Swallow the Sun - Emerald Forest and the Blackbird (Spinefarm Records)
By: Kenneth Gallant
[6/10] Many longtime fans are viewing this release as a disappointment, given how they have stylistically shifted a bit from previous outings. For a fifth studio release, STS have decided to go for a softer and ethereal sound on Emerald Sword and the Blackbird, allowing for a more melodic approach to the music. Some might even say they have gone mainstream, but I prefer to view this as an evolution of sorts.
The first few tracks are indeed soft in spots, complete with clean vocals and accompanied with a mix of acoustic guitars. Thankfully it picks up to a vicious pace with ďHate, Lead the WayĒ and I must say itís a heavy number consisting of churning guitars and sung with black metal vocals. Arguably itís the best track on the album, and it will truly appease the die hard fans, since itís done in the bandís classic style. Unfortunately as you go deeper into the album the results vary quite a bit. Many elements seem more accessible and on the song ďCathedral Walls,Ē this fact will definitely ring true.
But getting back to the stylistic changes, the stripped-down rock structure found permeating through most of the tracks is what throws things off a bit. The guitars and drums maintain the heaviness from previous releases, but itís the use of keyboards that really push the sound forward, altering the mood somewhat. It also doesnít help to have female vocals on two songs and a spate of acoustic leanings to give the overall sound a true cohesive element.
I donít think this is a bad album overall though, but itís far from their best work. The song quality ranges from good to bad and for my tastes the songs tend be too long and overdrawn. I donít begrudge the band for evolving a bit, but I canít stand the meandering feel of the music. I keep thinking of this as being a stale and quite sterile affair for a band noted for creating strong doom/death albums in the past. There just seems to be less death and less doom with each new release and I am sure longtime fans are going to go away in droves.
Perhaps this new work is leading to a path of musical maturity, and if thatís the case then they certainly have succeeded there. I just wished the tempo didnít slow down and make the songs so unmemorable.