Swallow The Sun

Vega, Copenhagen - 2012

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

Swallow The Sun from Finland was the opening act for Paradise Lost as they visited Copenhagen on their Tragic Idol tour, and from hearing them for the first time over the net only a few hours earlier, I can honestly say that I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

Quite surprisingly, to me at least, the show played out in Lille Vega, the smaller of the two stages at Vega, and when we entered I could quickly see that the setup on the smaller stage, what with both Paradise Lost’s and Swallow The Sun’s equipment and drums being present at the same time, didn’t leave much room for the sextet to move around on. It was also probably the reason why Aleksi Munter’s keyboard was placed on the very edge of the stage so that it formed a perfect line with the others microphone stands.
I also wondered why said keyboard was set so low, but an explanation for this would arrive during the show.

The band arrived as well, or at least the musicians did, and as they stood motionless with their instruments, a slow and melancholy Finnish folk song rolled out of the speakers which moved us to a special place of vulnerability, and as soon as the band felt they had us where they wanted us they crushed all desire to go on living with their thundering doom riffing! In a good way that is…
A little bit into the first song Mikko Kotamäki, the vocalist, entered as well, just in time for him to begin to sing; or sing is maybe a too general term for it when it comes to doom, Kotamäki more looked and sounded like he was pulling every word from the bottom of whatever lies inside, as if every syllable pronounced felt to him like pulling teeth. Without an anaesthetic.
This made a close fit with the atmosphere set up by the music, and I thank whatever metal-god that is listening that the sound quality up front was exceptionally good this evening, making it possible for us to hear more or less every nuance of the Finnish dirge.
The biggest risk there is for doom metal with its slow tempo is that it will begin to lose the concentration of the listener at some point though, especially in a live setting where everyone is beginning to get a bit drunk and might feel like partying in one way or the other, but this pitfall was perfectly side-stepped by Swallow The Sun as they about 15 minutes into the set turned the tempo dramatically up. For the rest of the show, this was delicately turned up and down enough to create a wonderfully dynamic score which kept us on the edge of our seats (or it would have, had we but been sitting down) for their entire 45-50 minutes on stage.

At the start of Swallow The Sun’s concert, not so many people had shown up at Vega, and amongst those who had, the bigger part were hanging out in the bar lounge in the room next to where the stage was. Yet, the music had a nice pull on people, and little by little the concert room began filling up as well. We weren’t exactly packed by the end of it, but there was still a good amount of people who wanted to lend Swallow The Sun their ear, and for good reason I’d say.
Now, I promised you an explanation to the low sitting keyboard, and from what I could tell there were two possible main reasons for this; one, Munter didn’t necessarily strike me as being very high, and two, for almost the entire gig he stood doubled over and headbanging as well as playing!
The rest of the musicians weren’t far behind though, with guitarist Juha Raivio leading the pack into good old headbanging sessions. Only Kotamäki didn’t exactly get into the groove it would seem; when he was singing you could see he was really present in the moment and emotion, but when a musical part came on he just stood there, looking more or less blank. Neither did he speak much between songs, except for the odd song-title mentioned (under his breath, so it was quite impossible to understand what he said when you had no prior knowledge of the title). This behaviour ran a risk of keeping the show on the stage and locked away from the audience, but his band-mates saved this with being very giving in the form of performing. Heck, Raivio could even be seen smiling from time to time, and he wasn’t shy to shake hands with those standing close to him after the show.
Throughout the show though, there was another thing nagging at the back of my mind, and it was that I felt I recognised the drummer from somewhere, but couldn’t with the best of my efforts place where it should be. After the show Lunah Lauridsen came to my rescue though, reminding me that he was none other than Kai Hahto from Wintersun!

Lately, I’ve been getting into a darker, doom’ier side of metal, listening a lot to Paradise Lost (surprise, surprise), and also rediscovering My Dying Bride and the old albums of Theatre Of Tragedy, so what I heard rolling off the stage by the hand of Swallow The Sun hit the perfect spot for me right now, the timing couldn’t have been better.
I was really taken aback by the emotion and quality of this, and would certainly not mind growing more acquainted with this band in the future.

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