Sylvaine - Nova

09 Jun 2022 - Thorsten

Post-Metal, Blackgaze | Season Of Mist | Release date: 04 Mar 2022 | Favorite song: Everything Must Come To An End

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So first of all, the next one who tells me that this woman sounds like Amy Lee from Evanescence will be meeting his final end with twelve stones. And now to the more important thing: Kathrine Shepard, the Norwegian multi-instrumentalist who relocated to France for her band, has released her fourth album Nova and with it yet another perfect example of where music could end up when we imagine a world without borders.

Nova is nothing short of beautiful! The way that Shepard and her bandmates have structured the record has such an organic flow that it might serve as an example for good craftsmanship. When we hear the first vocalizing at the beginning of the opening title track, we are immediately pulled into the world of Sylvaine – where a female voice somewhere between Sarah Bettens (now Sam Bettens) from K’s Choice, Sarah McLachlan and Myrkur’s Amalie Bruun. It is as if the world to Narnia has opened and we are the only ones seeing that magical fairy world.

But we are not necessarily seeing a peaceful world but one full of intrigues and war. And here comes the genre into fielding play which Shepard and her band are using as their ground – atmospheric black metal or blackgaze. You will find loads of wonderfully implemented post-rock crescendos in the seven tracks (of the digital album, with track seven, ”Dissolution” being a digital-only bonus track). In those moments Sylvaine sounds a lot like early Alcest or TRNA to choose a more modern example as well. Before anyone asks – it is never the realm of Wolves in the Throne Room, because it is footed less in black metal and its whirlwinds than in lofty post-metal and post-rock spheres.

The second track ”Mono No Aware” (a Japanese philosophy and not a misleading English mistake) and the third one, ”Nowhere, Still Somewhere” (see the second Mono-reference there?) are the perfect bridge to the central piece of the record, ”Fortapt” and its near-12-minutes. The track opens with a soft guitar motif being repeated beneath similarly soft vocalizing before there is a minute change in tonality and riffing after 100 seconds. The whole track picks up speed and adds a good amount of heavy metal with the riff and its rhythm section backing. The ebb and flow of ”Fortapt”. After roughly half of its playing time, the song steps back a little bit into the realms of calm elves and their lyres. However, it is obvious that the track is not gonna end like this, also because the vocals are slowly rising and then the guitar kicks in again and gives us more of this post-metal goodness.

The fact that her voice is so much at the center of attention on Sylvaine records in no way contradicts the vulnerability shown by Shepard in the melodic harmonies that are ever present in her work. This vulnerability is also visible on the record cover where we can see a very pale, naked Shepard in fetal position on the ground – she tries to show how open she is. She as the Elvish queen and master of ceremony can give you comfort and solace in your darker moments of despair and self-denial. The harsh black metal screams are add-ons that connect her more to the black metal soundscapes and also make the songs even more interesting because of the minute details that are present in the small changes of tones and tempi. Little shifts can go a long way and Shepard and Sylvaine surely know about the effect these changes can have.

The music is wonderful – a strange word in the context of Black Metal – but it is never overwhelmingly nice, it always keeps that little bit of nitty-gritty to deny any claims of mainstream appeal. This music is not intended to break the charts. But rather embrace the hearts of those who listen carefully. And that is something which I would never say about Evanescence and their success in the charts.