I think many of us first heard of Dan Swano when he was the vocalist /
frontman of Sweden's legendary melodic death metal band Edge of Sanity. With
releases like Purgatory, Afterglow and Crimson (a one-track album
with a run-time of 40+ minutes) they also entered the US heavy metal market,
although their success was nowhere near the scale of other melodic death outfits
such as In Flames, Dark Tranquillity or Soilwork. Moontower is Dan
Swano's first (and possibly last) solo album which he created after a 'not so
nice' departure from Edge of Sanity following their 1997 release Infernal.
Most of the songs on the album are dark, sombre with a subtle atmosphere
conveying angry emotions from Dan. After reading several interviews and talking
to Dan himself, I guess anyone in his shoes would be filled with anger, and this
contributed to how Moontower was created. It was a hard time in Dan's
life and he says he won't be able to release a follow-up to it unless he goes
through such a terrible period again. So Moontower will probably remain a
unique, one-off album.
Always searching for new ways to express himself musically, Dan tried a lot
of mixtures in Edge of Sanity. He went from pure death metal to technical death
to melodic death to a 'something' metal. So, when he decided to release a solo
album (and to release his anger) he took his style one step further borrowing a
lot of 70's progressive rock and mixing them with metal using well thought out
lyrics. Some of the lyrics are especially introspective reflecting Dan's inner
world and allowing us to take a glimpse. I guess it wouldn't be wrong to say we
see Dan returning to his roots on Moontower.
The first thing that hits you when you pop in Moontower is its godly
sound. The mix and production, handled by Swano himself, is amazing. I can
easily say that Moontower is one of the most successful albums as far as
production and mix are concerned. Listen to it with headphones and you can't
help but smile, being able to listen to each and every instrument so clearly.
Dan uses death vocals on the album with a few exception here and there. The
vocals add a lot to the album. Dan doesn't growl for the sake of growling. It's
just when you're so full of anger, disappointment and loneliness, using these
vocals to convey your emotions is appropriate. I honestly don't believe
Moontower would have lasted this long in my list og favorite prog-driven
albums if it had clean vocals on it. Not that I dislike clean vocals, I actually
love them. They just wouldn't fit on Moontower.
Dan Swano is a big fan of the 70's bands such as Rush, Genesis, Yes, King
Crimson. et, and he also listens to Marillion, Arena, Spock's Beard and the
like. What we hear on Moontower is an excellent blend of '70s music with
metal arrangements. Dan's usage of Mellotrons give the entire album a subtle
atmosphere. This album contains two key elements: "Progressiveness" and melody.
Swano does all the vocals and plays acoustic passages and the keys (keyboards
are a big part of Dan's vision of death metal), drums (he played drums in
several other bands including Katatonia and Bloodbath), bass (his bass lines are
fat and to the point) and guitar solos. Wow! It's not just about playing rhythm,
he plays intricate guitar solos coming right out of his soul. Kudos to him, he
is one of the most versatile musicians I know of. The lyrics also belong to Dan.
Standouts are "Uncreation", "Sun of the Night", "Add Reality", the intro of
the last song "In Empty Phrases", the mindblowing instrumental piece "Encounterparts".
It's a very personal album to Dan and his fans. In case you think this isn't
your thing, give Dan's other projects a chance. He's covered everything from
doom metal to prog rock and metal to heavy metal to black metal to experimental
instrumental stuff, so I'm sure you'll find something that speaks to you, and it
would be in your interest to check out Moontower, Edge of Sanity, Godsend
For Doom, Unicorn and Nightingale for prog rock; Lucassen's Star One for prog
metal also featuring Symphony X's singer Russel Allen and Damian Wilson,
Pan.Thy.Monium for extremely experimental death metal and so many other
Moontower may be one of the best albums in this genre in the last 5
1. Sun of the Night
4. Add Reality
5. Creating Illusions
6. Big Sleep
7. Encounterparts [Instrumental]
8. In Empty Phrases