Swallow The Sun

support Insomnium + Omnium Gatherum
author EW date 07/12/09 venue Underworld, London, UK

As tours go this one was as symbolic of one particular country as would be possible short of all the combined band members coming out to sing their national anthem in traditional dress. London tonight welcomed three very Finnish bands to it's hearts - Swallow the Sun, Insomnium and Omnium Gatherum - for an evening that promised much, but one thing in common between the three acts - a strong base of glorious Scandinavian melody.

Omnium Gatherum

First up was the highly melodic death strains of Karhula residents Omnium Gatherum, a band that probably would have appealed to me greatly 6 years ago in the days when I got a serious kick out of In Flames-esque melodic death metal. As tends to be the norm with the live appearance of a band that on record sounds so clean and clinical I felt an absence of genuine power and aggression in their live performance, a factor which seems to go against the perpetual inclination of many traditional strains of the death metal template. For what they did however Omnium Gatherum gave those in attendance, which was a very healthy audience for a first band on a Monday night in December, an engaging performance, most notably in the genuine enjoyment on the face of vocalist Jukka Pelkonen that at least covered the lack of depth in many of OG's songs. As turned out to be the case for virtually the whole evening, the keyboards/synth seemed inaudible except in the quietest moments whilst the remainder of the members and their instruments came across in a glorious and well-tuned fashion that belied the problems the Underworld frequently has with anything greater than the most basic of line-ups.

Though doing nothing particularly wrong per se in their actions tonight, Omnium Gatherum don't possess the song-writing chops to warrant a great mark in the live setting, a conclusion which probably serves well for an opening band on a night like this one.

6

Insomnium

General excitement for this show beforehand suggested a roughly even split between those most looking forward to Insomnium and their touring-brothers Swallow the Sun, giving the feel of a dual-headlining show that only became more evident with the warm greeting Insomnium received upon entrance. Their own brand of melodic death metal was not well-known to my ears before the show, but as a contrast to Omnium Gatherums', the works of Insomnium quickly exhibited superior strength and weight in songs like "The Killjoy", which garnered a huge crowd ovation upon it's announcement, one of many songs that got me head-nodding and foot-tapping, two acts of natural appreciation I just did not feel were warranted during Omnium's performance.

In hammering away for 40-odd minutes with songs from across the band's discography, Insomnium pulled out all the right moves to make it impossible for a reviewer like me to have much bad to say about them. As confirmed by listening to their Myspace/YouTube offerings right now, the music of Insomnium is too twee in it's melancholy to display the sadness and sorrow that is aimed for in lyrics and artwork but personal opinions aside, the band and their audience were in mutual love for each other, even coming out for an encore of two songs after vacating which, judging from the cheering of the Underworld faithful, was most deserved.

Swallow the Sun

Steering the sound from the melodic death of tonight's support acts to a melodic doom/death, Swallow the Sun came as a welcome respite to yours truly as the more melancholy atmosphere they created was much to my liking, plus I could at last begin to recognise some of the numbers having been granted review privileges for StS' latest and fourth album, "New Moon". Combining a sound sitting somewhere in between Katatonia, My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost, StS are hardly anyone's party music yet for a style quite so dark and moody they are a surprisingly easy band to listen to (another similarity to My Dying Bride) and this was absolutely true onstage too. Yes the keyboards were hard to hear at best, but it's the guitars and their melancholic chord progressions that is the most essential element in the Swallow the Sun formula, and with a sound that was superbly bass-heavy when required this show could not have been more evidential of that.

In their set of just over an hour StS gave a decent airing to their new record with "These Woods Breathe Evil", "Falling World" and the title track (possibly among others) whilst making sure to please those with a tendency towards older material. The one significant negative against the band would be the anti-frontmanship of vocalist Mikko Koatmaki; yes he has both a good growl and clean vocal ability but hiding your eyes under the peak of your cap and talking between songs in an incoherent mumble does not a warm enigmatic frontman make. Thankfully his fellow band-mates were happy to show more excitement for their position and not afraid were they of whipping their hair around and thus encouraging the crowd to do likewise in a mass headbanging scene that was most interesting to observe in a sociological sense for someone like me not joining in. Coming out to encore the catchy, meandering crawl of "The Giant" and one other unknown to me was a good ending to a night that by and large was a fine display of the virtues of Finnish melody that kept me entertained the whole way through. That, done on an evening devoid of the purchase of any alcohol by this impoverished writer, is some praise indeed!

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