SYLVAINE — Wistful (review)

SYLVAINE — Wistful album cover Album · 2016 · Atmospheric Black Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
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Coming out of Norway and onto the still relatively recent subset scene of atmospheric black metal, blackgaze, is female artist Sylvaine. The young lady in question isn't new to the music business having already made her debut with Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart (2014), but Wistful (2016) is her first real foray into the metal genre. Aside from the drums which are handled on a session basis by Neige of Alcest, Sylvaine handles everything on the album.

While Sylvaine has certainly gone metal with Wistful, it's not a full conversion of sound as a good chunk of this album is actually made up of clean guitar work, something that is often returned to even during the most black metal styled tracks like Earthbound. A common thing in blackgaze (or modern atmospheric black metal in general), the majority of the vocals are also sung cleanly in Sylvaine's ethereal style, though there are instances where she trades it in for a harsh shriek, Earthbound again being an example of this along with In the Wake of Moments Passed By. Both vocal styles are well done. Calling Wistful both a blackgaze record and a post-rock record would not be wrong to my ears. It does still lean slightly towards the latter though.

The thing with this record is that it only takes the first two tracks, Delusions and Earthbound, to have heard every aspect of Wistful's sound. Delusions is the longest track and features an alternating post-rock sound with a light layer of blackgaze guitar over certain passages and only clean vocals, whereas Earthbound is more full-out blackgaze and only growled vocals (backing aside). Afterwards you can expect to hear variances on those ideas with lighter, even more pure post-rock tracks such as the Wistful title track. It's safe to say that if you're not sold on the album the first two then it won't be for you.

Personally though I find myself somewhat enchanted by what Sylvaine has created. It's just about metal enough to sate that appetite with some really soothing melodies and vocals that I just can't help be won over by, such as those in A Ghost Trapped in Limbo. The songs do tend towards a longer mark though, all being over five minutes and averaging over seven and I do feel like there are times when some tracks outstay their welcome somewhat, especially the post-rock dominant tracks. The album has a total time of 52:45 and that feels about ten minutes too long for the style of music on offer. From the metal perspective it could probably also do with a few more blackgaze passages to feel just that bit more balanced.

Wistful is a good effort from Sylvaine, but it's the kind of album that, while I do enjoy it, I also know isn't going to be a release I'll be turning to very often. Taking several listens to it hasn't allowed the music to open up to me any more than it did initially. It's nice. It's pretty. But is black metal really meant to be either of those things? I'm open-minded enough to accept this for what it is, but at the end of the day I'm not actually sure just what kind of metalhead this is supposed to actually appeal to.
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