Review SWALLOW THE SUN ’20 Years of Gloom, Beauty and Despair – Live in Helsinki’

Jyväskylä, Finland isn’t a city that you reach by coincident. 270 kilometers North of Helsinki it is nature that surrounds the town, endless forests that unveil their beauty in every season of the year. Besides that, Jyväskylä is also know for a vital rock and metal scene with bands like Swallow The Sun belonging the spearhead of bands hailing from there.

More than 20 years ago, the band started their undertaking and after two decades the sextet became one of the most important representatives of Finnish metal. Various albums, starting with the debut ‚The Morning Never Came‘, prove the musical journey and development of Swallow The Sun. The band also never shy away from special challenges and creativity is the motor for trying out different things. The three chapters of their latest album ‘Songs From the North’ is such a moment when the six-piece band took a wholistic approach with music, they spread out over a three-record including package.

That was in 2019 and fortunately some shows have been possible for the band to play and one of them took place in Helsinki. It was on February 26th, that Swallow The Sun played at Tavastia before the pandemic also meant a full stop for their touring activities. Luckily for band and fans, the Helsinki show was filmed and recorded, which allows the guys to celebrate ‘20 Years of Gloom Beauty and Despair‘ a bit, although in another setup than originally planned.

The concert was split in two different sets – an acoustic one and a plugged-in one. Both sets together represent a lot of what the band stands for. There are the calm and melancholic sounds that dominate the first half of the show, built on the ‘Songs From the North II’ album. Emotion and shades of grey is what the band draw in perfection, soundscapes and melodies that are touching and impressive. It’s a soundtrack that can easily accompany you while walking through the fog-wrapped forests during autumn time. Heritage and mystery are weaved into the songs that unveil their gloomy beauty on this release, amplified by the contribution of a string quartet.

The second half of the show continues in a similar fashion when it comes to expression and mood. The Finns are masters of the craft and what was the calmness in the first set turns into heaviness in the bottom part of this setlist. Growls, riff power and well-accentuated melodies unit with well-crafted soundscapes, all defining the Swallow The Sun sound. Clean vocals are the melancholic counterpart to the darkened heaviness, all being reflected by songs like ‘Lost & Catatonic’ that acts as a bridge between the two parts. The choice of songs was up to fans who voted prior to the show what songs they wanted to hear. This brought some rarely played pearls to the forefront, like ‘Empires of Loneliness’ and ‘Plague of Butterflies’.

‘20 Years of Gloom, Beauty and Despair – Live in Helsinki‘ brings a lot of Swallow The Sun to the plate. In nearly 120 minutes the band presents an excellent summary of their career to date. Quantity and quality are perfectly balanced, making this live album to one of the best ones in 2021 so far.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Tracklist:

CD1:

  1. The Womb Of Winter
  2. The Heart Of A Cold White Land
  3. Away
  4. Pray For The Winds To Come
  5. Songs From The North
  6. 66°50′N, 28°40′E
  7. Autumn Fire
  8. Before the Summer Dies

CD2:   

  1. Lost and Catatonic
  2. Empires of Loneliness
  3. Falling World
  4. Cathedral Walls
  5. Plaque of Butterflies
  6. Don’t Fall Asleep
  7. Stone Wings
  8. The Giant
  9. Swallow
  10. Here on the Black Earth

Label: Century Media

Genre: Doom Death Metal

Release Date EU: July 30st, 2021

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