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Dan Swanö - Moontower CD (album) cover


Dan Swanö

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

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4 stars This is the first and only soloalbum from the multi-instumentalist musical genius Dan Swanö, the man behind Edge of Sanity, Nightingale and Unicorn (Swe) among others. He also has numerous guest appearances on Katatonia, Star One or Bloodbath albums. "Moontower" is a mixture between death metal growls and heavy keyboards sound, kind of a bridge between his works, from death metal (Edge of Sanity) to prog rock (Unicorn).

Classic heavy metal riffs meet Swanö's great death growls and keyboard melodies from 70s prog rock acts (Kansas, Styx). The songs are riff-orientated and very catchy, the sound is clear and heavy. The heavy (over)using of keyboards really gives the music a bright and retro feeling in some songs. Not only plain sythesizer sound can be heard here, one can notice the Hammond-sound and even Mellotron in some places (if I am not mistaken). 'Add Reality' is one of the few songs where Dan also uses his dark wonderful clean voice. The whole album could have been slightly better if Dan used his clean vocals more often.

To define this album best, I'd describe it as being a combination of early Marillion, Rush and Nightingale ("The Closing Chronicles" album) mixed with the typical Swedish death metal sound. The last song "In Empty Phrases" contains even quotes from the Rush song "Dreamline" (we're only immortal for a limited time).

Highlights: Sun of the Night, Uncreation, Add Reality, The Big Sleep, but every song has its magic moments.

Recommended especially for Opeth fans (the connection is obvious, Dan was the producer on the first two Opeth albums) and open-minded prog metal fans. The rating is somewhere between 3 and 5 stars, depends on the age, musical taste and wde-ranging interest of the listener.


Report this review (#43564)
Posted Saturday, August 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album has convinced me that prog-metal IS the future of prog and its spiritual home is in Scandinavia. Whereas the UK was the homeland of classic-prog it has to be recognised that the frozen hinterland of Northern Europe is where its at as far as exciting, exhilirating, energetic and entertaining music is concerned. Dan Swano is a multi-instrumental-uber-meister and the driving force behind many musical projects including Bloodbath,Edge of Sanity and Nightingale, and on this album he does EVERYTHING. 'Sun of the Night' is the opening track and it has excellent guitar and synthesiser, it also reminded me of Opeth. It may therefore come as no surprise to learn that Swano produced a couple of Opeth's albums. This track is one of the most impressive intro's I have heard and it will have you hooked immediately. Track two 'Patchworks' continues the onslaught and as in track one features Swano's growling vocals. Now I don't know where you stand regarding these type of vocals, but I found it fairly easy to get used to them on Opeth's 'Ghost Reveries' and they are equally accessible here. Keep an open mind, this guy is extremely talented and the sheer class of his musicianship should be enough to have you hooked. 'Uncreation' is the third song and completes a barn-storming, kidney-punching, head-butting opening. Track four 'Add Reality' features piano at the beginning, lulling you into thinking that we may be entering a sensitive phase - sorry,wrong - what we have is another powerful song which has passages of clean vocals from Swano. He sings entirely clean vocals with Nightingale, and he has a truly excellent voice. 'Creating Illusions' is another great track, excellent playing and it brings us nicely to 'The Big Sleep' which has an excellent synth-opening, and outstanding guitar, a common feature of songs on this masterpiece. 'Encounterparts' is an instrumental, intricate in places and sonically stunning in others. Before you know it, we reach the final track 'In Empty Phrases'. It has really nice synthesiser and guitar and rounds off things well. This album is a must- have and you will be mightily impressed that it is all down to one man. Unmissable.
Report this review (#57734)
Posted Thursday, November 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
Tristan Mulders
3 stars Dan Swanö - Moontower

So this is what you get when you mix all the various Swanö ingredients?? Take 7/10 of Nightingale's neo prog; mix this with 1/10 of experimental thinking and to round things off add 2/10 of his death metal works. et voilà: "Moontower"

I know for sure that if it weren't for the vocals this album/artist would not be categorised as progressive metal. Most of the music included here sounds a lot like IQ; but instead of the clean vocals you normally are familiar with for neo prog, this release here features death metal grunt vocals. Okay, hope that did not scare you completely. this does not mean all the vocals are of the 'cookie monster' type, in fact there are some clean vocals included here, but that's a strict minority.

