Swallow the Sun Reflect on “20 Years of Gloom, Beauty, and Despair” with the latest live album (interview)
It’s a little unexpected that a 20-year career retrospective could be the optimal entry point for new fans, but Swallow the sunthe band’s latest live album is one such case. 20 years of gloom. Beauty and despair – Live in Helsinki is a memory of almost everything they have published. Recorded before the global closure in early 2020, the first album on the twin live album is a spring-backed acoustic performance of their biggest sound output. Songs from the North II: Beauty, while the other is a collection of songs seemingly the biggest hits, chosen by fans by online voting. As such, Swallow the Sun has put together a chronicle that rewards longtime fans for their investments.
In addition, 20 years of gloom. Beauty and despair – Live in Helsinki is a great primer for newcomers. The grief-as-a-celebration solidifies all of Swallow the Sun’s gloomy folk projects into their ominous funeral doom metal.
Bands tend to reinforce their arrogance with live recordings, feeding the audience adrenaline. Swallow the Sun refutes this expectation by doubling their melancholy. Their rigor is all-encompassing, reinforced by the acoustics of the Tavastia Club in Helsinki, but it never suffocates. Swallow the Sun’s death / doom metal brand is comforting even at its most catatonic. They do not show human depravity as much as they reflect and complain about humanistic failures. Grief is the bread and butter of Swallow the Sun, best imprisoned on the sore “cathedral walls.”
20 years of gloom. Beauty and despair – Live in HelsinkiThe band’s most striking quality is how the live performance sums up their discography. The darker pieces of their earlier works stand side by side alongside the newer cuts When the shadow is forced into the light, which emphasized a cleaner song. The small tonal differences between the albums merge into a unique portrait of the band’s entire list. Understanding the context behind each song is helpful, but excellent production connects them because such a story is not necessary.
This unity is adorned by the dual album format, in which heavier songs are matched while more folk, progressive songs are given their own record. Usually, such schisms lead to underdeveloped compositions when artists focus on the aesthetics of each sound without exploring what made them fascinating. However, since this is a reminder, 20 years of gloom. Beauty and despair – Live in Helsinki does not suffer from too thin pulling.
In fact, it has the advantage that both plates examine two sides of the same emotional coin. Of course, the first record is more sentimental and the second more punitive, but each record reflects different aspects of the group’s Gothic tendencies. By grouping similar songs together, Swallow the Sun waves at how their songwriters have progressed during their careers. New fans may easily be misled into believing that “Lost and Catatonic” and “Empires of Loneliness” were from two different eras, the former waving the band’s strong vocal melodies, while the latter is a monolithic death / doom metal curtain drawn across all rays. from sunlight.
20 years of gloom. Beauty and despair – Live in Helsinki is the well-deserved anniversary of Swallow the Sun. They reward listeners for a long time and invite newcomers to funeral processions. Guitarist Juho Räihä kindly answered our questions about the band’s legacy, musical duality and what the fan interaction that led to the album meant to him. Read the full discussion below.
How surprised were you about the songs that the fans chose for the album?
Not really surprised. In a live context, more melodic songs tend to work well for us, and that’s what our fans also seem to like about the performances.
“Stone Wings” and “Here on the Black Earth” were both from When the shadow is forced into the light, a very personal album for you at a loss. How do you react when you see these songs grow so popular with your fans because they have a high personal tax on you?
Music is an emotional language. It only makes sense that people can identify with the emotions we describe. We have all lost in life, love and family. That’s a big part of being human. Music can be an integral part of dealing with all emotions, and I think people appreciate it when someone composes from an honest place no matter what the emotion is.
You originally formed for only one demo tape. Does reusing these older songs bring them to a new perspective or does it put you back in the shoes you were in when you wrote / recorded them?
I can only comment on this a bit from the outside because I joined the band in 2018. But at least for me, the older songs are the gateway to a younger version of myself. I’ve changed a lot over the last decade, but I still get quite vividly younger, more energetic, and anxious in my main state. Nothing does it better than washing and riffing out old StS stuff. It’s absolutely exceptional how music can take you to different places and times in your life.
Many of the songs on the album are from another, folk album Songs from the north, although that album is not your typical death-doom metal style. What features have fans liked about those songs that make you think they’re so popular live?
The album’s acoustic set is definitely fresh air. We love mixing it and playing all kinds of Swallow the Sun stuff live. We feel limiting to call us a straightforward metal band, and we love being able to introduce different aspects of Swallow the Sun. We are greatly influenced by all kinds of music and it is one of our greatest strengths to me.
Has any of these songs given you new meanings?
Songs always change shape when you change as a person. I personally feel good now that I have fully gotten into how the songs feel to me. It’s an endless road towards the ability to put your emotions into play 100%. “Songs From the North” is a magical song and it’s probably the one that comes off the most for me.
How do the songs picked by the fans fit into your band’s self-image? Do they represent where you want to go with the band in the future?
I think the songs represented us quite beautifully. Although our extremes go much further on both the metal and softer side. But again, I fully understand that live is live, and different songs work well in that context, unlike listening alone at home.
The album is divided into two parts, one showing your folk intuition and the other the heavier sides of the band. Why create this schism, similar to the one you did? Songs from the north?
Shows two different sides of the band. And of course Swallow the Sun has never been content with less than our best. The dual album gives fans more. We hope that this way everyone can enjoy the publication more and for longer.
The new live mixes sound phenomenal. They add great dynamics to the songs. How do you think the string quartet affected the themes of the loss of your music?
Thank you. I mixed the heavier set and Jaani Peuhu the acoustic set. I also feel like we managed to capture the mood of the show without being too rough on the edges, as many live albums usually do. The string section was a phenomenal play. It has to be said about conveying emotions with such instruments. Hopefully we can play more gigs in live languages.
Is there extra time reserved for a pandemic? 20 years of gloom, beauty and despair – Live in Helsinki, as well as a string quartet, will influence your direction Moonflowers?
The string quartet is definitely part of Swallow the Sun. I can’t imagine a much more appropriate sound to convey with the band’s heavier feel. It’s really hard to say about a pandemic. I’d like to think it didn’t affect us too much. We designed the recordings pretty much as if there was no extra pressure or difficulty. Even between the Swedish Fascination Street and the Finnish studio it went surprisingly easily.
20 years of gloom. Beauty and despair released on July 30th Century Media Records.