How did Swallow The Sun end up with a triple album?!
In an age where culture surfing is becoming the norm, funereal Finns Swallow The Sun have just released a triple-CD magnum opus. What possessed them?
Winter is approaching.
The naïve optimism of summer has once again been brusquely flattened by the icy whoosh of nature’s progress, as autumn’s serene winding down morphs inexorably into winter’s cold, dark languor. For those of us in the north of Europe, the next few months promise to be long, hard and bereft of light and cheer. A suitable soundtrack is required, and Finland’s Swallow The Sun have generously provided it. Not just their sixth studio album but also a self-evidently definitive musical statement, *Songs From The **North* comprises two and a half hours of diverse, daring and unerringly majestic doom metal: 21 songs spread across three discs (or five, if you’re a vinyl diehard) that explore every corner of the band’s increasingly adventurous sound with remarkably consistent and enchanting results. If you thought Iron Maiden were being a little extravagant with their 92-minute new album, the sheer girth of Swallow The Sun’s magnum opus may strike you as a preposterous and, fittingly perhaps, none-more-epic folly.
“I thought the same thing!” laughs vocalist Mikko Kotamaki. “I never thought we’d do that, I must admit. Juha [Raivio, guitarist and principal songwriter] mentioned he had this idea maybe three years ago. He said, ‘I want to do a triple album!’ We said, ‘What the fuck? Why would you wanna do that?’ Ha ha! Then maybe one year later it started to sound like a good idea. We’re known for some pretty epic stuff so it fits our style, I think. The way the music business is today, we are in times of Spotify and shit like that and people treat music like eating a fucking Big Mac, so we wanted to do something more real. Not just one or two songs that you put out when you feel like it. Basically this is a big middle finger to the Spotify generation.”
Best enjoyed in its colossal, despondent entirety – although when was the last time you had 150 minutes to spare? – Songs From The North amounts to the most compelling evidence yet that 2015 has been a uniquely brilliant year for melodic and funeral doom. Albums from the likes of Shape Of Despair, My Dying Bride, Ahab, Scepticism and Tyranny have all tapped skilfully into a prevailing mood of melancholy and disquiet, but Swallow The Sun have seemingly trumped their peers with a triple album that covers a vast amount of musical ground while never straying from a righteously miserable path. Divided into three distinct parts, Songs... is both a comprehensive exploration of STS’s subtly inventive approach and a wildly evocative journey through sorrow’s many shades and shadows. The Finns’ most loyal admirers will, of course, cheerfully surrender to the album’s morose enormity, but in an age where short attention spans are an enervating inevitability, will many people have the time or inclination to consume such an opulent banquet of bad times?
“I don’t think so, but at least we’re trying!" Mikko snorts. “I don’t think many people will have time to sit down for two and a half hours and just listen, but you never know. Maybe this will inspire people to calm down and fucking pay attention to the music! You know, I didn’t really enjoy the recording because it took so fucking long, but I think it’s brilliant that we can do so much on one album. There’s acoustic stuff and there’s funeral doom and then the first album is like the follow-up to our last album [2012’s Emerald Forest And The Blackbird]. I think it works this way and all three albums still sound like Swallow The Sun, you know? There’s a song on our second album called Gloom, Beauty And Despair, and I think those three words represent the new album as well."