Originally written by Ian Dreilinger.
It’s always been a wonder how people can manage to stand so loyally by styles of music where bands that sound exactly the same keep putting out albums that sound exactly the same. If you haven’t picked up yet the fact that I think a lot of what’s happening in metal is boring, uninspired, and fully lacking in creativity by reading my other reviews, I’ll just go right ahead and state it directly. Aside from a few spectacular exceptions, metal is succumbing to exactly what it was created to get rid of: monotony. Feeling as such has left me with only a few possible reactions to new metal releases. They’re either so stale and devoid of passion that I can’t even stomach listening to them, so inventive and exuberant that I can’t stop listening to them, or, the rarest of the three, they offer absolutely nothing innovative to speak of but somehow manage to grab my attention with sheer intensity and adamantly refuse to let go (much like Death Machine’s recent self titled venture). Of metal’s many sub-genres, one of the most stagnant of late has been doom metal, so when I was recommended Swallow the Sun, a Finnish doom outfit, by a friend, I very nearly shrugged it off as pointless before even listening. Boy was I wrong. With paces that often struggle to keep up with dirges, abrasively anguished growls, and grave melodies, Swallow the Sun truly has nothing to offer that countless other bands haven’t served up in the past. Nevertheless, this fact does nothing to diminish the absolute aural pleasure of their album, The Morning Never Came. With tunes often similar to those of November’s Doom, this is undoubtedly some of the more atmospheric doom around, but Swallow the Sun utilizes keyboards far more heavily, giving it a much more majestic feel. In addition, the mellower parts in between bludgeoning heaviness are far more akin to Type O Negative than anything else. The Type O influences are also apparent in the bass sound; both the effect and style have an uncanny resemblance to what Pete Steele plays. It’s hard to pick favorites on an album as consistently strong as The Morning Never Came, but if there’s one thing that sets a few of the songs below the rest, it’s weak beginnings. Unfortunately, not taking hold of the listener right from the get-go can terribly diminish a song’s overall goodness. A few tracks in the middle of the album suffer from this. Granted, once you make it past the first thirty seconds or so it’s smooth sailing, quite up to par with everything else, if not even better in a few instances. It’s just those boring opening sections that make it harder to actively desire hearing the songs. The strongest songs are those that have the most substance and are the most fully developed. While none clock in at less than around five and a half minutes, the three songs that pass the eight-minute mark are clearly Swallow the Sun’s moments of glory. Opener, Through Her Silvery Body (keep in mind, I’m not taking away any points here for utterly cliché and trite song titles and lyrical themes), is among the slowest moving of their songs, but the melodies are gorgeously written and executed; I would even go so far as to say that they’re occasionally moving. It runs neither too long nor too short, the course it follows is ideal. Hold This Woe has the strongest beginning of all the songs on The Morning Never Came and follows through with a new level of density of sound, not to mention the abundance of nicely done (but far too sparsely used elsewhere on the record) clean vocals. The closing title track is like a depressing elegy, capturing the essence of doom metal at its finest. It keeps a steady core throughout, though there’s plenty of contrast between somber and aggressive. It’s likely that this album will end up on many top ten lists of both metal purists and those, like myself, who enjoy things all over the musical spectrum. Despite its lack of creativity, it manages to stay fresh through intensity and is a completely gratifying listen because of it. This is something that will make its way back to my CD player repeatedly.