Swallow The Sun are gearing up for their new album, Moonflowers, out November 19th via Century Media Records (pre-order here). We caught up with vocalist Mikko Kotamäki to discuss the latest effort and their new live album, 20 Years of Gloom, Beauty and Despair: Live in Helsinki (order here).
You guys are doing a lot this year, and there’s a lot to unpack with Moonflowers. Within the last month alone, you guys released quite a few animated videos for the instrumental versions. How did you get these animations together?
That idea came from when our guitar player Juha was doing his other project albums and he got to know these Dronicon Films people who make these animated videos. He really liked their style, and when we actually decided that we were going to release this classical instrumental version of the album as well, we got this idea that, why not make a different animated video for each song and release it before the actual outcome? At least it’s something different that’s never been done before.
It’s a different and creative approach. You also released a short documentary about the instrumental work with Trio NOX.. What was it like bringing the instrumentals together? Sampling the main versions. Before showing the main album?
It’s actually not so difficult, because when you compose good songs, you can play that with any instrument. Like, just like that. And actually, if you think about our previous album, we also had real instruments and strings on that album as well. It’s just music. It’s not so complicated. And, in the end, it’s the same song if you play it with violin or electric guitar. So yeah, it’s not as complicated as it sounds like, actually.
This pandemic has definitely been a challenging time. I remember you guys had this U.S. tour planned during the beginning of the pandemic and everybody was just waiting to see what’s going to happen. Until it was canceled at the last minute. What was your experience with this, and then when did you guys decide to create Moonflowers?
That’s right. We had to cancel a couple of tours, just when the pandemic kicked in. Our original plan was to play those 20th anniversary shows and tours. And finally headline in North America. Of course, everyone knows what happened to all the bands. Things fucked up pretty bad and that meant a year of isolation and not going out like usual. So I think the album started happening from there. It wasn’t really planned because, like I said, the original plan was to play those 20th anniversary shows and maybe have a little break after that. Juha, the composer, was stuck in Sweden for a year, not getting out of there. So yeah, he got really pissed off and wrote the album.
That seems to be the trend, getting fed up with being stuck in isolation and igniting everyone’s creative mode. You guys also released a live album, I think in July. Can you talk more about that?
That happened for the same reason, yeah. The live album, that happened just by accident. We started the 20th anniversary tour in Finland in February, 2020, just a month before the whole shit show started. But yeah, we just filmed one of the shows for fun and recorded. Turned out to be a really useful one, because the rest of the tour got canceled. So at least we got the show out somehow to people. Original plan was to play those shows in North American and Europe as well. So luckily, we got it out, at least, in that way. It’s not the perfect live album, but it’s better than nothing.
Can you talk more about the songs “Keep Your Heart Safe From Me” and “All Hallows Grieve”?
“Keep Your Heart Safe From Me.” I think that’s somehow, at least for me, it sounds pretty traditional “Swallow the Sun” I would say maybe, a bit more progressive? Yeah, for me personally, it’s not the highlight of the album at all. It’s a good tune for sure. A little bit like progressive metal vein maybe. “All Hallow’s Grieve”, that’s a special song. I think it has a really cool, Type O Negative wipes there as well. And of course we have our good friend Cammie Gilbert from Oceans of Slumber doing the guest vocals for that song. So that’s also one thing that makes it a little bit special. I guess my favorite track of the album is “The Fight Of Your Life.” I think that’s the strongest track of the album. What can I say? There’s no single bad track on that album. So who am I to say anything?
Were there any songs that were actually more challenging to write?
No. No, not really. It’s like, we’ve been doing this for quite a while now. Everybody pretty much knows what we are doing together and so, it’s pretty simple. And of course we still enjoy them, like we enjoy playing this kind of music and doing this together. So yeah, there weren’t really majorly hard or tough parts to do. Actually, it was pretty smooth.
And if we go back like five, six years when we did the triple album, that process was something else, like recording fucking three albums at the same time. So basically everything feels smooth and easy after that.
Yeah. You guys have already been through that massive challenge. Is there anything else that you wanted to say about Moonflowers or the live album?
No, not really. I think the music speaks for itself and, just hoping people give them a chance and take a listen. And hopefully we can start touring again and maybe see you on the road.I think the travel ban is finally getting easier between the European countries and the states. So who knows?
Swallow The Sun will finally make their return to the States later this month with Abigail Williams and Wilderun. Check out the tour dates here.