Sylvaine
Nova


3.9
excellent

Review

by Dewinged STAFF
March 9th, 2022 | 58 replies


Release Date: 03/04/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Blackgaze's prodigal daughter is here to offer you an accord. Do not decline her offer.

Do whatever it takes to distant yourself from the harsh reality of the world we live in. These two years have been especially unforgiving. First, a global pandemic, now the shadow of world war 3, and who knows what's yet to come in the second half of this decade. At this rate, I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss fears of an alien invasion. But seriously, it's of the essence that you put your mind in a better place if you have the chance to do so, some, unfortunately, don’t have that luxury nowadays. Look at Katherine Shepherd, who has spent four full album cycles pretending she is a naiad hatched from an elf's egg. Is that relevant to this review? Absolutely not. Do I intend to steal a light laugh out of such moronic thought? Absolutely yes. Welcome to the safest place of a sane mind: music, and in extension, to Blackgaze's prodigal daughter Sylvaine's fourth album conundrum.

And I say conundrum because with four records on your back it feels quite superfluous to talk about potential, and I rather be talking about results here, but as Nova unfolds itself with a magnificent choral of celestial voices as naked as our very own Sylvaine is in the cover of the album, I can't seem to shake off the ominous feel that what is about to be unleashed is going to be an echo of things past, as beautiful as they were, and as old as they have aged. Surely, "Mono No Aware" (from the Japanese descriptor of the ephemeral nature of things), doesn't attempt to hide what's been arguably blighting Sylvaine's music since the release of Wistful in 2016: her undeniable and incommensurable worshipping love of Alcest. It's not like Shepherd has ever denied the French’s influence in her craft either, in fact, she even invited the man, Neige, to play on Wistful, an invitation he honored on the drum stool, banging the kit as hard and fast as he could, and furthermore, this very album has been recorded on French soil. But contrary to what the audience has ever thought, it was Shepard herself who recorded everything else on that record, and it has been that way in every album she has released after (namely Atoms Aligned... and this one).

Part of me, the most egoistical, eccentrically and despotically critical part of me, wishes or even commands that the Norwegian songstress at this point would have made something different with Nova. Sylvaine's last album is not exactly "an evolution" of anything, but the recreation and even improvement of the same formula that has earned her the "Alcest's sister band" honorific title. In a way, this is disappointing, because I keep thinking of what could have been, and only at times I found myself lost in a dazed enjoyment of her night wraith screams lashing out against the cascade of guitar melodies and roaring blast beats. It’s that time when I think to myself: "what if it has to be this way?".

What if Sylvaine was always meant to be stylistically married to the works of Neige and Alcest, pushing the boundaries of the duality of Alcest's music, while offering a different but familiar view of soundscapes fans of Alcest have already explored, but that are now presented to them under a different light and voice? I was asking you at the beginning of this rambling to shelter yourself from the horrors of the world and I wasn't half joking. Sylvaine's music is highly evocative, nostalgic even, a gateway into a world of nymphs, ghosts and empyreal remnants from beyond the veil. In spite of its ambitious length, "Mono No Aware" manages to cradle you for nine minutes effortlessly, transitioning into the hazing gaze of "Nowhere, Still Somewhere" almost seamlessly, like an opulent dream, and that’s not a feat a mere copycat can get away with.

Sylvaine’s enthralling power is hard to fight off. Even if the second half of Nova presents its own series of challenges, as it's not easy to keep a spell of this proportion working for this long unless the bewitched is submitting willingly to it, Shepherd shows she’s not new into these waters anymore. "Fortapt" is a long shot, literally. Twelve minutes that show the best of Sylvaine while also letting the fragile needlework that keeps together her ethereal mantle surface. She somehow acknowledges this, placing the colossal track in the middle, and closing her last array of tunes with two shorter and effective cuts, "I Close My Eyes So I Can See", a song that combines the most melodic side of her debut, Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart, with the larger scale of her latest albums. It's a song with a clear structure, and it's sure to leave an early mark on your first pass through Nova. Closing the album is "Everything Must Come to an End", which is as sinister as a title can get with the kind of storm that’s raging outside, but its content contrasts with this feel, featuring Shepherd voice only accompanied by the crystalline tone of her guitar and some other tranquil sounds reverberating in the deep corners of the song.

