On the list of live streams we’ve been enjoying during our social distancing, the most recent is that of SWALLOW THE SUN. Taking place at Sonic Pump Studios on May 7th, 2020, this stream did not feature the entire band in a metal concert, but a foursome doing acoustic renditions of their material. The show was hosted by Keikalla.fi.
We chose a great evening for this stream, on the first grey (re: snowy!) day we’ve had in ages, around 21:00 when the sky had cleared up and the sun was getting low, so the windows were open to let the post-rain/snow freshness in. Closing the curtains and lighting some candles added to the ambience, matching the stage setup at Sonic Pump Studios, where the foursome sat in an arc, lit by a variety of lamps. The cameras were expertly done, with a variety of well-cut shots that transitioned smoothly from one to the other.
It was quite natural for the setlist to largely contain new material from 2019’s “When a Shadow is Forced into the Light“ alongside “Beauty,” the second disc from “Songs from the North I, II, & III” as these songs translate well into acoustic form if they weren’t already acoustic to begin with. I had never before noticed the rather OPETH-y vibe to some of their material, as well as how Mikko Kotamäki‘s voice carries a similar haunting and echoey quality to that of Mikael Åkerfeldt.
Jaani Peuhu was regularly smiling and looking right at home with the band. It’s almost impossible to imagine STS without him these days; he’s settled into the band as though it was second nature. His versatility makes him reminiscent of Troy Donockley in NIGHTWISH, adding a new set of vocals along with a multitude of instruments, from keys to kantele, to the already stellar doomy foundation of STS.
After a few songs they answered some Q&A from the stream chat, which oddly was largely full of “when are you coming to our country?” questions; after a few of these, guitarist Juho Raiha mentioned that there was a whole global pandemic going on and they weren’t sure yet, all things considered, but hopefully soon. They answered a few more general questions, rather shyly if I may say, and sent “pusi pusi” [kiss kiss] to guitarist Juha Raivio, who couldn’t get there to join the show. These Q&A interludes happened recurrently throughout the show, getting shy Finnish responses from the band.
Alongside the best-of of recent material were naturally some gems from the past, such as “New Moon” hailing back to 2009 and, as an added bonus track, those who were willing to pay a little extra received a pre-recorded rendition of “Falling World” from the same album. Much to our surprise, however, the set did not end with their own material, but rather covers of “Your Decision” by ALICE IN CHAINS and “Forgotten Hopes” by ANATHEMA. A surprising twist to the set, they left us feeling a pleasant vibe of having experienced the unexpected after enjoying a very nice set.
If listening to haunting acoustic music around the campfire sounds like a good evening, then STS‘s acoustic shows are not to be missed. While saying they were charismatic on camera during the Q&A parts would be a stretch, these talented Finns nevertheless played a superb and ambient set that was perfect to enjoy while relaxing at home during the public gathering ban.
1. The Heart of a Cold White Land
4. Pray for the Winds to Come
5. Songs from the North
6. New Moon
7. Autumn Fire
8. Stone Wings
9. Before the Summer Dies
10. Here on the Black Earth
11. Your Decision (Alice in Chains cover)
12. Forgotten Hopes (Anathema cover)
Bonus Track: “Falling World”
Written by Bear Wiseman
Interview Phantom Elite – “It’s always good to share that feeling that none of us is alone in hard times”