(Version Studio, out Fri 11 Jan 2019)
A chill wind is blowing in from the north, from Sweden to be be precise. It sweeps across a bleak landscape and searches deep into your soul. Yet from within, it reveals an intense atmospheric beauty, making you reach for your overcoat and venture into the wilderness for another view.
The Woods, the third full length album from A Swarm Of The Sun, is the Swedish post-rock duo’s darkest offering to date as they lean ever-closer towards the classical concepts of a three movement rock symphony. It has taken Eric Nilsson and Jakob Berglund four years to conceive and create the follow-up to the critically acclaimed The Rifts, exploring ever deeper into their eternal theme of dealing with one’s demons, rather than avoiding them.
The musical interpretation of this is necessarily sombre, but powerful. Eric Nilsson’s opening piano refrain to Blackout could be a soundtrack to any film noir, slow deliberate notes, hanging in the darkness. A cello lowers the mood further before long-time collaborator Karl Daniel Lidén begins a slow relentless drum beat to carry the melody forwards and, finally, a hint of optimism. Inevitably, as is A Swarm Of The Sun’s style, the track heads towards its conclusion in a crescendo of ever-increasing intensity.
With each of the three tracks at around 13 minutes long, this is the shortest album of the duo’s full length output, but the most intense. As with The Rifts, A Swarm Of the Sun have taken their time to create a work that flows and becomes a complete concept.
Berglund’s subdued, minimalist vocals haunt the title track, yet with a message of hope for the future of a loved one who is leaving. Again, the second half of the track begins a long build up to the final crescendo, this time at more of a pace, more hard-rock genre, driven along by Lidén’s powerful drumming.
The album closes with An Heir to The Throne, Lidén’s funereal drums sound a death knell for any optimism created so far, Berglund’s vocals full of despair over Nilsson’s minimal keyboards before the track explodes into a cacophony of sound. The pace is slow and deliberate but, once again, so powerful and Nilsson’s guitar solo is epic, lifting the gloom and giving us hope for a brighter future.
Throughout, Lidén’s production is flawless while the musicality is first class and finely crafted. There is an inordinate amount of beauty to be found within the darkness and A Swarm of the Sun are never afraid to explore the bleakest parts of the human experience. The intensity of the experience grows with each subsequent listen, compelling for anyone prepared to slip on their coat, wrap up warm, and venture out into the Swedish wilderness. The Woods will bring you comfort in knowing you’re not alone; it will be your companion in the dark.