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Back again, Silent Stream of Godless Elegy have made a number of alterations to their sound, but in the grand scheme of things, their music remains largely the same as it was on the previous effort, ‘Iron’. This time, with their second full-length record entitled, ‘Behind The Shadows’, Silent Stream of Godless Elegy have made only one serious alteration that manages to stick out. This alteration comes in the form of the production, which will be discussed in depth shortly. ‘Iron’, the debut from this Czech hybrid act was a serious message to fellow acts, within the same sub-genre, that Silent Stream of Godless Elegy are out to become the biggest name in the business. Although they never quite achieved that with the previous record, and still haven’t achieved that with this effort, ‘Behind The Shadows’ is a clear indication if we ever needed one that Silent Stream of Godless Elegy are destined for great things. This record doesn’t symbolise that in the grandest sense, but the transition period is still continuing, just not as fast as I had expected initially.
Evolution is a concept bands like this Czech doom/folk outfit adhere to. It’s a concept that, instrumentally, suits their experimental style and thus can only be seen as a positive in relation to the overall opinion of their music. This record is a lot like the previous effort, ‘Iron’, but as stated, contains a different type of production, which allows the accessibility of the bands music to be heightened. The production is cleaner, which allows the guitars to take control, but not overpower, which is something they might have done, if only slightly, on the previous effort. The guitars are distorted, but unlike on ‘Iron’, the production doesn’t allow the fuzz and haze that these guitars provide the soundscapes to dominate. The production on ‘Iron’ acted like fog to the instrumentation, covering up the smallest details which could have been integral to the record, this meant that certain aspects, like the ever impressive violin, didn’t get the best out of their sound. The level of distortion, thankfully, isn’t too high. The bass is audible due to this, and plugs away in a steady fashion without ever truly controlling the emotional fountain that this record springs from.
As Silent Stream of Godless Elegy have evolved, the production has improved, and with this improvement, there is a marked increase in experimentation, which means aspects like the bass and the violin to accelerate beyond the expectations. These emotively driven aspects are brilliant and increase the intensity of the soundscapes, which are also emotively driven to despair and connotations of those words. Silent Stream of Godless Elegy have an ability to be able to produce the saddest sounds, but still maintain a happiness in the listener, this is striking because it means that the Czech outfit are smoothly and subtly controlling the emotions and moods of the individual audience members, who are unaware of such an occurrence. Songs like ‘Garden’ are particularly good at displaying this notion. The finely tuned violins accompany the guitars, from beginning to end, in spectacular fashion. Whilst the guitars aim to increase the sense of influence from the doom aspects, the violins and clean vocals, which are evocative and extraordinarily integrated into the aesthetically pleasing mixture, are aiming to increase, within the listener, a sense of the folk factors, which are generally the best elements of this record. There are even acoustics used on songs like ‘The Last Place’, just to add an extra sense of melody.
If, as a listener, you’re searching for a doom metal band that plays long, slow and trudging songs that evolve over 20 minutes, then this is the wrong place to look. There doesn’t seem to be many traditional elements for the listener to bite on, as if they were touching into a fine steak and washing it back with a beer, this record is pleasing in the way a small snack in pleasing. It doesn’t quite fill you, but leaves you with some divine tastes and textures, much like ‘Behind The Shadows’. The varied approach is pleasing and uses different tones, textures, as well as drawing out different emotion due to the fact that elements like the violins, in particular, play on the senses. Vocally and lyrically, Silent Stream of Godless Elegy aren’t as important. Thankfully, the most emphasis is placed inevitably on the finer points, like the violin. As we can see from the lyrics, the senses are played upon, with the Czechs using themes of nature and such to develop their folk inspired sound. This, in many ways, is a good move.
“Open the gate, it’s the right time
Let the wind makes a ring the trees
Let the shadows move on the ways
I’m entering the tomb of tales
Here you find revived puppets
One of them is you
I’m coming to everyone like the trees and feelings
Here you find - maybe yourself “
Not the best record from the band, but a significant step in the right direction.
Silent Streams of Godless Elegy seem to be the mysterious unnamed entity that folk metal bands forget to acknowledge when talking about their influences. You could blame the lack of publicity for this band, you could blame the upstart folk metallers who are desperate to convince everyone that their style of music has never been attempted before, but you can't blame the band themselves. One listen to Behind the Shadows reveals a band that was not only ahead of its time, but was also able to craft memorable songs using a wide palate of styles.
Fusing gothic doom, folkish melodies and a variety of instruments essential to the overall presentation, there is conviction apparent in every song on Behind the Shadows as each original track presents a different mood and story. The exotic riffs and mournful landscapes may seem too alienating at first, but you'll soon find yourself intoxicated by the contorted shape of each melody. When this album was released in 1998, few bands were playing such obscure riffs as those found in tracks like "Wizard," "Old Women's Dance," and "Ghost." Amorphis, My Dying Bride, and Therion definitely deserved the press they were receiving at the time, but Silent Streams of Godless Elegy were dabbling in ancient elements of their own in their part of the world in a way that was unique to them. At times beautiful and majestic, at other times gloomy and full of grief, each song stands as a monument to a lost age of humanity's communion with the conflicting temperaments of nature whether they be literal or emotional.
The music is easy enough to describe, but hearing it is something else altogether. The defining quality of Silent Streams of Godless Elegy is their ability to craft simple yet imaginative melodies through the use of guitar and violin. There's a combination you don't hear every day! It felt weird even writing that, but the creativity and talent of this band is obvious and impresses you with each listen to Behind the Shadows. The song structures are nothing too bizarre. Most of the tracks are between four and five minutes, but the music itself makes them feel grander and more epic. The vocals range from deep gothic rock brooding to death metal growls to clean singing, but each style fits where it is used in the song and nothing feels forced.
Dead Can Dance are rightfully acknowledged as an influence by avantgarde bands from several styles of music and Silent Streams of Godless Elegy are one of these bands as well, but the covers of "Cantara" and "Summoning of the Muse" are unnecessary. The former is a faithful rendition of the original so it sounds great, but it doesn't build upon the song. The latter is a rapturous atmospheric track that haunts the listener through the use of resounding bells, ethereal chanting, and ominous strings and is simply an awe-inspiring piece of music, but the cover version on this album is founded upon copying the main melodies on electric guitar like a novice band would do. However, you'll realize this is a minor complaint once you hear Behind the Shadows. Simply put, don't let the cover songs give you a negative image of this brilliant band.
Overall, if you're an aspiring folk metal musician and you desire to build a strong foundation for your own music or if you simply like to listen to masters of the style and to those who helped define it, then this is an essential album.