Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Swallow The Sun - Plague Of Butterflies (EP) (2008)


Often lost in the immense growls and threatening screams of metal is the delicate storytelling. The delivery may be harsh, but the tales told are often intricate and endearing. Swallow The Sun have always been a band focused on the content, rather than just the "brutality" of their music. And with their 2008 EP, titled "Plague Of Butterflies," they have chosen to carve a sorrow filled story into the tomes of doom.

Divided into three chapters, the story begins with "Losing The Sunsets," where our protagonist loses his beloved in the coldest winter. The sound of a freezing wind blowing through the trees opens the door for a light guitar melody. A second guitar, along with a keyboard, enters to complete the sound. The first iron fisted drum beat brings the distortion out, an immense roar of pick on strings. While the vocals begin soft and crooning, they convey a sense of loss. Low bass notes echo through a light tapping of cymbals. But the growls of pain are on their way, and things take a decidedly heavy turn. Double bass pedaling is a constant, thumping around the alternating vocal passages, from clean singing to screeching. The airy keys blow by like that chilling wind.

Chapter two, "Plague Of Butterflies," brings on the darkness. The man returns after his day of searching, only to find everyone in his town has been killed by a plague. He remains as the sole survivor, living amongst only butterflies. The lightning quick kick drums are the perfect compliment to chugging guitar chords. Frontman Mikko Kotamäki demolishes your eardrums with scream after scream. But the blaring guitar work is the star, from the crushing stomp to the screeching harmonics. The mood is taken to an evil place, caught up in the flapping wings of swarms of butterflies. It would be difficult not to find your mind drifting to that village, with the devilish music delivery carrying you through the forest. With each reentry of keys and chords, the pain of lost time will weigh on you. The cold winds return.

The final chapter, "Evael," is both beautiful and heartwrenching. After so long alone, Evael returns to him, barely alive. She collapses into his arms, cold and hollow, and they find peace in death together. In beltween crashing cymbals and a flurry of toms and snares, you will find the most deathly growls metal has to offer. This is no longer a story. Picks slide down the neck of the guitar, and you are living this nightmare. Deep, empty spoken words accompany the howl of distortion. An ethereal, albeit simple, guitar melody cuts through the darkness. The pain and longing comes to a head, driving the music and lyrics forward. From the emotional clean vocals to those harsh screams of pain, the band bring the story to a close. You find that, in this village by the woods, he would rather die with her, than live without her. A powerful performance culminating in a powerful message.

There is no division between the masterful writing and the precision of the music created. The two come together, flawlessly. The imagery found on this 35 minute epic is truly haunting, and will stick with you for days. Despite the heavy nature of the subject matter, I suggest you tackle this twice. The first time to take it each element. Read the lyrics, read the story, then go back for another listen. The second time, allow yourself to get lost in the woods in the frozen winter.

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