I must admit, these Finns definitely know how to make one sad. It is of little surprise, of course, that Swallow The Sun's insignia of melodic doom/death metal quickly shot the band to the forefront of their musical alcove within just a few years. Some may call "Emerald Forest and the Blackbird" a towering magnum opus, or perhaps a creative descent akin to the backsliding interests of a disheartened soul struggling to break free from the tentacles of reality, but it's a Swallow The Sun album above all else. The girth within "Emerald Forest and the Blackbird" is surprisingly fertile and innovative; the band has a clear grasp on advanced songwriting techniques and the dark atmosphere needed to capture the whole picture of Swallow The Sun's method. A harrowing release touching a variety of angles at its best and an entertaining listen at its lowest points, I really can't protest the work of these doom/death metal harbingers.
Everything here is remarkably fresh. I mean, a staggering number of the anthems retrace the same formula that widely represents most of "Emerald Forest and the Blackbird," perhaps even most of Swallow The Suns discography, really. Needless to say, Swallow The Sun is still Swallow The Sun, and you can expect all the melodic passages, all the shearing doom sections, all the clean vocals, all the harsh vocals, and all the mournful despair compactly rolled up in that signature ball of Finnish grief. The interesting thing about Swallow The Sun is that they always keep the emotional atmosphere negative and daunting, but through a variety of musical mediums. For example, the whooping title track runs in a dramatic turn of events, quickly swaying from harsh, violent passages to mournful sections utilizing clean vocals and mighty atmosphere. They surprisingly have a lot of creativity hiding out in the records many chambers.
The second song, "This Cut is the Deepest" is an acoustic rocker leaning towards the Katatonia spectrum of depressing rock, and it lacks harsh vocals or aggression, making it the purest Swallow The Sun tune around. Very effective and powerful track if I may say so. They quickly counter the subdued semblance with "Hate, Lead The Way," which is easily one of the most intense and brutal songs they've ever penned. We're all about extremes now, is that it? Anette Olzon Blyckert, former Nightwish vocalist, makes a credible cameo on "Cathedral Walls." Not big on Nightwish, but her voice is an elegant addition to the somber instrumentation. The rest of the package churns out adequate pieces ranging from acceptable to downright sensational; they've done no ball-dropping here.
All in all, an album from Swallow The Sun which perfectly sums up everything they have to say in an artistic manner is the only absolute truth regarding "Emerald Forest and the Blackbird." Maybe some of the sonnets aren't up to previous works, but they've still forged songs like "Hate, Lead The Way" or "This Cut is the Deepest" which provoke vast amounts of emotional color and atmosphere. That's the point of mournful music like this, right? If so, Swallow The Sun, pat yourselves on the back; you've earned it. If not, cherish "Emerald Forest and the Blackbird" for its balancing act between musical hatred and heartbreak, never discoloring the sadness that gave life to both.