There’s something haunting about the cover of Swallows’ ‘In The Shadow of the Seven Stars’. It’s dark and ominous but also brings me a sense of comfort. maybe that’s just my darkness coming through but, regardless, it had me intrigued and although this album has been sitting on my desk for some time, I feel like now is the time to check it out.
Much like the cover artwork, “The Boneyard” starts this album off in a very dramatic, dark, and ominous way. Within the first few seconds of this track, I knew that I was going to be completely in love with Swallows by the end of the album even though it’s not my normal listen. The vocals have a little grit that adds to the story-telling aspect of this album (more on that later– maybe, if I get there). This is a stellar opening track that absolutely pulled me in with ease and had me in the palm of Swallows’ hand instantly.
“Wrecking Ball” leaves the dark and ominous vibe behind in some ways and brings in a mood that can only be described as “sketchy brothel or dive bar”. It’s still a bit dark and creepy but a gorgeous piano part keeps this song feeling a bit lighter than the previous track. An anthemic chorus caught me off guard with a more almost hard rock vibe to it but I loved it. I can already tell that, although the tracks are fairly long on this album, keeping up with the various sounds and moods that come through on each track is going to be a task so I’m going to call it now– this is one of those albums that you will just have to hear for yourself because my words will never do it justice.
The title track of this album, “In the Shadow of the Seven Stars”, brings back that dark and ominous mood that is sure to be an ongoing theme of this epic album. One thing that I absolutely adore about Swallows is that every word has a sense of intention and comes with loaded meaning. This band does a great job of setting the stage for an epic tale that is the storyline throughout this album. Some songs help set the stage whereas some help tells the story and this track is definitely one of those that helps to set the stage whereas “Ultraviolet” seems to lean more towards the storytelling side of things. Again, the stark contrast between “Ultraviolet” and “In the Shadow of the Seven Stars” is staggering. “Ultraviolet” has a bit more of a classic indie-rock vibe to it that, as the hard rock chorus of “Wrecking Ball”, I wasn’t quite expecting but enjoyed every second of it.
Although there’s grit and attitude throughout this album, I feel like you really get to hear and feel it during “Dead and Gone”. This track comes with a sense of swagger that is staggering in all of the right ways. Again, a complete shift stylistically from the previous tracks while continuing to tell the story of this album, this was a stand-out track due to that grit the comes through so loud and clear. I love the way the grit turns into something a bit more playful and psychedelic as the album continues into “Watertight”. This track is one of the shorter tracks on the album and it feels like it. Even though it’s still nearly four minutes long, this track just completely flew by and I found myself racing to even type this sentence out before it was over and the album had moved on.
“Grace” slows things down and brings a more acoustic-based and somber mood to the album. I loved how calming this was because, honestly, I was needing a bit of a sonic break just after trying to find all of the amazing aspects scattered throughout the previous tracks. A bit spacey but not too atmospheric as to lose your interest, this is a perfect breather on this album before it moves onto “Bring Your Dead Back Home” which, although still has a gorgeous and almost atmospheric vibe to it, also seems to be a climax of the story being told throughout this album adding a sense of weight to the track.
Okay, I’ve avoided talking about the story of this album for long enough now. I’m still not going to give it all away but I figure a little bit of context wouldn’t hurt. This album is about Frances Coles who has murdered in 1891 in London. There’s a very creepy and ominous story that surrounds a witness to the murder and the aftermath of the murder. Was it Jack the Ripper? Was it another notorious serial killer? Who knows but, it’s hard to not get lost in the story with the way that Swallows tells it through this album.
Back to the album with “Ten Miles Down”. Although this ninth track starts off fairly light and calm, it doesn’t take long for this track to ramp into something just a bit more aggressive and in your face. The rises and falls in this track are staggering and shift quickly making this a fast-moving track even though it’s over five minutes long. Before I knew it, “Smoke of Sage” had taken over my house with that familiar southern grit that Swallows does so well. There’s an attitude in this track like was in “Ten Miles Down” but it’s just a bit different. Instead of coming off with an edge of aggression, it’s more an edge of determination and the almost sinister energy. I’m a freak and like that creepy and sinister mood so this was an instant favorite of mine.
“Gravediggers” continues to paint a picture that is so vivid that it’s impossible to not get lost in it. Another more atmospheric track, you can feel the air on the back of your neck as this second to last track plays through. Even though it’s clear that loose ends are being tied up in this second to last track, there’s no fall of energy or intrigue. That intrigue continued until the final note of “Round About Me” was left ringing in the air of my house. Although I could listen to Swallows tell me this story (and any story for that matter) all night, “Round About Me” really does bring this album to a beautiful close in the perfect way. It’s dreamy and just seems to drift off into another world.
This album is epic. It’s theatrical and powerful. This is not my normal listen at all but will absolutely be an album I fall back on often. Usually, I tell people what song to listen to in order to really get a feel for a band but, in the case of Swallows and ‘In the Shadow of the Seven Stars’, you really do just need to hear this entire thing and take it all in as a whole.
My Favorite Track(s): Seriously, just listen to this whole thing
For Fans Of: History; True Crime; Dark and Ominous; Sketchy Alleys
Daydream-ability: 10 out of 10
What My Cats Thought Of It: Both cats slept on the back of the couch
How Badly I Want To See This Performed Live: 7 out of 10
My Overall Rating: 9.6 out of 10
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