Monday, June 19, 2023

Heavenwood - Swallow (1998)

The cover to the Heavenwood sophomore always freaked me out, I mean not so much the devouring of the reptilian tail and possibly its owner before that, but the weird, fish-scale like texture of the skin of its consumer, glistening in sweat or slime or something. Is it swallowing it's OWN tail? No idea, but there's nothing quite so disgusting or oblique about what the Portuguese had written here, Swallow is a decidedly more commercial more effort than its predecessor. They do retain the growled vocals in places, and the doom-like chugging progressions on the record's heavier moments, but this is way more of an upbeat disc that pays tribute to Sisters of Mercy, late 90s Moonspell, and you might even find some parallels with Paradise Lost's One Second which had come out between this band's first two full-lengths.

Swallow still brings the hooks, and if you enjoy those names I just listed, I can imagine you'll get some mileage out of this one. There's way more of a rocking impulse to the guitars, and they use far more of the clean vocals than otherwise, which can occasionally be a mixed bag, but work for the most part, even if they don't come off as that unique alongside other European Gothic rock/metal bands of this period. The guitars are threaded with more cleans, effects and such to give it that contemporary, modern Goth feel, but they also maintain the use of synthesizers, whispers, etc, and I actually find them pretty tasteful through th album, whether it's the sampled choirs in the bridge of "Soulsister" or elsewhere. Once in awhile they will still churn out a more low-ended piece reminiscent of Diva, like on "Rain of July", but even that has a little more pep to it and maybe even some Lake of Tears/Cemetery vibes, especially the riffs and vocals, which can never be a bad thing for me.

The one I can't say for this sophomore is that it resonates for long with me...I mean you could argue tha it's even catchier in places than the debut, but for some reason there are melodies from that one which my brain traces a thread directly to whenever I think of the name Heavenwood. This is more of a serviceable album which was clearly riding on the trends of its age, but not at all shallow, and if you still love throwing on your copies of Skeleton Skeletron, Irreligious, and Sentenced's Down then this is one I could whole-heartedly recommend. Just don't stare at the cover so long. Eww.

Verdict: Win [7.5/10]

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