You know, some days are just lousy. They are. I don’t care how positive you feel, or how positive you try to be, some days just suck. It’s like life just wants you to know your place.
And that’s okay. Really, it is. Life shouldn’t be perfect all the time. It can’t be, if we are being honest with ourselves. There is a certain futility to what we do, at least it feels that way at times. I wouldn’t call it a hopelessness, that seems a bit melodramatic. But there exists a certain… something, a something that calls to a part of us we often hide, we often don’t want seen because it is a sign of weakness. A certain vulnerability that we might wish wasn’t there.
But A Swarm of the Sun wants us to remember that vulnerability. They want us to recognize that some days life gets the better of us. The Woods is the soundtrack for those days.
One could argue that simply calling The Woods a post-metal album is a bit reductive, but there is no question they are firmly in the post world. Comprised of only three tracks, the album still comes in at 39 minutes, with each track really reaching close to or above that 13 minute mark. These Swedes aren’t afraid to let things build. First track “Blackout” takes a full 8 1/2 minute before you might even think to call this a rock or metal record. This is all about the atmosphere, and I love that they let that be the driving force here. No words, just music. Beautiful, dark, contemplative music. Piano and strings really fill out the first 2/3 of the song, with the tension building throughout that time.
It is an excellent journey that reaches for that vulnerable part in all of us. With layers and textures, A Swarm of the Sun is able to tap into something deep within and convey a small portion of the human existence that we all now.
Follow up tracks “The Woods” and “And Heir to the Throne” continue the theme. We finally get some vocals on the second track. They are restrained, almost plaintive in nature. These aren’t vocals that blow your socks off, but they work perfectly for the music and the atmosphere that is being created. They display this same vulnerability that the album taps into. Minimal instrumentation accompanies the vocals and, again, the song builds so slowly it is almost painful at times.
But that restraint is what makes this such a compelling album. Yes, it takes some effort to get into. No, these aren’t songs that are going to get stuck in your head and have one humming them throughout the day. Yet, they are absolutely songs that will create feelings and emotions that will haunt the listener, long after the 39 minutes are over.
And, for me, sometimes that is the kind of music I love the most: music that reaches deep within to create an experience far greater than a catchy, 2 1/2 minute melody we are so used to. This isn’t feel good music, but it also isn’t oppressive. It’s just honest music that engages the listener and walks us through some of the darker parts of life. And that’s okay. We need to process that darkness some days. The Woods is a perfect soundtrack for those days, and a triumphant example of how powerful post-metal and its contrasting dynamics can be.