Owners of special editions and whatnots will be also rewarded with an extra dose of Alcestian stupor in the form of bonus track "Dissolution", which could have been very well included in the middle of the album and it wouldn't have felt out of place. Whether you end your journey through Sylvaine's latest with the vanishing strings of "Everything Must Come to an End" or with the fairy chanting of "Dissolution", the feeling of having withdrawn from this world even if for just a few moments will be difficult to ignore. Nova is a delightful sonic voyage through the heart and soul of Katherine Shepherd, a rewarding and fulfilling extension of everything she has ever done. Do not confuse stagnation with awareness here, a common error we are all capable of. While myriad of artists spend their whole career looking for a creative promise land that may or may not exist, Sylvaine can already say she has found her own, and you're welcome in anytime you want, far from the horrors of this dark, dark, world.




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user ratings (87)
3.7
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The balance of dreamy and abrasive...



Comments:Add a Comment 
Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
March 9th 2022


28237 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

Needed some time to chew, digest and order my feels and thoughts about this one and I am mildly happy with my conclusions, but always open to discussion.



"Nowhere, Still Somewhere"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAj5IS_wrtU&ab_channel=SeasonofMist



Album's on good ol' Bandcamp, so go get it before Epic games makes you unlock it in Fortnite through microtransactions.

Digging: Ataraxy - The Last Mirror

JesperL
Staff Reviewer
March 9th 2022


4504 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

hell yeah luv the album luv the review luv the rec sec

edit: implementy

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
March 9th 2022


17239 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

Oh lookie, I'm yet to sample this one. But it's on that list that's steadily getting away from me.

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
March 9th 2022


28237 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

Damn Jesper, first you help me discover great music and now you fix my reviews, is there no end to your cruelty!?





























(Tx my dear, will implement)

teamster
March 9th 2022


5941 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Band has always been and always will be an Alcest clone…and that’s not a bad thing. Excellent review Dewi and thanks.

Pikazilla
March 9th 2022


23144 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yes.

gravityswitch
March 9th 2022


1031 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Album makes me want to run naked in the woods.

SteakByrnes
March 9th 2022


27042 Comments


Can I listen to this while playing Elden Ring

Digging: Earthists. - Have A Good Cult

JesperL
Staff Reviewer
March 9th 2022


4504 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

ohhh so that's who i saw last night during my walk

PortalofPerfection
March 9th 2022


2709 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Awesome review. Awesome album. So pretty. So chill.

Digging: Swampborn - Beyond Ratio

tyman128
Contributing Reviewer
March 9th 2022


3433 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

love the review, freaking love this album

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
March 9th 2022


28237 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

"

Can I listen to this while playing Elden Ring"



Byrnes you know damn well that's what you should be doing instead of wasting your enormous potential on this god forsaken site.

WalrusTusk
March 9th 2022


1380 Comments


This sounds really interesting. Snow is coming down today so I'll give it a check.

Ashtiel
March 9th 2022


1367 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i forgot how fucking haunting and moving her harsh vox are

PortalofPerfection
March 9th 2022


2709 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I may be speaking without enough knowledge here but I feel like female metal vocalists have really come into their own over the past several years, in particular with harsh vox.



I mean, we've had the operatic stuff from Nightwish and Epic, and of course plenty of high-pitched power metal, but the girls are really going for it with the screams these days and I'm loving it.

SteakByrnes
March 9th 2022


27042 Comments


"Byrnes you know damn well that's what you should be doing instead of wasting your enormous potential on this god forsaken site."

lmao very true! Loving the game so far, it's hard to put it down

Purpl3Spartan
March 9th 2022


4027 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I need to buy that game so badly but I might just hold off till summer when I have time to play it

kevbogz
March 9th 2022


4683 Comments


very sexy dewby. album feels like it added all the things I wanted in Shelter when it was released. like u said, a recreation of some sorts, but this shit is like 8 years too late imo.

i'd even go as far as to say this is p darn boring outside of some few beautiful bits.

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
March 9th 2022


28237 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

I had that feeling on first listens Kev, but it grew on me. As outdated or blatantly similar to Alcest her music is, no one right now makes it as good as she does tbh.



@Ash @Portal agree, her screams has gotten so much better. I remember wishing she got rid of them by the time she released Wistful, but now I am glad she didn't

Muzz79
March 9th 2022


1799 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah it is blatant Dewinged and I'm having trouble getting past that atm. Nice review



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