Swallow the Sun’s previous album release “Songs from the North” (2015) was a triple album which captured different atmospheres and shades, cementing the Finnish band’s fine reputation. Based on that one, “When A Shadow is Forced Into The Light” as a title alone captures the imagery and nuances with which I was now familiar. The title in fact has its origins in Trees of Eternity’s “Broken Mirror” off the 2016 “Hour of the Nightingale” album.
Accompanying the album is a separate EP “Lumina Aurea”, which acts as a preface. Distant trumpets, dark chasmic sounds, a sermon and a choir can be heard. This sombre piece represents the entry to death. The death is Juha Raivio’s partner Aleah Starbridge, the vocalist of Trees Of Eternity who died in 2016, and who coined the lyric “when a shadow is forced into light”. “Lumina Aurea” reflects the void-like expanse of someone in mourning. The second piece of the EP is the instrumental version, which if anything is more frightening and takes us on a further gloomy journey into the world of cosmic doom and mourning.
So, onto the album itself, which was never going to be a matter of fact. Indeed, what shines through “When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light” is power and raw emotion. Each song is a wonderfully constructed weighty affair. The sense of loss is always there but the tones are expansive. Songs like “Stone Wings” exude beauty from within the sadness. Symphonic sounds emerge. There’s a deep wall of sound, which stands behind these sensitive songs. The vulnerable clean vocals and words reflect the pain, with occasional fiery growls to reinforce them. The instrumentals are subtle, lush and sophisticated. The drummer pounds out the gloom. Heavy, ponderous beats mix with delicate magic but what comes out of it is something beautiful. Each song puts across its sad message, none more so than the evocatively melancholic “Clouds On Your Side”. The title track in particular highlights the contrast between the delicate melancholy and extreme darkness. Overall it’s doomy and death-like but without losing the structure of the songs and their message. Edginess and cold run through this album. The sad atmosphere is filled with an air of misty magic. “When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light” is hypnotising.
Each of the eight songs on “When A Shadow Is Forced to Light” comes from a personal perspective. It is an album, which through a kaleidoscopic array of gloomy heaviness and intense subtlety, that the listener can share and imbibe.
(8.5/10 Andrew Doherty)