Sylvan Realm - The Lodge of Transcendence

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It does not take an intro, it does not take some sort of interlude to progress from the one and only release of Reverie to the Sylvan Realm project. The first seconds of the first track direct the attention of the listener on the pathway the person behind it decided to move on. No time to breathe, no time for a short moment for collecting one’s thoughts; a beat and of it goes … everything earlier is simply swept away.

Indeed, the music seems to have undergone a certain evolution since the days of Reverie. Black Metal? In certain boundaries this has some truths in it, but once the album is examined from a broader perspective, then the reduction to this one genre alone seems unnecessarily as well as artificially limited. The opener reveals this progression neatly, because in it most of the elements are presented succinctly. Melodic, powerful, well arranged and some well-crafted riffs make up the performance of Sylvan Realm. Death metal makes an appearance as well, along small influences from other genres; like heavy metal or even thrash.

Riff structures, as they are often used in the black metal genre, appear on a rather small scale and limitation in facets is avoided at all costs. Instead, the music is rich in facets and various influences. Multiple layers woven together instead of a simplistic approach – Disappear into the Landscape –, a neat transition between the compositions – Temple of Not – and even choir parts – The Lodge of Transcendence – are now part of the oeuvre of Sylvan Realm. The breadth of the conceptual approach is by no means covered by all of these examples, but they give an indication on what to expect on this recording.

The title track should be emphasized in this respect. Rhythm models that break all barriers of conventionality and a level of variation in terms of the arrangements make it exceptional on this debut album. It is especially due to ideas like the closing motive and the progressive influences presented in it that might leave the listener astounded about the richness in facets of this output. Nevertheless, it would be fair point to describe the way some aspects appear a slightly bit random and as not being fully immersed in the rest of the art; this would be especially true in terms of Twilight Kingdom. Many aspects presented on ‘The Lodge of Transcendence‘ merge very naturally though. Be it the various types of vocals, would it be the breaks and interludes in the compositions, nothing really gives the impression of being alien to the concept in any serious way.

Twilight Kingdom: The closing composition of this album is a track that differs significantly from everything that makes up the dominant part of this album. No more metal guitars, drums and aggressive vocals. Instead, a play of acoustic guitars together with a calm voice try to compensate the listener for the heaviness this person had to endure from the very first second up to this very composition. It is a counterpoint and a strong one at that. Nearly nine minutes in length it provides a wonderful example of how a small set of instruments can be used to create a very dense and intense listening experience. Empyrium comes to the mind, though not their early works but their later ones. A difference might appear in the tone and direction of the music. While the Germans had a slightly depressing touch in their art, the Americans are a bit more uplifting. Similar are both attempts the role of the vocals, whose part appears in a narrating manner, but not excessively in terms of the share that they would take in the music; the instruments have a lot of room to unfold their atmosphere. What can be criticized though is the way this style appears on the record. Unlike on the Reverie recording, the acoustic part gives rather an impression of being an appendix, rather than an essential aspect of the music, which ‘moves’ like a red line through the album.

The hidden track: As outlined in the interview (see link at the bottom of the review), this thing is suppose to have a special meaning … but I can tell you it did not reveal itself in the first several spins that I listened to this thing … it clearly did not. Maybe it is because English is not my mother tongue that I am not able to understand everything of this distorted voice. Even after a rather intense listening attempt, I failed to get it … so; you have to look for another reviewer to take up on this issue and to reveal the mystery, which surrounds this hidden track. Well, SR are not the only band that wants to have the final laugh, because further examples are: Karjalan Sissit’s Tanssit On Loppu Nyt or Nattefrost’s Blood and Vomit.

What about references to other bands? Sylvan Realm have a lot of influences in the music. One has been mentioned already, but they do not stop there. It would be not too farfetched to throw something of ‘Wolves in the Throne Room’ in here as well – in terms of their atmosphere as well as how they vary their music, while ‘Agalloch’ would point into the wrong direction and October Falls for similar but not the same reasons. Other bands could be named, but some pointless name dropping would result only in confusion. Facets appear now and then, here and there, but a definite comparison seems not to be found easily. If you add these names mentioned before together and throw in some ‘The Mist and the Morning Dew’, then you get a glimpse of what can be found on this release.

To sum the impressions up: Who would have thought of this evolution of the band? Sylvan, the person behind this band, seems to have been quite anxious to bombard the listener with this new release of his and therefore set the pace right from the first second of the debut. From then on, the listener is bombarded with ideas and concepts like there would be no tomorrow and in a way rather uncommon in the extreme metal realm. The reference to Empyrium does by no means cover the array and breadth of performance of Sylvan Realm’s debut album. In fact, the Germans always used a rather limited but really well crafted approach, while the Americans would be unable to follow such a narrowed down concept. This similarity in atmosphere as well as attitude awakes the resemblance in the mind of the listener.

The Lodge of Transcendence is an excellent release in many respects and sets the barrier extremely high for the things to come. The easiness, with which the band transgresses all barriers of conventionality and combines them on their debut into an eclectic showbag that contains something for a lot of people, is fascinating indeed. Extreme metal on a high level, loaded with sweet riffs and ideas, as well as an attitude to try something fresh. Nothing but highly recommended.

Based on a review written by oneyoudontknow for ‘a dead spot of light magazine (Number 13):

2011Black MetalDark FolkAcoustic