Sylvaine’s haunting, ethereal approach to darkness impacts the senses on dreamy ‘Wistful’

sylvaineI was at a show not long ago, and one particular band on the lineup, who admittedly seemed a little out of place, were not exactly embraced by the dude bros in attendance. From the meatheads there to see the headliners to the older heshers who only know one speed, there was a weird outpouring of scorn for a band that very well might have been the heaviest on the bill.

It probably won’t take you very long to figure out what band I’m talking about, but it seemed that their image, combined with the fact their songs have delicate, quiet moments, appear to be the source for the backlash. It was stupid. As metal has grown more than four decades old now, each end of the spectrum has stretched. There are bands getting as heavy and extreme as anyone else out there right now, but on the other side, the delicacy and beauty this genre can produce also has grown. There’s room enough for both, even within one’s own record collection, and the light very often does a fine job balancing the dark so there’s not oversaturation. That’s where an artist such as Sylvaine comes in, mixing plenty of beauty into a cauldron that still contains as good bit of lava.

Sylvaine coverSylvaine, the project led by the vocalist/multi-instrumentalist of the same name, has returned with a second record “Wistful” that will add another solid entry into the bulging corner of post-metal, metalgaze, or whatever you want to call it. Most of her singing on the record is clean and lovely, but she also has a gravelly low end hiss as well, adding the proper amount of morbidity to the heavier stuff on this seven-track record. Along with her are guest musicians Stephen Shepard (drums), Coralie Louarnika (violins and violas), Thibault Guichard (cello), and some guy named Stéphane “Neige” Paut (drums) who practically invented this sound with Alcest, Amesoeurs, etc. It’s a really wondrous record, and it’s hitting all the right buttons with spring coming into full bloom here in America.

The record begins with 10:27 “Delusions” that begins with delicate singing over a quiet hum before guitars join the mix. The song floats in echoes before the power sets in, and great vocal melodies are unleashed. Gazey fire rains down, while dreary, foggy playing arrives, the song hits a crescendo, and the track trickles away. “Earthbound” is uptempo at the start, with the guitars charging and Sylvaine unleashing crushing shrieks. There are clean calls behind the madness, while things head into spacious territory, but then the tumult returns and begins to wrench. The vocals sound like tortured wails, while other textures are added to provide surprising shades to the darkness. “A Ghost Trapped in Limbo” heads back toward moody and even gothy terrain. Sylvaine’s singing drizzles, while the music makes it feel like you’re sitting during a foggy summer afternoon. The feeling is cold and drab, with the song fading into the mist. “Saudade” bubbles up, with solemn guitars reaching in and the singing conjuring personal darkness, as the melody snakes through and into the void.

“In the Wake of Moments Passed By” has proggy bass in its front end and punchy vocals that pierce the skin. Sylvaine’s growls are vicious and scathing, with the track rambling hard, and the storm taking a brief pause to let lighter rains fall down. There is a long, damp stretch that lets the clouds accumulate overhead before the guitars light up and burn, the growls sound feral, and the emotional high dissolves into a frosty gaze. “Like a Moth to a Flame” is, fittingly, quite wistful when it begins, with softer vocals spread over a slower song, and the pace taking its time to reach a middle point. From there, the song’s original melody returns as the piece sprawls and smears to an end. The closing title cut has guitars dripping in and the vocals floating over top like a spirit. The track is haunting and gets into your bloodstream, almost as if a group of souls are passing through and freezing your blood along the way. The strings hover, the woodsy ambiance arrests the senses, and the track fades into nothingness.

Embracing our more vulnerable sides is an honorable thing, proof we’re not just hiding behind bravado by proclaiming things must be all heavy, all the time. Sylvaine now have two worthy entries into the metal world that might bring a hushed tone to the chaos but still feel powerful as hell. Her might and passion are undeniable on “Wistful,” which helps her register heaviness in a totally different manner.

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One thought on “Sylvaine’s haunting, ethereal approach to darkness impacts the senses on dreamy ‘Wistful’

  1. Pingback: “Wistful” in the Press | Sylvaine

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