Sylvan Realm - Waldeinsamkeit

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As you can see from the Wikipedia entry[1], of what the title of the release refers to, the topic is not particularly wide spread or even commonly known. It is something that appears to have had some amount of impact in "Germany" or in countries in which German would be used or be common. Woodland solitude would be one way to translate the title and over the years it has found its way into the realms of religion, literature as well as painting. As music has played a negligible role so far [2], only the visual as well as lyrical aspects should be considered. In terms of the former, the cover artwork suggests an eye as part of a tree. Somehow as if a person has merged with this wooden solid being and the only indication that is left would be just this one eye; it can be imagined that a camouflage of some mythological creature would be a reference or interpretation. Compared with paintings of the subject Waldeinsamkeit[3] a stark difference can be discovered. Firstly, there is the extreme emphasis on the eye and secondly an almost neglect of the surrounding environment, which is a result of the other aspect. Of course the message appears to be clear: nature or in this case a forest indicates a level of danger. While this is true to a certain degree, it thwarts the generally established agreement that Waldeinsamkeit is more of a idealised romantic portrayal of what a forest or what woodland can be. The paintings of this genre provide a broad view on a type of scenery in which occasionally one or more human appear, while in the end it attempts to evoke a feeling of an idealistic and "innocent" environment. As such, this harmonic aspect is disturbed by the inescapable emphasis of the eye on the cover artwork. Therefore, it is little convincing, due to the limitation or the emphasis of this one aspect and how it had been placed into the foreground. A more clever approach could have been an assortment of "dangers"/eyes in an otherwise harmonic visual setting. By doing so it would then be a comment on the "established" visual composition of this one topic that the release appears to deal with. But such a chance had sadly been wasted. When it comes to the lyrics and how these fit into the broader picture, we are left with nothing to go by, as these have not been shared so far. All we have is the cover as well as the track titles.

This would be the third release that the person behind Sylvan Realm/Reverie has put out over the years. The first one was still spread under the name Reverie in 2007 and then a 2011 and 2020 output under the Sylvan Realm. As should be rather apparent, the music is not thrown unto the masses on a constant basis[4]. Maybe the music needed some time to fully mature or the person did not have much time to get it done. Whatever may be the case, the audience needs to be patient in this regard. And the audience needs to be tolerant. Or rather it needs to be more tolerant than before. As can be gathered from the band's entry at the Metal Archives, a certain switch in style has taken place and it has shifted from the realms of black metal towards less intense and grim shores. The title of the latest release gives it away in some respect. While all of the cover artworks always had a certain type of portrayal of a landscape, Waldeinsamkeit differs due to the attempt to bring visual and audio and textual aspect into an amalgam. The overall outcome reminds on Ulver's Bergtatt or Kveldssanger or Empyrium and maybe even a nod towards like Sun of the Sleepless.

By merely pointing to these other bands or albums a sense of music and sound is evoked. This would be true of dynamics and of the atmosphere as well. This is why a comparison with the other black metal album [2] is too far-fetched and not really adequate, since this referenced one does hardly deviate from the core setting of the genre and presents the music with a considerable intensity; with the exception of a Burzum-like ambient track. Anyway, Sylvan Realm's focus on the release is a different one and it attempts to represent what had been established in the first paragraph. Yet matters are not as simple and there is not a consistent strain or red line that can be pointed towards in terms of the music. On the one hand there are two more intense tracks -- Monumental Abandonment & Quietus -- and four rather calm ones. Black metal on the one hand, but acoustic/folk/post metal on the other. This distinction is necessary, because the difference between these two "parts" are not only striking, but differ in quality and execution. It is even possible to give each of these a rating and it would be as follows:

  • metal parts (see the two aforementioned tracks): 60 points
  • the rest: 80 points

Of course adding a score tag to an album is generally a matter of personal preferences, but there are arguments that can be brought fourth in order to back this up. On the one hand there are the vocals in these two tracks, whose execution is somewhat hollow and fails to impress. Being neither black metal/*core-influenced screams nor growling, it is a weird mixture of croaking and speaking. Somehow as if you have a sore throat and are barely able to deliver the texts that you want to get across. On neither of the preceding albums such a style could be discovered. Back then it was first some kind of croaking and then a mixture of croaking and black metal screams. There was intensity and a certain kind of ferociousness to it, while this latest performance does not provide this. Maybe this is due to the general shift in the direction of the music. Whatever the reasons, in terms of sound and style it fails to impress. The music itself is fine, but the style, the timing, the sound and the dynamics of the vocals in these two tracks are just off-putting. They even make you cringe; personal perspective. Aside from this aspect, these two metal tracks are actually not that bad; the lead guitar is a bit weird at times. A dominant bass-guitar, playful guitar elements and a drums in the background. There is something of old-school black metal in this, but this aspect is marginalized by the prevalence of something like depressive rock. What comes to mind is Wolves in the Throne Room's Celestial Lineage but less metal and more rockish and with a sound that reminds on early Forgotten Woods or Joyless. Muted might be a way to describe this. Not only in terms of the dynamics, but also in terms of the musical aspects. There is nothing ferocious here. There is nothing of the grimness here. What the title of the release indicates, can be found in all of the tracks.

Matters appear more coherent in terms of the rest of the album. It is nice how the calmness works as a counterpoint to the aforementioned tracks and how these four tracks are able to reflect in sound what the cover represents in style. The music switches between calm and acoustic pieces to dark/depressive rock/metal music, while a clean/normal voice sets the overall tone. Akin to the wintry desolation, it is also here that the melodies progress calmly and with little necessity to speed things up. There is playfulness, there is a lot of atmosphere and a nice bass line. It is dreamy, it is distant and it reflects some of what the cover indicates. The performance is best, once all dynamics breaks down and the bass-guitar is allowed to fill the room; "A Dirge For The Lost". While the preceding album had an acoustic track as well -- Twilight Kingdom --, somehow this aspect has taken over most of the album and shifted all into this direction. There is early Ulver and there is later Empyrium.

"A matter of perspective", this is the title of the review. In terms of black metal this album does not deliver enough any more, while in terms of the depressive/dark rock/metal/folk this album still has too much of the rest. Maybe this album had been too long in the making and is therefore an assortment of ideas that were crafted over the years and were therefore not scraped or separated on different albums. Think of October Falls for instance. They have music that differs to a large extend, but they make it clear on what to expect by using a different type of logo. Maybe this would have been a better idea in this regard as well. Or it would be a good idea to place one type of the tracks on side of an vinyl album and other ones on the second. Together they are a somewhat odd mixture of ideas that fail to impress in combination. The calm parts are definitely great and are able to create a wonderful atmosphere. Maybe this is the path this band should move towards?

It is an ambivalent release, then. Yet the positive aspects outweigh the negative ones. This differs according to ones perspective though.


[2] See Kalmankantaja's release Waldeinsamkeit as a sole(?) "metal" exception. Musically though, the emphasis is on black metal with (dark) ambient passages/tracks. Both releases can hardly be compared.

[3]German: sujet

[4]By discussing some aspects of this release with the band, it was revealed that Waldeinsamkeit has a rather complex history.

2020Black MetalDark FolkAcoustic