I’d only been listening to this album the day before I got the opportunity to write this review and had made it half way through the record and made a mental note to give it a proper listen. One of my Dutch friends had got me onto this band with the first album “Emergence” some years ago, so I eagerly checked out the album, excited to find out that the band had another release that had slipped under my radar.
“Transience” is the second album of the duo from the Netherlands with that infamously unpronounceable name that people are quickly starting to mention more and more. You’d be forgiven as a native English speaker, to assume their name is a Dutch or Scandinavian word, but Shylmagoghnar is not a word at all, more a grouping of sounds they liked the sound of, and I feel like a completely made up word is very fitting for a band that bends your perception of the melodic and atmospheric black metal genres. It almost adds a modern fantasy or even tech death element in to the mix, which fits some of the epic passages they have proven capable of in this album.
The title track and album opener, Transience, sets the mood with a long ambient introductory song. The Dawn of Motion continues with the same building melancholy, as the guitar intro comes in and introduces the first of two instrumentals for the album.
As All Must Come To Pass starts off with a bass and synth part, something new that lends well to the overall experimental atmosphere of this record. Within a few seconds though, the blasts are back. This song is a real stand-out in terms of bass skill and technicality as well. I will confess to a slight bias towards the plight of the bassist, but I’m also biased because I love melodic black metal, so by this point they’ve already won me over, but I also just really, really appreciate any black metal that acknowledges bass as an instrument. Granted, these guys are no “ordinary” band, so their use of bass is unique and refreshing, and the movement in the playing complements all the other instruments roles well. The bass and piano leading into the second half of this song’s guitar part was probably my favourite part, after a three-and-a-half-minute build-up worth all the anticipation. The keys are incorporated throughout the track, but the song ends on a filthy and thoroughly rough.
This Shadow of The Heart, is, what can I say, very textbook, but well executed straight up melodic black metal. It starts off with a Dissection-esque riff and launches straight into spitting black metal lyrics and a song with ample melodic leads tastefully woven through the entire track. The guitars really shine in this track, giving it a raw black metal feel while still managing to leave room for the bass.
The Chosen Path features a lot more folk elements in this song and again, offers a tasteful use of synths in use of traditional folk instruments, so it has a more modern feel but is equally as captivating. No Child of Man Could Follow is an overall groovy song, more uptempo and upbeat. In a “for the power and the glory” kind of way, this song is gripping and has some more great bass work hidden under the sprawling vocals, which only let up for a brief interlude, introducing in heavier guitars and smooth synth melodies before reverting back to another very melodic black riff. This song is particularly impressive on a technical note, using sweeping melodies and frantic yet beautiful guitar work and hammering drums to get you sucked in and then coming back to the meatier riffs of the first few songs on the album.
No Child of Man Could Follow is the first long track on the album and by this point, I get that the intention was to listen to this album as a whole journey, rather than individual songs, so I’m glad my first few listens were of the album back to front instead of stumbling across just one song, because I feel that together, the playtime of the album isn’t too long but apart, some songs become a bit boring without the context and preface of the songs that surround them. This one has a subtle Emperor mixed with Mortiis’ feel to it, but without seeming derivative, or the synth and electronic elements being obnoxious at all.
Journey Through The Fog is an eerie introduction to the end of the album. I absolutely loved the intricacy of the guitar in this section, well chosen notes that strike a chord within. The beginning of the song continues like this for almost two minutes before a relentless barrage of vocals and distorted guitars come back in for some more of the same great riffs from This Shadow of The Heart. Another one sure to please fans of bands such as Watain, Emperor and Dark Funeral.
The steady fast pace and savage vocals really cover every black metal trope but without it sounding quite like anyone else, and without sacrificing the experimental elements entirely. This is still a ten minute song – after a drum break about three minutes in, the pace changes a bit to keep things fresh.
Life starts off with a dreary atmospheric guitar introduction and a marching beat played at the kind of pace that is both hypnotizing and makes you uncomfortably aware of the speed your own heart is beating and that you are very much alive, which, depending on whether you’re a glass half full or half empty person, will ascertain whether you find this album depressing, uplifting, or a bit of both.
Life is actually instrumental, a thirteen minute epic of a song, and definitely gives Shylmagoghnar a more prog and technical, but also almost ambient folk metal sound, than some of the tracks with vocals. Without the veil of vocals, the guitars carry you on a whirlwind until the bass solo and some groove (yeah, bass solo!) comes in to make sure you’re paying attention and then to lead you into the next riff, which builds up to an even bigger riff, which then turns into a display of very well executed orchestration. By this point I’d be comparing this song to a blackened Equilibrium in a way.
The bass continues to fill the faced paced soundscape as the synths build up, offering relief only when the double kick continues over one of the darker riffs of this song. The symphonics add in an almost surreal atmosphere to the song, before stripping things right back to a softer, experimental and almost, post black or shoegaze level for a few minutes. This is where things go from “epic quest” to “existential crisis” as far as the mood of the song goes and you’re dragged through waves of doom metal for the next few minutes of the song, with hints of melodic and post black metal still sneaking in. The ending of this is extremely chilling, and how fitting it should be that the ending of a song entitled ‘Life’ is so bleak.
This album, clocking in at a length of one hour and twelve minutes, is one I’d recommend and will probably stay on rotation for a while. While in some areas the only negative to mention is that sometimes the guitar parts raw production is a bit jarring when the guitars are entirely solo in the mix, but then again, that could be the intent, to bring in more of that raw black sound which does come across in the guitar work and vocal performance of this album. Ultimately, a great album to sit down and absorb yourself in and a band I can see doing great things with this album.
Buy “Transience” by Shylmagoghnar out NOW HERE