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Moontower

Dan Swanö

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Album Review

After spending a decade redefining the boundaries of death metal as the increasingly dominant force behind Sweden's Edge of Sanity, it was only natural for singer and multi-instrumentalist Dan Swanö to formally step out on his own, first with a 1998 EP, and shortly thereafter with his first solo album, 1999's Moontower. In fact, Swanö took it upon himself to produce, record, and perform every instrument on the album, completing the package with a close-up of his eyeball serving as cover art, and therefore leaving no doubt as to how personal a statement this was. Musically, Moontower delivered a progressive brand of death metal characterized by widespread keyboards cleverly used to offset the singer's persistent death growls and signature guitar riff inventiveness, thus making it a natural progression for Edge of Sanity fans to enjoy, whether they still held the band's dissolution against Swanö or not. It's difficult to stay mad at the man for long, though, thanks to the memorable hooks and bludgeoning heaviness displayed by standouts like "Sun of the Night," "In Empty Phrazes," "Uncreation" (whose stately synthesizers actually bring British neo-proggers Marillion to mind), and the Rush-on-steroids of the instrumental "Encounterparts." Elsewhere, Swanö's recent involvement with soon-to-be progressive death metal giants Opeth is reflected in the more aggressive "Creating Illusions" (right down to the sudden acoustic guitar interlude), but his soft edges also come through on the romantic "Add Reality," written about his fiancée. All in all, Moontower benefits from the full range of Swanö's talent, if not the full range of his musical interests, thereby keeping it musically focused and surprisingly safe from the rampant self-indulgence one might expect of such a belated solo debut. As it turns out, the man's restraint is the listener's reward…yet again.

Moontower, Dan Swanö
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