Most of the instrumentation on this album (which is by the way all done by Swanö himself, in that aspect this really is his solo project) sounds so friendly and enjoyable that most listeners probably wouldn't mind the addition of the death metal vocals. I surely did not at least and I guess this release therefore would work as a great introduction for bands like Edge of Sanity (another Swanö project) and Opeth, both great progressive bands but also still somewhat within death metal territory).

Report this review (#87833)
Posted Monday, August 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Moontower is the debut and so far only "real" solo album by the prolific swedish musician and producer Dan Swanö. The album was released in January 1999 by Black Mark Productions. Dan Swanö is maybe THE most respected musician on the Swedish extreme metal scene and has been a member of several high profile bands and contributed to even more either as a session musician or as producer. He is a multi-instrumentalist, and are able to sing both beautiful clean vocals as well as brutal growls. I´ll name just some of the bands he has contributed to here: Edge Of Sanity, Nightingale, Pan.Thy.Monium, Katatonia, Bloodbath, Maceration, Unicorn and many more. Dan Swanö mostly operates in the field between death metal and prog rock/ experimental rock.

The music on Moontower is melodic synth heavy death metal with brutal growling vocals ( and a few clean ones). The tempo in the songs is mostly kept slow- to mid-paced, so while I´m mostly thinking of Edge Of Sanity when I listen to Moontower, you shouldn´t expect blast beats or faster parts on this album. The omnipresent synths and organ is what makes this project stand out from many other death metal projects by Dan Swanö. A few years later the 8th full-length studio album by Edge Of Sanity called Crimson II (2003) would also feature extensive use of synths and it´s probably that album that Moontower reminds me about the most. There are several nods towards the semi-progressive rock/ metal of Nightingale too though. Tracks like Sun of the Night and Uncreation are downright infectious but most tracks on the album grow upon repeated listens. There´s an epic atmosphere that´s a central part of the sound on the album.

The album is well produced and the musicianship impeccable. Dan Swanö handles everything from vocals to instruments and production on Moontower.

It´s actually the second time I´ve reviewed Moontower in the last couple of years and truth is I wasn´t too impressed the first time. I felt the album lacked dynamics and variation and while some of those complaints still hold true, repeated listens over a couple of years have made me appreciate Moontower a lot more and I´ve raised my rating from 3 to 3.5 stars.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

Report this review (#156790)
Posted Thursday, December 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Neo Prog with a Death Metal Vocalist

Dan Swanö refers to Moontower as if "Rush played death metal in the 70's". While I do partially agree with this, I think this album has many neo-prog tendencies reminding me of Marillion. I hear various Rush influences, but I think Marillion also played a major influence in this album as well.

Musically, this alum is unique. This screams 80's neo prog, but with a heavy death metal edge. This sounds like a crossover between his Edge of Sanity and Unicorn projects. I enjoy both of those bands, so this album came naturally to me. I was immediately captured by the excellent synths and organs that play a major part in this album. The melodies are strong, the musicianship is excellent, and the arrangements are unique and satisfying.

My only real problem with this album is the lack of variation. All of the songs are arranged exactly the same. While I do enjoy the sound of these songs, this is a prime example of "overkill". If there would have been more variation in the arrangements of some of these tracks, my enthusiasm would be much higher.

Still, this is a highly enjoyable and energetic album. If you're into prog metal and you can find yourself a copy of this album, I highly recommend you do so. The fact that Dan Swanö plays everything on this album shows what a musical genius he is. This is technically his only "solo" album, though he has had various other albums led mostly by himself.


