Artist: SWMM – Sometimes We Make Music
Album Title: Trail Of The Fallen
Label: Independent Release
Date of Release: 22 January 2020
The winner of the award for ‘most rubbish band name of 2020’ so far has to go to SWMM, or Sometimes We Make Music to give them their full title. I mean, come on, my seven-year-old could come up with something better than that. Come to think of it, so could my five-year-old. This may seem like a flippant way to open a review but there’s a serious point to be made. In a burgeoning metal scene where every band has to fight for attention, success or failure could rest on something as facile as a band name.
When it comes to heavy metal and discovering new music, I like to think that I’m as open-minded as possible, but even I baulked at the moniker of this band. I nearly passed up the opportunity to check them out altogether. Thankfully, I didn’t. I was persuaded by the fact that SWMM are a Scandinavian outfit to begin with and this normally equates to quality. The Norwegian band, from Stavanger, were further saved by the cool cover art and by the fact that the email that accompanied the promo mentioned Devin Townsend and Wintersun amongst others. Having taken the plunge, I am now able to offer my thoughts on the debut full-length release from SWMM.
‘Trail Of The Fallen’ is not the longest of albums; at just 40 minutes in length and comprised of eight tracks, it is fair to say that this is a succinct affair. However, brevity has worked in SWMM’s favour here, because there is literally no fat or sinew to deal with. As such, ‘Trail Of The Fallen’ wastes no time and goes straight for ‘Plan A’: impress the listener from the first note. And, by and large, I must admit that SWMM do just that.
Their modus operandi is somewhere in the region of a cunning blend of Amon Amarth style death metal, melodic power metal and the folk metal made famous by the likes of Ensiferum. The upshot is eight songs, all of which are catchy at times, heavy, occasionally amusing but always interesting and engrossing. In fact, just this morning, I took my little dog on a much longer walk than normal just so that I could listen to ‘Trail Of The Fallen’ twice through, back-to-back.
At the centre of every composition is the gruff and commanding voice of Danny Johannessen who has taken his inspiration from the Johan Hegg school of singing, but who could grace many an extreme metal record. It’s not all gruff though, as ‘Hymn Of The Lost Lord’ demonstrates for example and the guy has a resonant power alongside the ability to deliver and hold an epic note or two. But he is backed by a great cast of musicians comprising lead guitarist Ivar Oftedal, guitarist and backing vocalist Zlatko Kusmic, drummer Terje Martinussen, and bassist Alejandro Sanhueza.
Each composition also benefits from some immediate melodies or a catchy moment or two. Even when things take a turn for the quieter and string arrangements join a lone piano to provide the backing for Johannessen within ‘Demon’, the music is beautiful. The fact that the song then explodes in the final stages to deliver a rousing finale, is just the icing on the cake.
Incredibly, there is not one song that I dislike either. Even ‘Queen Anne’s Revenge’, which begins in sea shanty style suddenly becomes melodic and anthemic, turning into an epic tale full of battle singing and where the words, ‘for God’s sake…ROW!’ give me goosebumps! There is even a section that sounds like steel drums are being played but they fit this great song that’s full of majestic pomp.
It is clear that SWMM don’t take themselves completely seriously, but in spite of that, the music does have a gravitas and authenticity about it. The savagery and speed of ‘The Return’ is not to be messed with. This is symphonic extreme metal par excellence and although it slows down occasionally to add a sense of drama and variety, it is a behemoth of a track and one that remains catchy and memorable in spite of its heaviness and abrasive exterior.
I think by now, you get the idea about SWMM and my feelings towards their debut album. ‘Trail Of The Fallen’ has come from nowhere, transcended the godawful band name and has found its way into my affections. I love it when I am completely blindsided by a band and then blown away by their musical offering. And so, for that reason, I really rather love SWMM.
The Score of Much Metal: 88%
Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: