. It mixes a sense of mourning, despair, with a slight feeling of hope. It's an album about processing grief, perhaps taking one’s “Shadow” and “forcing it into the light” Is a metaphor for working through those difficult and harsh moments in our lives. I felt that lyrically as a whole the album spoke to me in that regard.
Previous Swallow the Sun records were not immune to the monotony issue that this record faces. Their previous record “Song From the North” was a triple album that was able to hide some of its flaws behind that fact, but had multiple tracks running into each other and blending together. Take away the novelty of the three disc project and you get “When a Shadow is Forced into the Light.” A powerful message about how one deals with and works through loss, grief, and emptiness, sandwiched between lackluster songwriting and song structure. It’s overall, not a bad album, in fact it will draw a lot of listeners in with the pleasant melodies, and easy to connect with concept. I just struggle with the record’s lack of memorable moments and feeling of “I’ve been here before.”
Final Score: 7.4/10