It’s hard not to gasp with admiration at the sheer bloody size of this thing: a triple album, no less, and a sumptuous 154 minutes of brand new music.
Swallow The Sun have never exactly been short of ideas, but Songs From The North is a bold, audacious statement. Divided into three distinct parts, each of which would work perfectly well as a standalone album, this is an authoritative lesson in pacing and dynamics. It’s also unfathomably absorbing from graceful start to delirious finish and, most startling of all, it contains barely a single shred of filler.
Whether intentionally or not, Part I feels very much like a legitimate sequel to 2012’s majestic Emerald Forest And The Blackbird. From the gradual build and glacial drift of opener With You Came The Whole Of The World’s Tears onwards, there is stately ebb and flow in abundance, Mikko Kotamäki’s increasingly impressive voice leading us through harsh, forbidding landscapes and suffocating clouds of mystery and despair. There are songs as straightforwardly beautiful as Heartstrings Shattering, its shades of Katatonia at their most fragile underpinned by the grittiest of doom-laden gaits, and as bleakly opulent as closer From Happiness To Dust. Nothing feels wasted: even the slowest moments have real momentum and every melody carries a sting in its tail.
Part II is primarily an acoustic affair, all roaring fires, twinkling night skies and whispers of doomed romance – a soothing dose of calm and quiet before a devastating denouement. With some of the slowest, heaviest and most wickedly despondent music they have ever recorded, Part III’s five towering epics imperiously reaffirm the Finns’ funeral doom credentials. If one song sums up this band’s hellish power, the gruelling but glorious 7 Hours Late is it: 10 minutes of exquisite sorrow, so heavy and grandiose that it truly sounds like the end of the world.
Listen to it in one decadent hit, treat each album as a separate entity or cherry-pick from the embarrassment of riches on offer: it makes no odds. Songs From The North is a stunning, near-flawless achievement and the perfect soundtrack for bleak winters, both real and ethereal.