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Pagan Altar & Cirith Ungol

● Stepping into Terry Jones (RIP) shoes
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Album Of The Month October 2005
Swallow The Sun | ‘Ghosts of Loss’


“The Morning Never Came”, from 2003, established these Finns as creative heavyweights within their field of morose and grandiloquent Doom, and was rightly given lavish praise in these pages.

But even the classy and thoroughbred performance of that little gem comes nowhere close to what the band have now achieved with “Ghosts of Loss”.

Without question, this is a full blown atmospheric tour de force, and perhaps representative of what doom metal really can and should achieve, in a genre beset with subdivisions and their requisite sub-histories, largely impenetrable to all but the most dedicated aficionado.

What is important is that this is crushing, heavy and morose Doom Metal, far removed from the psychedelics, the stoners, and the grooving retro revivalists that make up the greater mass of their contemporaries; good time music this is emphatically not, and throughout this album’s monumental tenure the listener is reminded forcefully of metal’s most beautifully crestfallen possibilties.

Both the guttural and sung vocals and the direct, blunt and heavy guitars recall prime November’s Doom, while the tendencies toward the epic and huge can only recall vintage (and not so vintage) My Dying Bride.

Swallow The Sun show us time and again throughout this album their consummate ability in conjuring a frostbitten and glacial despondency, and are adept at both the poignant and the powerful.

Granted there may be some all too noticable nods to other canonical work – the appopriately named opener ‘The Giant’ for instance seems to deliberately hint at Type O Negative’s timeless ‘Wolf Moon’ tinkle, and other references to various timeless work may be spotted.

But the quality of their songwriting is unquestionable, meaning that this album’s centrepiece, the gargantuan ‘Forgive Her’ (which was actually pre-released as an EP) is built to and descended from in fantastic fashion. So few albums deserve the instruction to buy upon sight.

This though is one of them, and deservedly attains Metalireland’s very own Earl Grey award: readers will of course know by now that this award is one rarely granted and jealously coveted, and bestowed only unto those albums of such chilling grandeur or subtlety as befits the sitting of one’s own on a cold October eve, mulling over the weight that rests like a veritable world upon these shoulders, and with naught but the delicate herbal infusion for company.

4.8 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 05/10/05



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