Swallow the Sun – Moonflowers
In August 2021, Swallow the Sun announced their next studio album Moonflowers, would be released on November 19, 2021. They revealed that there would be two separate albums: a classical version performed by Trio NOX, who accompanied the band on their very memorable “20 Years of Gloom, Beauty and Despair” tour, and the regular studio album. They would first release the classical versions of the songs one by one, along with magnificent animated videos created by Dronicon Films (who also created the touching videos that accompanied the songs from Aleah’s self titled album which was released last year). In this announcement, Juha Raivio is quoted
“I know well that I should
not say this, but I deeply hate this album. I hate where it takes me, how it makes me feel, and what it stands for me. I wish it wouldn’t. But for all its honesty, I got no option than also [to] love it. That is all that matters to me with the music anyway. It doesn’t matter how it makes me feel, as long as it does.”
That alone says so much about the album, more than anyone could write about in their own words, but here I’ll try…
When listening to the classical versions as they released, along with the videos, I felt as if I was listening to pieces of a whole, that it would make more sense when I would be able to listen to the classical version of the album from start to finish. The regular studio album version was the exact opposite. Each song was a world of its own, so complex and complete, it felt more natural to listen to them as single entities.
Hearing the regular album after becoming familiarized with the classical versions and animations created a totally new level of experiencing music. The classical version was like a subconscious veil over the original songs, and the animations from the videos provided an almost visceral memory. Someone who listens to the regular album first, or only that, will have a completely different experience.
To me, Moonflowers sounds as if Swallow the Sun are picking up where Emerald Forest and the Blackbird left off, though much more mature. Musically, the two albums are more relative to each other than to the albums that were released in between (Songs from the North I, II and III and When A Shadow is Forced Into the Light). Among other similarities, the songs “Hate, Lead the Way” (from Emerald Forest and the Blackbird) and “This House Has No Home” both have a driving black metal sound that is unique to Swallow the Sun’s music.
Mikko Kotamäki’s vocals have become stronger, somehow more whole, both clean and growls, and there are some surprise guests. Cammie Gilbert of Oceans of Slumber provides a deep yet delicate accompaniment to the song “All Hallows’ Grieve”. It amazed me how versatile her vocals can be, comparing what she does with Swallow the Sun to her guest vocals with Mercury Circle (former keyboardist of StS Jaani Peuhu’s band). Antti Hyyrynen of Stam1na also contributed backing growls on the first single “Woven into Sorrow”.
The motif of the lyrics are familiar to Swallow the Sun’s music, and yet they feel more raw than ever before. One common theme of the album (at least in my interpretation) is the synonymity between nature and the beauty of agony (unintentional Mercury Circle reference!) which is also gracefully depicted in the cover art and album title. The cover art, which Raivio created himself out of his own blood, and flowers hand picked and dried by him during the spring of 2016, and the Moonflower, which is symbolic of how this album came to existence, a thing of vespertine beauty that blossoms in the darkest hours.
There is a lot of descriptive imagery in the lyrics, a mysteriously metaphorical yet vivid look into a bleak world. Depictions of light in so many forms… flames, embers, wildfire, black, white, a tomb, a trail, a vessel for a ghost, a memory, something to be kept safe, something to be fed, something to hold…truly painting with words. Among other encounters of the sublime and melancholic natural world , of life and death, this album gives possible insight to Raivio’s experience of the world closing [coming] down at the most inopportune moment, as it was written during the lockdowns of 2020.
It was an unexpected announcement, since the band had so recently released their live album of the “20 Years of Gloom, Beauty and Despair”, gig in Helsinki. And it even seems it took the band by surprise as well, as Raivio commented that he hadn’t planned on writing anything new when this music “forced” itself out. But such as life goes, the most unexpected, unplanned things turn out to be the most memorable, meaningful, grandiose…
Swallow The Sun – Moonflowers (52:40)
1. Moonflowers Bloom In Misery (6:19)
2. Enemy (5:39
3. Woven Into Sorrow (7:46)
4. Keep Your Heart Safe From Me (7:47)
5. All Hallows’ Grieve (5:37)
6. The Void (5:39)
7. The Fight Of Your Life (7:13)
8. This House Has No Home (6:40)
Swallow The Sun – Moonflowers (Bonus)
“Trio N O X plays Moonflowers Live At Sipoo
1. Moonflowers Bloom In Misery (4:52)
2. Enemy (3:06)
3. Woven Into Sorrow (4:39)
4. Keep Your Heart Safe From Me (3:13)
5. All Hallows’ Grieve (4:58)
6. The Void (4:01)
7. The Fight Of Your Life (4:16)
8. This House Has No Home (3:03)
Swallow the Sun is:
Juha Raivio – Guitars
Mikko Kotamäki – Vocals
Juho Räihä – Guitars
Juuso Raatikainen – Drums
Matti Honkonen – Bass
Moonflowers has taken the experience of melodic doom to a new level. Both classical and regular versions of the album along with the haunting imagery of Dronicon Films create a multidimensional scape, for the ears, eyes, mind and soul. To explore the delicate, harsh, painful beauty of the natural world; loss, love, hate, death and life.