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Swallow The Sun: Songs From The North I, II & III

Reasons to be cheerless – one, two, three.

‘Gloom, beauty, despair.’ Thus reads the motto of Finnish doom merchants Swallow The Sun, and there is no more accurate way to describe this three-disc blast of misery.

Focusing on three aspects of the band’s identity, this is not a feel-good listen. Disc one is their doom metal side, and is so soul-crushingly dark it makes Candlemass sound like Bon Jovi. The opening nine-minute With You Came The Whole Of The World’s Tears sounds like boulders slowly rolling off a cliff edge ad infinitum, and sets the tone for what follows. The only misjudgement is when they use death metal growls, which call to mind the Cookie Monster bemoaning an unexpected shortage of Oreos and puncture the mood somewhat. Disc two (‘beauty’) is largely acoustic, and conjures melancholy rather than life-sucking doom. It’s more subtly evocative, and a nice contrast. Disc three (‘despair’) is where things get interesting. Exploring the outer limits of the band’s ambitions, accepted musical norms are all but discarded, and fans of dark, difficult prog may get a lot out of this. Not an album to rock down the highway to, but if existential hopelessness is your thing, prepare to be overwhelmed.