"Sun of the Night"- The first song opens up with a synth line and guitar riffing. Immediately you can tell that this isn't your typical album. It is prog rock with death metal vocals. The melodies are really good here, mostly due to the solid keyboard playing from Dan Swanö. I love the heavy organ parts in contrast to the guitar riffs and synth lines.

"Patchworks"- This opens up with similar arrangements to the previous song. Organ, guitar riffs, synthesizers and growled vocals. Musically, this has some really good moments. I don't think it's the best from the album, though, as it can be pretty forgettable.

"Uncreation"- This is the song that got me to buy the album. I heard this song and I fell in love. I still love everything about the song, especially the excellent melodies. The synthesizers fit the song perfectly. Little did I know that all of the songs would have almost the same exact arrangements. The use of this formula in almost every song is a little overkill, and it loses it's luster after a few listens to the entire album. Still, this song is excellent and a highlight on the album for sure.

"Add Reality"- This song opens up with a light piano melody. Soon the song goes into full force. It has growling and similar arrangements to the rest of the song. I really like the melody to this song, though. There is a piano section near the end that goes into the first section with clean vocals on the album. I honestly wish there would have been more sections like that on this album. I think clean vocals fit this type of music much better than harsh growls. I love the outro to this song.

"Creating Illusions"- This song opens up with heavy organ and growling. The organ is a nice touch and the chords are very catchy. It has a short instrumental section in the middle that's really excellent. It progresses into a very atmospheric section. It then reprises the beginning.

"The Big Sleep"- The first notes of this song are from a synthesizer and heavy guitar riffing. This song is largely boring and unexciting. I enjoy some parts, but this is largely unmemorable. Also, by the time you're this far in the album the formula gets a little old.

"Encounterparts"- This is the only instrumental on the album, and it doesn't disappoint. The musicianship is excellent, especially when you realize one man is playing all of the instruments. This is filled with great riffs, solid melodies, and excellent keyboards as well. This is a highlight from the album. This is a good breaking point because it's different from the other songs. If this was another synth driven prog metal song with death metal vocals in a verse-chorus-verse style I would be getting a little frustrated.

"In Empty Phrases"- A guitar riff begins this song. It soon turns into a Rush-influenced section with growled vocals. The songwriting is very good, and I really like some of the melodies. The arrangements are the same as the rest of the album, but somehow the great music keeps this closing track from being trivial.


Moontower is a good album from a musician who has done better. This is exceptionally melodic for a Swanö album, and if you're looking for one of his more progressive rock driven albums, this is a good place to turn. I wish this album would be a little more varied though. The same formula is used in all of the songs, so it can tire after about 10 listens. Still, the formula is unique and satisfying, so it's not that much of a flaw in this album. If you're looking for a heavy Swanö production in the vein of this album, I would get Edge of Sanity's Crimson II album. It's synth driven, heavy, very melodic, and is a much stronger album in my opinion. Still, this is a good album that I would recommend to any Dan Swanö fan, though I don't think it's essential by any means. A three star rating is deserved.

3 stars.

Report this review (#257060)
Posted Sunday, December 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Dan Swanö is one of the most genius musician I've ever heard. A lot of musician can play different instruments but most of them can't create like a real keyboardist, guitarist or drummer. I think this is most important factor for all multi-instrumentalists. Swanö overcome this. This album reflecting Swanö's prog-rock influences and I think it's a kind of tribute to 70's. All songs written and performed by swanö. I can say this is a real solo album. (And swanö used his eye on album cover)

Moontower has lovely keyboard tones and they are perfectly comply with brutal vocals. However every song has almot same keyboard tone. Guitars, basses and drums are perfectly composed but most remarkable thing is synthesizers. Except the outro of "Add Reality" all songs have brutal vocal. I'm strongly recommending this album for death-metal and prog-rock listeners. They will found a lot of things in this album.

