It's rare that a band can capture so many emotions at once. Music is, at heart, an expression of feeling that cannot be communicated by mere words. Nothing exemplifies this more than the fifth album by Finland's Swallow The Sun. It's all here... rage, sorrow, pensiveness, and at times, an amazing contrast between the beautiful and the uncomfortable. Emerald Forest And the Blackbird is an album you feel rather than hear, and that is in and of itself a testament to the musicianship and songwriting.
Here is another band that really grasps what it is to mature, to develop into their own sound so completely that nothing else comes close. You hear it and you know it's Swallow The Sun. Everything is subtle and yet in your face at the same time. In mellow passages the guitar work is so simple and elegant, with haunting vocals burrowing into your subconscious. When it's loud, you almost forget about the towering orchestration that expands the sonic range of the thundering bass and drums and the dissonant guitars. Laced through with Finnish folk melodies that hint back to an Insomnium feel, the album evokes so much melancholy feeling and manages to stay agitated and angry when it needs to be.
Kai Hahto's understated drumming is the anchor for this, and I know, I am a drum geek and Kai happens to be my favorite drummer, but I love a drummer who is well-versed in all styles of music, and Kai definitely fits that bill. While he does turn it up in spots where the music calls for it, for the most part he relies on subtle cymbal work and slow, developing patterns. After all, this isn't Rotten Sound or Wintersun, so light-speed drumming isn't required. Kai takes another path and shines by not shining too much.
Vocalist Mikko Kotamäki is a small, unassuming man, one you wouldn't think has a deep, guttural death vocal that makes him sound ten feet tall, but he does at that. And when he wants, he can turn it into a blackened scream. Or dial it back to a soft Peter Steele type of singing, melodic and somber with a very comfortable, relaxed feel. This album wouldn't work without the vocal dynamics present. The same could be said of the guitars, which alternate between acoustic to heavily distorted and sometimes layer over each other as such.
Richly textured and beautifully dynamic, STS has created an album that will be difficult to surpass, but I would love to hear them try. I've also had the privilege of seeing them live with Finntroll and Moonsorrow and they absolutely stole the show. Those other bands were great, but STS was so much more powerful. Seeing them live is an amazing experience, so if they come anywhere near you- go.