Continuing on after their “Hope” 10th anniversary tour, SWALLOW THE SUN stopped by for a gig in Helsinki with their compatriots RED MOON ARCHITECT and SLEEP OF MONSTERS, so we caught their performance in Korjaamo, Helsinki, on January 26th, 2018.
I love SWALLOW THE SUN, there’s zero doubt about that. Something about the album name, “The Morning Never Came,” is absolutely perfect to my ears, yet “Emerald Forest and the Blackbird” and “New Moon” are in eternal competition for their best album. There is catharsis in the absolute crushing despair of the lyrics and the dark stories, combined with the top notch clean/growl axis of their vocalist, Mikko Kotamäki, without leaving out the instrumental/compositional skill and talent. Speaking to me on an almost primordial level, STS is one of those bands to listen to, when you absolutely need to feel like utter crap before being able to feel good again. Thus crapsack expectations set, it was time to find a comfy place in Korjaamo.
Kicking us off was RED MOON ARCHITECT, which in an anticipated fashion, plays dark and slow. Right off the bat, Korjaamo worked superbly for this orchestra, with the growling vocals of Ville Rutanen sounding very clean – if that makes any sense – and the mixing superb, probably owing to the earlier time on tour and opportunities to dial in on the settings. Nothing was too loud, yet everything was clearly audible, so hats off to the sound guy behind the desk. A minor complaint has to be raised, however, towards the mixing of Anni Viljanen – the clean vocalist for RMA – since her voice overpowered a lot of the music. Perhaps a stylistic choice, but since their albums have her mixed into – rather than over – the songs, it seemed somewhat out of place, but as mentioned, it was a minimal issue. Her voice was brought to justice in the end of the song “Betrayed” from their “Fall” album, which was haunting to the edge of being mesmerizing, combining masterfully traits from lighting, ambiance, and mixing, creating a ghostly AV-scape worthy of Poe. It might be somewhat unorthodox to praise a doom metal band for a good stage performance, but the minimal movement on stage – if one doesn’t count all the headbanging – befits the group, and their drummer, Saku Moilanen – seemingly lost in his own world while playing and feeling the music – did bring a smile to my face. RED MOON ARCHITECT was solid melodic doom metal, definitely worth getting into for their polished vision of their music.
SLEEP OF MONSTERS, the second challenger of the evening, was much more of a motley crew; provided I have my basic adding-up right, I counted nine performers on stage, which is quite the crowd, but luckily the Korjaamo stage had plenty of room to fit everyone comfortably. Struggling to adequately compare their style to anything else, SOM sounds unique. On record, something akin to occult/Goth rock with catchy choruses and fine vocal work, yet in live situations, they took on a smidgen of post-rock due to the sheer number of instruments and singers on stage, painting a vivid color in the venue. “Golden Bough” from “II – Poison Garden” was absolutely fantastic live, making an extremely good use of the two singers’ voices, the richness thus making for a beautiful duet. Much more talkative with the crowd than their predecessor, lead singer Ike Vil was at home on stage and interacting with the audience, cracking jokes and giving thanks to his bandmates. Hard-pressed to think of anything more to say about them, I will say this: they’re damn good at what they do, and what they do is catchy, dark, and extravagant.
SWALLOW THE SUN now well and properly warmed up, it was time for the five members to take their places on stage. Expecting nothing less than perfection on their mixing part, it was very much just that. As said before, Korjaamo‘s space (along with a competent sound guy) made for great sound, with not a single instrument underrepresented in the case of STS, and the vocals crisp and the performance well-rehearsed. The drumming by Juuso Raatikainen was like clockwork, with the snare snappy and bass drum punchy. The only criticism I found in the performance is the lackluster usage of lights, which illuminated the whole stage. Being unconvinced of the effectiveness of a fully-lit doom metal band on stage is something of an understatement, when it would work so much better if dimly lit. Being a secondary issue at best, along with it being an extremely subjective opinion, there’s really not anything else to complain about. SWALLOW THE SUN is a long-running band with tons of experience, both on-stage and off. Their audio has been worked up into perfection along the years, along with the overall feel of their performance, mincing no words between songs, simply thanking the audience for participating in their show. Boasting songs like “Empires of Loneliness” from “Songs from the North III,” “New Moon” and “These Woods Breathe Evil” from “New Moon,” and “Deadly Nightshade” from “The Morning Never Came” in their setlist for the evening, there really was no need to thank us, we’d be better off thanking you.
Personally, I feel like it takes a special kind of person to compose and perform doom metal. The depths where the music, stories, and lyrics take you probably can’t be just put onto paper without any accompanying feeling. The extreme hopelessness given thought, then form, and finally performed on records and to audiences to ease that. I’d just like to buy everyone of these people a beer or twenty and sit in silence for a while since, y’know, alcohol is technically a solution, right?
Written by Kalle Uotila