This is one of the most different thing I've ever seen.

Swanö described the album as sounding like "If Rush played death metal in the 1970s".

4.5 stars

Report this review (#345040)
Posted Monday, December 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Moontower' - Dan Swano (7/10)

Perhaps best known for the seminal progressive death metal band Edge of sanity, Dan Swano was already a member of the legendary echelon, both within Sweden's music scene and globally. Suffice to say, he is one of the most influential figures in extreme metal, and was essential in making prog-death what it is today. Besides Edge of Sanity- which is almost certainly his greatest work- Swano also dabbled in more melodic progressive rock, under the guise of Nightingale. Fusing those two halves together, 'Moontower' is born. Although Swano is no stranger to 'solo' efforts, this is the only record to date under his own name, and it presents the man's talent through a slightly different angle. I proper fusion of Nightingale and Edge of Sanity, 'Moontower' is an incredibly synth-laden, melodic take at death metal, usually to the point where it feels more like a melodic prog album with growls than something more metal related. There is nothing quite new here for Swano, but 'Moontower' is an enjoyable and tastefully streamlined fusion of his previous work.

'Moontower' is in no short stock of the death growls that will found the strongest associations with the death metal style, but the instrumentation is not necessarily heavy. In fact, the synth-dominated mix makes it sound like an album coming out of the 'neo-prog' scene; that is, key-driven progressive rock fuelled by accessible melodies. This does put 'Moontower' in an awkward position, as I believe that it may be too laid back for someone looking for a death metal record, yet too filled with Swano's distinctive growls to appeal to someone who may be turned off by the style of vocals. Rather, I think 'Moontower' is a record that will find a perfect niche with listeners who love both prog and death metal. With 'progressive death metal' in its majority, we are used to hearing the death metal aspect dominate. Here, the contrary is true.

As much of a risk that 'Moontower' was, it would have been an inevitable failure if proper attention had not been paid to the songwriting. Although 'Moontower' does lack in terms of a binding album cohesion, Swano writes a very tasteful batch of songs here. The synths are the strongest part of the sound, having both the liveliest tone to them and the most interesting arrangements. There are passages here where the keyboards get quite technical and 'proggy', but for the most part, I found the synth's greatest role to be in the crafting of catchy hooks, of which there are plenty to enjoy on 'Moontower'. Sadly, the guitar and drums take a beating in response. The guitars are generally mixed lower than I would normally expect from a death metal record, and sound flat and even a little wimpy as a result. Swano's growls are in fine order as usual. 'Moontower' is an album that enjoys more strengths than it does flaws, and I would even honour it with a wholehearted recommendation to anyone interested in the work of Dan Swano. It does not however, possess the 'epic' quality that makes his grandest work stand out as some of metal's best.

Report this review (#647320)
Posted Tuesday, March 6, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album rules and is one of my favourites ever! This is a very niche album, I've never heard anything quite like it. The persistent synth dominates the overall sound overtop heavy distorted guitars and growled vocals. Despite this I find Moontower to be a very accessible album for the prog fan who doesn't tend to enjoy metal, since the songs remind me more of IQ or the first two Marillion albums than anything in the metal world. Every instrument was played by Dan Swano who also produced the album, which is probably why this is a solo album and not under a new band name like Swano is oft to do. Within the first 10 seconds of "Sun of Night" you will know if this is something you'll love or not, I knew I was hooked just by the tone of the synth used, I just love that sound. Each of the 8 tracks have a pretty similar sound to them, but highlights are "Add Reality" which is sort of the most prog track, and "Encounterparts" which does nothing to hide the Rush influence right down to the title. "Creating Illusions" has a great part in the middle where it sounds like the song is ending, before it comes firing right back at you. I found this album about 14 years ago and always come back to it, I recommend it to any fans of 80s-sounding music looking for something a little different
Report this review (#1718199)
Posted Saturday, May 6, 2017 | Review Permalink

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