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An Excellent Debut - 89%

pfm, April 27th, 2019

There are a lot of things happening in this album. Emergence travels back and forth through passages of righteous headbanging and maundering introspection. It feels alive, never settling, constantly and gracefully inserting new elements to delight the listener. An acoustic folk jingle here, a funky bassline, some poppy black metal synthwank, a bit of relaxed piano there. Despite all of this the album remains catchy and accessible and the variation helps avoid the pitfall of accessible albums being easily consumed and forgotten. The band states that their main influences for this album are Immortal, early Dimmu Borgir and Summoning. I see more similarities between Insomnium, Be’lakor and Windir. I also noted passages that reminded me more or less strongly of Mithotyn, Okera, Behemoth, Dissection, Dimmu Borgir, Carach Angren, The Meads of Asphodel, Dark Tranquillity, Summoning, In Vain and Simon & Garfunkel. Few of the building blocks of this album are original, however they have been arranged in a way that is fresh, exciting and enjoyable.

The guitars provide the continuity that holds this album together. Gloomy Finnish atmosphere, Windir-esque dancing mountaintop leads and gently blackened melodic riffs shepherd the disparate elements along a coherent path. The bass is solid throughout, largely following the guitars and occasionally bubbling to the top of the mix for a delicious groove. The drums are consistent and unremarkable, never pulling focus from the surface arrangements of guitars and keys. It is clear that they spent a long time in the studio. The production is tight without being sterile and the gorgeously crisp tone of the guitar leads deserves special mention.

The lyrical themes are standard, enjoyable fare for extreme metal. Dark fantasy, misanthropy in the face of hubris and folly and finally hope for redemption, presumably post-apocalypse are delivered here with compelling scorn and pathos. The vocals rasp along the lines of early Dark Tranquillity and The Crown with an occasional tease of broader range. The lyrics are often superb, for example:

‘So revel while you can; in the dusk of the past
as a new dawn; grand, rejuvenous
emerges through our hands’

Rejuvenous is not the first word Skirge makes up on this album, but it is my favourite. At other times however the lyrics are half-baked:

‘Then I faced the gaping infinity
as a choir of agonal cries
overwhelmed me with purest cacophony
and my soul locked in flesh again was’

Three excellent lines let down by the fourth. It’s a minor issue, but it smacks of complacency. The guy can clearly write, so take the time to do it properly. I count four times that Skirge jankily reverses the natural order of a sentence to preserve a rhyming scheme that is already patchy. This isn’t an issue that makes a good album bad, but it is one that, for me, prevents an excellent album from being great.

There is little else to critique on this album. A couple of tracks feel out of place. This World Shall Fall, rather than providing the breathing space of a Be’lakorian interlude, derails the momentum. Alone of all the variation on this album this track feels like an exhibition piece, an unnecessary ornamentation. Similarly, The Sun No Longer, a bog-standard album closer, steals thunder from the preceding track, a powerfully triumphant march that could have let us sign off on a high note. Instead we fade out to four and a half minutes of meandering synthesized confusion. Kudos to the band for extending their misanthropy to the listener, I appreciate the sentiment, but it would have been nice to leave this album feeling powerful. These quibbles are less detrimental than they may appear, however, and do not affect the final product too heavily.

Shylmagoghnar fall into the category of bands that I love but don’t listen to often enough. They share this space with such gods of the genres as Ne Obliviscaris, Opeth, The Chasm, Windir and Taake. As with much of the above bands’ catalogues, this is not an album that I can have in the background while I read or work; it demands attention, pulling the listener in, diverting energy to the music. Emergence is a superb debut album from an exciting new band who appear to reach far and wide for their inspiration and compile it with a high degree of skill and originality. The stand out tracks are Emergence, The Cosmic Tide and A New Dawn.

Melodic Misanthropic Delight - 86%

TheTrueMonster, June 29th, 2015

Hailing from the Netherlands, Shylmagoghnar initially strove to create an atmospheric black metal sound with their music. The end result of the music, however, resulted in a more melodic death metal approach with some elements of progressive metal as well. The music is without a doubt atmospheric, albeit not in the traditional sense by means of the incorporation of ambient sounds with a muddy approach to the music itself. The atmospheric sound rather resonates from the captivating guitar melodies that are stylized with an echoing sound. The sound of the guitar leads sound as if the instruments are played in some distant fog, giving a very esoteric and “atmospheric” sound. Emotion clearly emanates from the beautiful melodies, marking this as one of the most impactful releases of 2014.

Fans of dirty music with a “muddy” sound would not like this band’s debut effort, as the production is crystal clear and the songs are very distinguishable. The songs progress well, although some do tend to drag a little by being a little long. Opener “I Am The Abyss” is not an example of a dragging song, despite its near 9 minute length. Every moment in the song screams out beauty, albeit in a melancholic manner that supports the “anti-human” theme of the album.

The lyrics seem to focus on the beauty of nature, contrasted with the impact that mankind and its ways have on the natural world. This vein of thought is present in most of the songs and is particularly well brought forward in “Squandered Paradise” where the lyricist mockingly hails “the glorious mankind”. The vocals are akin to Mikael Stanne’s (Dark Tranquillity) approach to melodic death metal vocals and are often presented in a very creative manner that makes Shylmagoghnar’s vocals very unique. Examples of this can especially be heard on the aforementioned track, “Edin In Ashes” and “A New Dawn”.

Those who seek over-the-top technicality in music will probably not enjoy this album. Not that the album is overly simplified, but the solos, drumwork and bass overlays are not particularly complex. The band seems to have striven to present a simple sound that focuses on emotion, melody and progression. This makes the album unique and in contrast to what 80% of the metal world is currently doing. If Amon Amarth and Dark Tranquillity would have a lovechild, the offspring would probably be something like this band’s debut offering.

The album’s pace seems to follow a slower, more defined approach rather than focusing on speed and technicality. This is not hard to realise by simply listening to the album, but it is especially evident in “This World Shall Fall” and “Squandered Paradise”.

Another apparent trademark of Emergence is that the focus seems to be on the melodic approach that is put forth by the stunning guitar work. Considering that 4 of the 9 tracks are purely instrumental, one would hope that their musicianship and songwriting abilities are of high stature. It is. The main themes of the instrumental songs could easily entrance a listener approaching the album with an open mind into an intoxicating miasma of nostalgia. “A New Dawn”, while not being instrumental-only, presents an emotionally stirring lead that complements the vocals in a manner that is unprecedented in modern metal.

Akin to Aquilus’ album “Griseus”, the album is best listened to from start to finish, as one really needs to appreciate the beauty that the songs offer. Standout songs include “I Am The Abyss”, “Squandered Paradise”, “Eternal Forest”, “The Cosmic Tide” and “A New Dawn”.