Finnish torchbearers Swallow the Sun have returned from the darkest corners to enchant us once again with brand-new full-length, Moonflowers. The much-anticipated follow-up to the group’s straight-to-#1 (Official Finnish Albums Chart), Emma Gaala–nominated (Finnish Grammys) When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light (2019) supersedes previous lodestars “Firelights”, “Stone Wings”, and “Lumina Aurea”. If Swallow the Sun couldn’t get any heavier emotionally, Moonflowers piles on markedly. Across the 52-minute effort, primary songwriter Juha Raivio spills everything he’s got into songs like “Moonflowers Bloom in Misery”, “Enemy”, “Keep Your Heart Safe from Me”, and riveting album-capper “This House Has No Home”. Likewise, the artwork for Moonflowers is complementary in its tragic heft. Instead of commissioning the album art to an outside party, Raivio used dried flowers he had collected as well as his own blood to paint the moon that adorns the starkly graceful cover. Moonflowers is yet another downhearted triumph for Swallow the Sun.
Formed in Jyväskylä in 2000, Swallow the Sun have amassed an impressive eight-album discography over their 20-plus journey. Debut The Morning Never Came (2003) kicked off the Finns’ funereal procession. Still, the power of Ghosts of Loss (2005) and the artistic expanse of chart-topping EP Plague of Butterflies (2008) launched the Raivio-led outfit onto the international stage. Always reticent but remarkably courageous, the Finns then embarked on an impressive 800-show run across four continents since emerging from the shadows. They’ve also tackled scoring ballets, released ambitious concept albums (Songs from the North I, II & III), and engaged their fanbase like few others (20 Years of Gloom Beauty and Despair Live in Helsinki). The ambit of Swallow the Sun’s undaunted artistry is tested again with Moonflowers.
So deep are the wounds from which Moonflowers surfaced that Raivio is loath to talk about it at any length. His only statement is bereft of fustian import: “I know well that I should not say this, but I deeply hate this album. I hate where it takes me, how it makes me feel, and what it stands for me. I wish it wouldn’t. But for all its honesty, I got no option than also [to] love it. That is all that matters to me with the music anyway. It doesn’t matter how it makes me feel, as long as it does”. Indeed, the heart of Moonflowers is its ability to impress. From the grim “This House Has No Home” (feat. Stam1na’s Antti Hyyrynen) and the dramatic enclosure of the “Enemy” to the delicate “All Hallow’s Grieve” (feat. Oceans of Slumber’s Cammie Gilbert) and the beauteous “The Fight of Your Life,” the Finns’ latest long-player is as rewarding and dynamic as it is accomplished and intimate.
Written by Raivio in autumn 2020, Moonflowers continued its mellifluous voyage with instrumental versions. Instead of electric guitars, Mikko Kotamäki’s sorrowful croon/monstrous growl, and Swallow the Sun’s traditionally oppressive edifice, the songs transformed into something else entirely when re-arranged for strings and piano. The bonus instrumental album to Moonflowers was performed by Finnish string outfit Trio NOX at a Medieval church in Sipoo, Finland. They’re the perfect accompaniment to the pensive, emotive metal contained in “Keep Your Heart Safe from Me”, “The Void”, and “Woven into Sorrow”. Perhaps the Trio NOX-played songs initially served as curiosities but were ultimately therapeutic for Raivio.
Moonflowers was tracked, mixed, and mastered across several studios. Guitarist Juho Räihä took the helm on death vocals, guitars, bass, and strings at his SoundSpiral Audio (Wolfheart, Before the Dawn). At the same time, producer David Castillo handled drums and clean vocals at Ghost Ward (Leprous, Katatonia). The completed recordings were then shipped off to Jens Bogren to mix and Tony Lindgren to master at Fascination Street Studios (Sepultura, Carcass). The Trio NOX recordings were also captured (live) by Räihä at SoundSpiral Audio. While Swallow the Sun have always enjoyed towering productions, Moonflowers is particularly epic in its pandemic-era stature and picturesque range.
As the year closes in, Swallow the Sun will release Moonflowers. No doubt the Finns will astonish once again, building on the master strokes of “Firelights”, “10 Silver Bullets”, “Cathedral Walls”, and “Falling World” with all their trademark craftsmanship and tenacious work ethic. Moonflowers will add to the group’s fan-lauded music videos (5+ million YouTube views) and streaming dominance (10+ million Spotify plays), but most importantly, it’ll connect as ever before Swallow the Sun’s diehard fans to Raivio’s very visible anguish as it steeps pervasively across “Moonflowers Bloom in Misery”, “Keep Your Heart Safe from Me”, “Enemy”, and “All Hallow’s Grieve”. The supporting animated videos—eight in total—by Dronicon Films (Aleah, Thenighttimeproject) were closely supervised by Raivio and serve as visual indicators of the songwriter’s broken-hearted enterprise.
Moonflowers will be revealed in its entirety on November 19th, 2021. Rise to the crest of autumn with Swallow the Sun… They’re waiting for you.