Finally, European bands are making their way back to North America. Finnish melodic doom-death (that’s not a common subgenre) act Swallow the Sun has embarked on a North American tour with Abigail Williams and Wilderun. They started the tour at The Nile in Mesa, AZ, for some strange reason. Maybe it’s because you can get really good tacos at Tacos Chiwas next door. Or maybe it’s because Club Red ceased to exist during the pandemic and we’re stuck with a club with a sub-par HVAC system for metal shows.

The night started out with local openers Suicide Forest. Black metal might generally be associated with the frigid North, but that doesn’t mean that the blistering heat of the Sonoran Desert can’t produce grim, depressive, and moody tones. Perhaps just more dehydrated rather than frostbitten. Regardless, Suicide Forest embraces the dark and nihilistic roots of early black metal and made for a very appropriate start to the evening.

Next up was Wilderun, a group of energetic symphonic progressive metallers who brought a brief respite to the evening’s overall doom and gloom atmosphere. I had joked before the show that Swallow the Sun would only have enough time to play three songs (see “Plague of the Butterflies”), but Wilderun actually had to push to squeeze three songs into their set time. Such is the curse of progressive music. But I think the mark of great prog is being able to write a 10+ minute song and keep the audience engaged the whole time, a task that Wilderun is more than capable of accomplishing. One of those songs was “Passenger,” a single from their upcoming album Epigone, currently slated for release on January 7th, 2022.

For over a decade, Abigail Williams has been carving out a place for themselves as one of the premier American black metal bands. Their sound has evolved over the years, settling into a blend of thick, dark soundscapes that fill the room like an eerie mist, broken periodically by their beautifully arranged strings. They closed their performance with “The Final Failure,” a personal favorite from 2019’s Walk Beyond the Dark. The song ends with a breathtaking extended symphonic outro while the drums carry on in an incredible solo that was performed flawlessly.

Swallow the Sun (w/ Abigail Williams, Wilderun, Suicide Forest) at The Nile (Mesa, AZ) on November 20, 2021

Finally, Swallow the Sun took to the stage to celebrate the release of their new album, Moonflowers, only a day earlier. Although, celebrate may not be the right word as that evokes a more jubilant connotation. If feelings of sorrow and depression have a specific sound, it’s Swallow the Sun, and their performance is reflective of the morose nature of their music. They debuted several songs from the new album including “Moonflowers Bloom in Misery” and “The Void” which feature hauntingly beautiful clean sections contrasted by epic and heavy interludes.

Make no mistake, although the music is brooding and mellow, it is also captivating and cathartic as it washes over you in waves of raw emotion. It’s difficult not to be swept away by the power of the authenticity of their music, not just to the production of the record but to themselves as musicians. They feel the music they are playing and bring the audience in to share in that experience.

The tour is still going strong, so check them out at a venue near you:

December 2 – Quebec City, QC – La Source de la Martiniere
December 3 – Toronto, ON – Velvet Underground
December 4 – Rochester, NY – Montage Music Hall
December 5 – Detroit, MI – The Sanctuary
December 6 – Pittsburgh, PA – The Crafthouse
December 7 – Joliet, IL – The Forge
December 8 – Madison, WI – The Crucible
December 9 – Minneapolis, MN – Cabooze
December 10 – Kansas City, MO – The Riot Room
December 11 – Denver, CO – Herman’s Hideaway
December 12 – Salt Lake City, UT – Liquid Joe’s
December 14 – Seattle, WA – El Corazon
December 15 – Vancouver, BC – Rickshaw Theatre
December 16 – Portland, OR – Bossanova Ballroom
December 17 – San Francisco, CA – DNA Upstairs
December 18 – Santa Ana, CA – Stages
December 19 – West Hollywood, CA – Whiskey A-Go-Go