Founded by former Up Yours punk vocalist Jemiina and Verjnuarmu guitarist Topi Pitkänen, Finland’s Melodic Death Metal quartet Swansong have been combining beautiful and brutal since 2020.
Swansong – Awakening (Noble Demon)
Release Date: 1 December 2023
Words: Jools Green
Swansong follow up their debut EP Winter Maiden (2022) with their first full-length Awakening, which, sound-wise, delivers a meld of Melodic Death, Heavy and Folk Metal. Musically, it’s a very easy listen that’s uplifting and up-tempo. They deliver some powerful melodies and emotional solos along with hard-hitting riffs that reflect the ’80s and ’90s alongside old-school elements, combined to create a fresh, modern twist.
On paper, this release should be way too light for my taste. However, you should never judge a book by its cover because what made me sit up and listen were the vocals. You get female Death Metal growls and screams, which are absolutely superb and are the element that won me over. They balance perfectly the up-tempo aspect of the music by adding a vital, brutal edge to the sound. Lyrically, they source their inspiration from stories of witches and underworld creatures, which adds an extra source of interest for me.
The eleven-track, fifty-one-minute offering opens on Burning Flames, a catchy belter that wastes no time getting started. This is a piece that is pleasingly heavy on the guttural content, with superbly protracted growls which keep those energetic and melodic riffs under control nicely. In fact, I love how growl-intense this piece is, only letting up briefly in the second half for a very flamboyant burst of leadwork to break through. A superb track.
Across the album, there is a very clever balance between the music and vocals. On Become, you get a burst of opening flamboyance from the guitars. The vocals force the sound to a lower, darker level and, in between growls, they are more up-key. So you get a great balance between happy riffs and evil growls.
Furiosa is less flowery and packs more of a punch in the guitar department. But as before, it’s superbly brutal in the vocal department.
I love the spoken element near the beginning of Shot In The Heart. “This is a tale about love, lust and (growled) MURDERRRRRR!” It adds such a passionate edge to the brutal aspect of the track. The riffs do take an ominous dark downturn here and there across the track, adding to the mood.
Frost Of Winter takes the pace down to a more reflectively melodic one. Until the growls burst forth, but it is a piece that is, on the whole, more reflectively melodic than its predecessors and has an icy atmosphere. It’s one of my favourite pieces of the album.
Despite the title, Maiden Of Death ramps back up the up-tempo ‘happy riffing’ of the previous pieces. Don’t worry. It’s vocally brutal again. As a result, it is a very easy, enjoyable, and engaging listen. One With The Waves continues in a similar vein to the predecessors. It’s quite a punchy piece with an acidic edge appearing on the vocals.
The album title track, Awakening, opens with searing screams and leadwork, and you get more of the acidic-tinged growls here again. The riffs take on a punchy, impactful feel between bursts of searing melody, which adds a good depth. There is also some searing, soaring leadwork.
Blood Widow has a sharp, punchy repeat, slick direction switching and an extended burst of searing leadwork alongside the equally searingly brutal vocals.
Penultimate piece, Fight Or Die, rocks out with menacing intent, fading out dramatically on powerful, repeated acidic screams. The final piece, Fury Of The Witch, has a lovely repeat groove to open. It’s wonderfully punchy, chugging and ominously haunting. Even the leadwork and the second half solo work have an ominous, restrained quality. The vocals are rawer, too. Another track that really impacted positively on me.
Awakening is a fascinating album from Swansong. Arch Enemy fans will probably find it of interest, as will anyone who loves a good balance of brutal growls and upbeat soaring guitar work.