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A Swarm Of The Sun - 'The Woods' Album Review


1. Blackout

2. The Woods

3. An Heir To The Throne

Sometimes an album can just reach out and touch you with some medical synergy that immediately connects with you in such a way that you immediately become captivated by it. "The Woods" is such a creature. The third album of Swedish duo A Swarm Of The Sun sneaks into your psyche in a subtle way. It's not an album to song along to it dance around your kitchen, it's an album of inner contemplation, the slow inertia of an internal darkness of the soul.

Musicians Jakob Berglund (vocals) and Erik Nilsson (guitars and piano) have lovingly crafted "The Woods" with painstaking attention to detail, the music allowed to grow organically, slowly exhaling and developing it's own identity. It may only be three songs that are listed but each of these clock over the ten minute mark, allowing each cycle of music to fulfil it's full potential and nothing less. At thirty eight minutes long you feel as though you go through a journey lasting millennia, and I mean that in a good way.

It starts simply if slightly ominously. A simple piano motif is plucked from silence, as shortly after it's joined by a viola scraping a secret lament. A lone drum is beat slowly, it's languid metre slowly marching the song along at a funeral pace. Imagine Siger Rós, early Arcade Fire and Mogwai writing the soundtrack to a Wim Wenders film. There's a real grace to the playing here, everything feels deliberate but yet still organic and so natural. It's around the eight and a half minute mark, and the the third movement of the song, where anything that could constitute a "normal" band is heard. Regular drums are played to guide a loose rhythm to the song, relying on extra percussive playing to add dynamics. Guitars are plucked and treated to reverb that notes hang in the air longer than it takes civilisation to fall, as lead lines help build the song to a gentle crescendo before collapsing in on itself, the silence following it becomes deafening afterwards.

The album's title track, 'The Woods', visits the listener in a similar fashion, a single sustained oscillating note hanging in a void keeps you waiting, not sure what to expect. There's some subtle colouring to it as Jakob's softly spoken vocal appears just after a minute. Again, the band build the music slowly, taking their time to play to your emotions and feelings. It's feather like quality it's shattered as organs, drums and guitar swing into play almost five minutes with a sense of grandeur. Just over half way through a Nine Inch Nails-esque guitar crunches a rhythm that the rest of the band join in on, providing a ghostly jazz feel that pulls the song towards it's climax.

The final track of this musical trilogy 'An Heir To The Throne' again walks it's own measured pace, subtly building atmosphere in it's own way. It's two minutes before any vocals are heard, unfolding a narrative that comes across as a blend of Macbeth and Game Of Thrones, before everything crashes in, a sense of ordered chaos held within it's loose and grand structure. It's perfect material for listening to on headphones as it's both epic and personal in nature.

To me "The Woods" is the audio equivalent of standing stock still as the world slowly collapses around you, like a mountain slowly eroded over time by the elements. You can almost imagine it as the soundtrack of a film by Akira Kurosawa, if he were still alive. It's an album that makes you contemplate, a grand cinematic force of nature that begs the listener to feast at it and devour every single note again and again.

Review - Scott Hamilton

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