In Praise of “Moonflowers” by Swallow the Sun (#10 in 2021’s Top Ten)

There are two common pain points for anyone who dabbles in writing album reviews: discovering a gem of an album years after it’s release, and when an artist decides to drop an album in the closing weeks of the year. Swallow the Sun’s “Moonflowers” is a case of the latter – the album dropped halfway through November – but reminds me of the pre-pandemic discovery of 2019’s “When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light” more than a year after it’s release. Life disappoint us sometimes.

Strangely, though, Swallow the Sun’s association with painful regret and longing is very much on-brand for the Finnish doom metal band. If 2019’s “When A Shadow…” was an inconsistent (but occasionally brilliant and sublime) lament to a departed friend and bandmate, “Moonflowers” is a very consistent, and consistently brilliant and sublime, lament about picking up life after said loss. One could be forgiven for writing off “Moonflowers” as heavier, more elegant amalgamation of emo sad-boi vibes, but behind the very straightforward-to-a-fault lyrics and gorgeous classical arrangements interspersed in the band’s usual doom-goth metal sound is pain; sincere, honest, heartfelt pain, cried out with in a broad spectrum of beauty and rage. I normally judge an album based on the standard version release, but an exception must be made here for “Moonflowers” deluxe edition, which includes an entire classical version of the album that is far more than a straight mix down of the orchestrations of the main album. Acoustic versions that are 1:1 re-creations of the original, less distortion and screaming, are usually quite boring; the versions Swallow the Sun presents here are entirely legitimate works on their own right, one that anyone can appreciate and enjoy.

My only critique is simple enough: this consistency does result in a sameness that is hard to dismiss in certain moments. But, when that sameness is satisfying and cathartic, it’s a minor nitpick at best. “Moonflowers” scratches an itch nothing else quite could this year, even if it took till the end of the year to arrive.

“Moonflowers” by Swallow the Sun is available wherever you get your music. #9 tomorrow.

If you have thoughts, let me hear them!

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