The Bottom Line
- Mikko Kotamaki's wide vocal range.
- Keyboards add a bleak mood to the songwriting.
- Gloomy doom metal with a few surprises up its sleeves.
- New drummer Kai Hahto's talent could have been better utilized.
- Released November 17th, 2009 on Spinefarm Records.
- Swallow The Sun’s fourth album.
- Produced and mixed by Jens Bogren (Katatonia, Opeth, Paradise Lost).
Guide Review - Swallow The Sun - 'New Moon'
While opener “These Woods Breathe Evil” has superb harmonic guitar work and an eccentric mix of deep bellows and raspy screams from vocalist Mikko Kotamäki, “Falling World” is an upbeat track with a sullen atmosphere. Kotamäki’s clean vocals on “Falling World” are fantastic and brought to the forefront again during the powerful melodic title track. These two numbers introduce a streamlined - some may even call mainstream - sound to the band that is a nice contrast to the rest of New Moon.
Keyboardist Aleksi Munter has always had a strong presence on past Swallow The Sun records and New Moon is no different. Adding a symphonic element to “…And Heavens Cried Blood” and “Servant Of Sorrow,” Munter is able to create auras of immense tranquility side-by-side with horrific sonic firestorms. It’s that kind of dynamic which gives extra weight to the band’s sound.
The one big characteristic of Swallow The Sun is their tendency for unpredictable moments. “Lights On The Lake (Horror Part III)” opens up with clean guitars and a soothing female voice that gives off an air of lifelessness, before dissolving into a black metal onslaught for a brief period. The blast beats and tremolo riffs are stirring bouts of aggression that are again repeated on closer “Weight Of The Dead” to equal effect.
The major addition to the band since their last album, 2007’s Hope, is drummer Kai Hahto of Wintersun fame, who replaced original drummer Pasi Pasanen in early 2009. Hahto is known for his quick playing and fast feet, but tones it down a great deal on New Moon. Hahto does a competent job, but considering his immense talent, it’s a shame that he didn’t get more of a chance to bring his intensity and technical prowess to the proceedings.
This year has been chock-full of great doom metal and the streak continues with Swallow The Sun’s New Moon. The album is rock-solid from top to bottom, with a balance between the lurching slumber of heaviness and the calm bliss of emptiness. Repeated listens is necessary to let the material sink in, but each of the tracks on New Moon shine as bright as a full moon under a starless night.