Black metal really is a tricky thing to master. Staying with a primitive style will keep your diehard fans, but is often looked at negatively by those not accustomed to the genre. Branching out of the confines of the raw black metal style can bring you to new heights, but will often cause you to be labeled as a sell-out or poseur. There is a fine balance in branching out from raw black metal and combining melodies and even synth work, yet still staying true to your roots. This is where Dutch atmospheric black metal act Shylmagoghnar comes in the game.
The project comprised of Nimblkorg, a principal composer and performer, and Skirge, who handles some of the vocal duties and lyrics, released their debut and only album so far, Emergence, back in 2014. The record gained positive feedback from the black metal community, what led to signing the contract with Napalm Records earlier this year, and re-issuing Emergence as double LP.
Emergence is a great combination of melody and brutality under the same roof; it includes strong material that is more than relevant to be a part of the ever-expanding scene. Excellent production, the extremely grating throat vocals, the melodic guitar riffs, you name it — it’s all there. Nimblkorg shows talent in terms of songwriting, creating some heavy guitar parts and balancing them with ear-catching melodies to bring together a great mix.
The instrumental opener “I am the Abyss” is a great example of this. This intro to Emergence is an almost 9-minute slab; an atmospheric piece that feels more suitable for a post-rock band, what tells about how diverse Shylmagoghnar’s music actually is.
The title track consists of tremolo-picked black metal riffs, quickly followed by some incredibly catchy drumming and melodic bass and guitar exchanges. Vocals throughout the record take more death metal tone with a lot of black metal influence. Songs like “Edin in Ashes,” “Eternal Forest,” “The Cosmic Tide,” and “A New Dawn” contain riffs which will be in your head long after they are gone, as well as excellent soloing by Nimblkorg. The way everything comes together in the songs, intertwining and re-arranging to create a climax toward the end of the song which simply cuts your head off. There are also some rests here and there. “This World Shall Fall” is slow-paced piece that bring things back down to earth with the larger presence of synths and keyboards, and “Squandered Paradise” is crushing slow-burner.
The synth work, guitars and vocals are all phenomenal on this album, as they are filled with countless catchy melodies and great harmonizing. Another notable thing about Emergence is that the rhythm section is really brought out. This is far different from some original black metal artists. I believe it was Fenriz from Darkthrone who said that black metal is heavily centered around guitar riffs and that drums were “only supposed to be there”. Shylmagoghnar apparently didn’t listen to that at all, as there is an abundance of varied drum beats and groove styles. There are many instances throughout where the drumming will make your head bob up and down even. While this may seem to go against what black metal is all about, it certainly works. It’s cool how these guys can incorporate multiple styles and influences, yet still going back to their roots. The bass playing is also to be commended, as it is brought out in many occasions. The bass is always thick in the mix like in songs such as “Squandered Paradise.” It adds additional harmonies to the guitar work which creates an even larger sound. It’s something that I think tons of bands should try and do these days, as the bass is usually brought back way too far in the mix.
To bring things to a close, this album is something that any extreme metal fan should invest in. Nimblkorg and Skirge bring the black metal world a great balance of melodic guitar work of newer BM bands, yet still staying true to the genre’s original roots. The rhythm section is phenomenal, always coming up with creative stuff that greatly adds something to the sound — something that most black metal bands rarely do.
Emergence is available from Shylmagoghnar’s Bandcamp profile as digital download, and double black vinyl housed in a gatefold sleeve available exclusively through Napalm Records’ online store. The album artwork was designer by Minghao Xu. Photos of the vinyl edition of the album can be seen below.