September 27, 2020

If you like “droning” post-rock/metal, carry on reading – A Swarm of The Sun do it, and mostly do it well! The Swedish post-rock band have released a special tenth anniversary edition of their debut full-length album Zenith.

The band hails from Stockholm, Sweden and consists of the duo Erik Nilsson and Jakob Berglund. They released an EP, The King of Everything, on the Visual Studio label in 2007, then Zenith in 2010. Since their debut album they have also released the two critically acclaimed full-length albums The Rifts in 2015 and The Woods in 2019, still on Erik’s label Version Studio Records. The band is known today for their chilling, emotional and sometimes unsettling take on post-rock, and acclaimed as one of best prog and post rock groups of nowadays. However, their debut album Zenith remains largely unknown to their current audience. 

To celebrate the 10-year anniversary edition of  “Zenith”, dunk! Records have released on vinyl for the first time a redux version, completely remixed and remastered by Karl Daniel Lidén (Katatonia, Crippled Black Phoenix, Terra Tenebrosa).

On their debut album Zenith the band explored their identity through sounds, influences and collaborations in what they describe as a long and immensely important process: Eric says “Zenith is still such an important album to us. It was the result of many lessons, struggles and distractions that enabled us to find our path, but most of all the people that are now so cruccial to our music and who we are”

The band draw influences from a variety of industrial/post rock/sludge/post hardcore and heavier rock, refusing to be labelled by any. A great deal of the band’s strength can be found in their use of contrast – hard and soft, fast and slow, beautiful and flawed, all at the same time. To me it recalls much of Steven Wilson’s work in Porcupine Tree, and also late-period Pink Floyd….so they’re in good company!

This limited edition comes in a luxury double-vinyl LP gatefold, with new artwork featuring both debossing and metallic prints and includes a previously unreleased track and demo versions from the original recording session. A digital edition is now also available via Version Studio Records.

Don’t allow yourself to be misled by the “droning” description – this isn’t fifty minutes of feedback and buzzing, it’s very much a post-rock/post-metal album, Swarm sit in the middle of that broad church. For instance, the opening track Lifeline features an extended, slowly meandering and fragile, guitar intro before percussion and jangly post-rock chords kick in. This One Has No Heart then has a wonderful arrangement of drums and piano, quite heavy and funereal plus shoegaze vocals, all of which is quite hypnotic. Ten years on, I don’t know whether this is a Game of Thrones reference or not, but it continues the ‘build-up’ that the opener started.

Refuge initially follows the same fuzzy, heavy path before yoyoing in and out of pastoral yet rhythmic chords. The Stand then comes over more doom-laden, it paints a quite cinematic landscape

The epic ten minutes of the title track shows the band building and softening cyclically, and it works for this ‘centrepiece’ song. The production is great and these two really know how to compose slabs of music in the same way as Roger Waters and Steven Wilson. This is a sprawling cinematic epic but still holds your attention – unlike perhaps some of the softer stuff still to come. Repeater is another that could be the sort of mixture of Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree that one hears in quite a few post-rock bands. You don’t get too excited and leap about to this stuff, but it soaks into you all the same.

The Worms Are Out utilises ringing guitars on a single chord / tone, plus emotionally wringing vocals that make it stand out from the softer latter half of the album.

Lifeproof House is another short, Pink Floyd / Porcupine Tree flavoured landscape painting – it works without being amazing. I Fear The End is then a longer, very Snow Patrol sounding pastoral song, organic strumming building up to plodding heavyweight chords, elegiac lyrics, I like it! Reaper closes the album out, with another soft, pastoral yet somehow dark composition. There is a poignant tranquility here that is hard to describe but the overall effect is hypnotic – it’s good!

“Zenith is such an important album to us. It is the result of many learnings, struggles and distractions that enabled us to find our path, but most of all the people that are now so crucial to our music and who we are.

Zenith was originally released on 30 August 2010, and as a debut album put the band on the map. The interplay between heavy riffs and gentler, almost pastoral melodies aligned to softly spoken, almost whispered vocals works very well in a Steven Wilson or Snow Patrol sort of way? Nonetheless, it’s a great post-rock/post-metal album that has held up extremely well, and still takes you on quite an emotional journey (despite possibly the world’s worst ever album cover!). It also quite strongly reminded me of Porcupine Tree and late-period Pink Floyd – maybe that’s not so surprising in their shared outlook on a post-industrial world?