Swallow the Sun is a Finnish extreme metal band whose sound melds classic funereal doom with elements of melodic death and gothic metal, Scandanavian folk melodies, and beautifully dark atmospherics. As evidenced by their debut long player, 2003's The Morning Never Came, their sound balances often lithe, crystalline piano interludes alongside crushing guitar and bass riffs, nearly tribal low-tuned drums, wafting keyboards, and the unearthly vocals of frontman Mikko Kotamäki. This signature has been embellished, expanded and improved upon over long periods of studio experimentation, hundreds of concerts, and travel. Swallow the Sun's central theme is graphically depicting the complexity of human emotions. For 2007's Hope, they used the title as a word in each song, while reflecting utter hoplessness in their music and subject matter; the entire proceedings became a reflection of the place where pain and beauty intersect. The band also revealed their love of classic prog on 2015's epic, triple-length album Songs of the North, I, II & III. The set was split in presentation, offering one death metal album, one acoustic, and one of powerful doom.
Swallow the Sun was formed in early 2000 with vocalist Mikko Kotamäki, guitarists Juha Raivio and Markus Jämsen, keyboardist Aleksi Munter, bassist Matti Honkonen, and drummer Pasi Pasanen. Their debut album, The Morning Never Came, was issued on Firebox in 2003. It was followed two years later by Ghosts of Loss, featuring the single "Forgive Her...," which landed in the Finnish Top Ten. In 2006 they signed to Spinefarm Records and released their third album, Hope, one year later. It included a cover version of the Timo Rautiainen and Trio Niskalaukaus song "Alavilla Mailla" ("These Low Lands" in English) and was sung by guest vocalist Tomi Joutsen, frontman of Amorphis. The album also included a second guest appearance from Katatonia's Jonas Renkse on "The Justice of Suffering." The single "Don't Fall Asleep" was released in January of 2007 and entered the charts at number three, as did the album. The band undertook its first North American tour later that year with Katatonia, Scar Symmetry, and Insomnium; it also took them to Portugal, Spain, and Europe. (The band played over a hundred shows in all.) In November, they issued the live video Doomed to Walk the Earth as a document of the tour.
Swallow the Sun released the Plague of Butterflies EP in 2008. The following year, Pasanen left the band and was replaced by Kai Hahto of Wintersun. In June and July of 2009 Swallow the Sun spent three weeks recording in Sweden with producer Jens Bogren, emerging with the full-length New Moon. Issued in November, the album hit number ten on the Finnish charts. The group's fifth studio album, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, was released in 2012 on Spinefarm and entered the metal and Finnish charts at number two. The set featured a guest appearance from vocalist Anette Olzon of Nightwish on "Cathedral Walls." The band toured constantly throughout 2012 and 2013, playing in Europe with Paradise Lost, eventually playing Tokyo and China as well. In June of 2014, they undertook another European tour to mark the tenth anniversary of The Morning Never Came and later played Brazil. In July of that year, Hahto joined Nightwish as a full-time member. He left Swallow the Sun reluctantly; both band and drummer claimed it was temporary and he would return when and if his Nightwish schedule allowed for it. It never happened. Drummer Juuso Raatikainen, formerly of Heathen Hoof, was enlisted to replace him.
The band and its new drummer were writing prolifically but were not recording. This went on for over a year. Seeking better terms with Spinefarm, they eventually left to sign with Century Media and began recording at a furious pace. In June of 2015, Raivio announced that the wealth of material had resulted in a triple-album, Songs from the North I, II & III, three separate but linked recordings that showcased different aspects of Swallow the Sun's musical personality. In three successive weeks, from mid-October through early November, the band previewed one song from each volume, all the while touring the U.S. and Europe. Songs from the North I, II & III was released in November 2015. The supporting tour took the band across the globe, where they did everything from headlining European and Japanese festivals to playing small and mid-size clubs in the U.S.
In April of 2016, tragedy struck when collaborator/singer Aleah Stanbridge died of cancer. She had sung on every STS album from New Moon on, was the life partner of guitarist Juha Raivio and his bandmate in the side project, Trees of Eternity. While he oversaw the post production and release of their completed album in the wake of her death, he subsequently retreated for nearly two and a half years, writing out his grief. that same year, keyboardist Aleksi Munter left the group and the music business. In May of 2018, guitarist Markus Jämsen left the band due to hearing loss and was replaced by longtime friend and touring guitarist Juho Räihä. In June, STS re-entered the studio and came up with two thematically linked but musically different offerings. In December, Century Media issued the two-sided 12" single "Lumina Aurea" featuring guest spots by Wardruna frontman Einar Selvik and the Foreshadowing's Marco I. Benevento. Raivio claimed it as "the darkest and most sinister piece of music the band has ever released." The single was followed at the end of January by the full-length When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light, mixed by Jens Bogren. The album title came from a Stainbridge lyric, and each of its songs was penned by Raivio. He would only say that it was penned for her and that it depicted the state of his emotional life in the wake of her passage and the desire to prove that "love is always stronger than death." The album's release was followed by a world tour. ~ Thom Jurek