Conveying emotions is one of the prime qualities of extreme music. When our feelings are too much to bear. When we don’t know what to do with ourselves. Extreme music can be an outlet for self-expression. Art is communication and emotions drive the process of creation. As part of the continued evolution of metal, a handful of bands emerged in death metal over the last decade. Rooted on the 2000s, bands like Tribulation, Morbus Chron, Chapel of Disease or Horrendous cast their offerings into the ring.
The sound these bands offered was at once forward-thinking but also familiar, drawing on progressive and psychedelic influences. While Tribulation won the popular vote, the single most outstanding album of this substyle was Morbus Chron’s Sweven. Morbus Chron made their full-length debut with Sleepers in the Rift in 2011. At the time, their straightforward swedeath sound was inspired by Autopsy and Entombed, the usual. But on the following A Saunter Through the Shroud EP, the band first stretched out their feelers into the surreal. Two years later, the transformation was complete. The result: Sweven. A dream of death and a milestone of modern death metal.
A swansong masterpiece
On Sweven, Morbus Chron broke the boundaries of the genre. Main songwriter Robert Andersson plunged the band’s sound into ominous psychedelic atmospheres and explorations of the otherworldy. A journey of coming into existence, to struggle and to finally be freed from the shackles of our physical realm. Sweven was enigmatic, foreboding, different.
A year after the release of the album, the band surprisingly called it quits. There was no bad blood but it had to happen as creative differences had formed between the bandmembers. Andersson left Morbus Chron behind but his journey was far from over. He set out to continue what he had started. To obtain the bliss, that he desired.
Six long years later, his efforts have finally born fruit. Named after the album that started everything, Sweven make their debut with The Eternal Resonance. Isak Koskinen Rosemarin and Jesper Nyrelius join Andersson on guitars and drums respectively to realize his vision. Together, the trio advance deep into uncharted territory as they redefine the capabilities of heavy music.
Not in rivers but in streams
Fans of Morbus Chron will recognize Anderssons handwriting immediately. More than that, it has matured considerably. Album opener The Spark is a shivers-inducing instrumental rich with texture. Introduced by acoustic guitars, the composition grows in layers. Soft guitar melodies join with somber piano chords in an atmosphere of departure. The resonance is felt immediately and with it Andersson’s greatest strength as a composer: To translate emotions into music.
The album seamlessly transitions into the next song. By Virtue of a Promise elicits wistful sighs with a pensive intro before plunging into a well of emotion. Each note is an arrow to the longing heart, announced by Andersson’s passionate vocal performance. Vulnerable but confident, fists are clenched as tears are driven from the eyes. Despite the gentle instrumentation, the emotions are overwhelming. Spanning almost ten minutes, By Virtue of a Promise is a journey that reflects everything that Andersson’s songwriting stands for. Cold atmospheres, approaching horror shrouded in fog, blown away to reveal exhilarating moments of clarity.
That being said, the highlights of The Eternal Resonance are firmly situated at the beginning and the end of the album. Some trimming or a change of pace wouldn’t hurt the tracks in between but they are stunning nonetheless. Each one of the painstakingly arranged songs is packed with melodies that unravel into gentle climaxes or lock into firm grooves rooted in classic rock. The quality of the songwriting on The Eternal Resonance cannot be overstated. The textures, the progressions, the interplay, it’s all masterclass. The additional instrumentation comes as little surprises spread throughout the album that I will leave for you to discover.
Just before the climax of the album, Visceral Blight marks the only more intense cut. A shame, since the band does well at a higher pace too. Closer Sanctum Sanctorum recalls Towards A Dark Sky off of Morbus Chron’s Sweven with its soaring guitars. The grandeur resolves into intimacy and initiates a tranquil ascent before choirs see us off. To awaken again, from another dream.
At the end of the road
Sweven continue where Morbus Chron left off. Musically more out there than ever, The Eternal Resonance is personal and profound. It rips through the heartstrings as it grapples with the monumental. From self-doubt and the frustrations of life to letting go and ascending to higher planes. The Eternal Resonance is of importance not just to the band that birthed it but metal as an art form. Music is art and as such the concern lies with metal that aims to create high art. With this album, Sweven succeed in every regard. The long journey has finally come to an end and bliss is the reward for the weary traveller.