Review Summary: Wonderful deceit.
Holland’s most entertaining band name to pronounce is back in full force. Shylmagoghnar, the multifaceted group in question, made quite the first impression in 2014 with their debut. Not only was Emergence
an impressive and staggering piece of work, but the gentlemen behind it still respond to comments on the album’s YouTube page. This has naturally facilitated a strong relationship with the fanbase, which is all but certain to grow and flourish for as long as the band remain committed. And judging by the results found on the ironically titled Transience
, commitment will be the least of anyone’s concern; Transience
is grand, sprawling and packed to the brim with substance--so much so that it can quickly feel daunting due to the sheer volume of it all.
By volume, I don’t mean how loud or sonically explosive the album is, but rather the very concept of listening to it from start to finish. At 72 minutes, Transience
basically looks at its already boastful predecessor and sardonically asks, “what are you, a prelude?” While we’re on the topic of volume, one thing Transience
doesn’t aspire to is the aforementioned “loudness” that Emergence
carried in high supply. There’s a slight yet distinct dialing back of Emergence
’s consistent ferocity, exchanged for an even more contemplative direction. Guitars are less pronounced than before, scaled down so other parts of the music (like the vocals) can come out just a bit more. It’s like turning on a TV for the first time, changing the picture mode from its default “Vivid” setting to one of the more neutral settings and making some adjustments from there. Things don’t pop nearly as much, but you’ll be able to pick out more subtleties than before. Furthermore, other than the escalation found in “The Dawn of Motion,” (just one of the instrumental tracks), the album is reluctant to make an overt spectacle, and even then, one would be hard-pressed to call it a one-and-done moment. To be clear, this is ultimately a marginal shift, but a palpable one, especially considering the listening experience Shylmagoghnar wish to foster.
Let’s take a moment to discuss the album’s length a bit further, since pacing should be of utmost importance with an album of this scale. This is an area that Transience
does stumble about in spots, namely its middle act. Curiously, the shorter tracks tend to slow the album down more than those that crack the double-digit mark. The title track dramatically opens the flood gates up while its most immediate successors cause the tide to recede into a choppy pattern, all before “No Child of Man Could Follow” beckons the turbulent weather return, making its presence abundantly clear, even after it’s truly passed. Simply put, Shylmagoghnar are most within their element when going big, which is the ultimate impression they leave you with. The final three tracks stack up as a 35-minute collection that will leave even the most voracious metalheads fuller than an American on Thanksgiving. It is undoubtedly the album’s defining stretch, and will also be the main reason people return, hoping to dig just a bit further with every listen. “Journey Through the Fog,” for instance, comes in with a gloriously ominous intro that lowers our guard just enough to make the ensuing torrent of riffs and growls something we can fully embrace. Yet this is also balanced with a choice collection of melodies and transitions that naturally slow things down at just the right moment, pulling us in even further with atmosphere matched only by tact.
By the time Transience
thrusts its final song on us, it’s easy to feel completely overtaken. For the first one, two and even dozen listens, it can feel preposterously overindulgent. And yet, there’s an appealing, ever-growing strength to what we’re being subjected to, sparking the desire to delve back in just one more time. Eventually, that which previously overwhelmed begins to feel natural, resulting in that rare sensation where you don’t want to listen to the album as if it was your first go, because to do so would leave you deaf to the finer details that only become clear with time and exposure. It’s what makes the 13-minute instrumental behemoth that is “Life” become a track of wonder and longed-for familiarity, rather than the untamed beast it initially comes off as. This is the ultimate experience Shylmagoghnar offer to their most dedicated listeners, one that rewards patience with overflowing pleasure.