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[2LP Gatefold]

Hope is a very ironic title for Swallow the Sun's third album, because hope is something that the Finnish doom metal band offers very little of. The material is morose, pessimistic, brooding, and unapologetically dark; it is also impressively well-crafted and nicely executed. There are plenty of underground metal bands that govern by brute force alone, but Swallow the Sun bring a real sense of melodic craftsmanship to morbid offerings such as "Too Cold for Tears," "Doomed to Walk the Earth," "These Hours of Despair," and "The Justice of Suffering." Actually, most of Hope isn't terribly brutal compared to a lot of the death metal, black metal, and metalcore that have been recorded in the 21st century; this 2007 release is heavy, but usually not in the ferocious, cranium-crushing way that one expects from a lot of extreme metal bands. Hope is more moody than anything, sometimes even bringing to mind Pink Floyd -- and the most extreme thing about this album is the lead singing of Mikko Kotamäki (who favors a deep, guttural death metal-style growl). There are also some clean vocals on Hope as well as some use of the black metal rasp, but most of the time, death metal's infamous growl prevails -- which is not to say that Hope is death metal in the strict sense. Hope is very much a part of the doom scene -- specifically, the more atmospheric and gothic part of doom rather than the sludgy, Black Sabbath-obsessed side of doom that is close to stoner rock. Some headbangers have complained that they find Swallow the Sun and similar bands to be overly depressing, but then, art is under no obligation to push the smile button -- and for serious doom enthusiasts, there is a lot to admire on Hope.
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