It’s time to dive into the dark depths of Nova, the fourth album by French/Norwegian one woman act Sylvaine.
Long story short: Nova might very well be Sylvaine’s best album yet. That’s your review right there, hope you liked it. We could dive deeper into what makes Nova such a strong album but at the end of the day this is essentially all you need to know. If we’d give scores to albums there’d probably be a 9 out of 10 at the end of the page, four stars out of five or seven novas out of a maximum of eight. That’s where you’d look first to know whether or not it’s even worth it reading this review. But since we’re not a paper magazine with umpteen reviews a day and a 122 word limit, let’s dig in properly instead.
Nova starts out pleasantly enough with the title track, a lyricless a capella piece where Kathrine Shepard, the Norwegian multi-instrumentalist behind the Sylvaine pseudonym showcases the angelic qualities of her voice. The layered, almost angelic chants are a big part of Sylvaine’s sound, but never have they been more front and centre than here. As you are slowly being whisked away on a wave of heavenly choirs, however, the first big showpiece of the album kicks in. Wherever you’ve just been hovering with your eyes closed, Mono no aware violently wakes you up from the start with a wall of distorted guitars, drums and black metal screams. The tonal switch is startling as well as it is audacious and if you don’t already know Sylvaine’s music it will probably catch you completely off guard. It’s like being cast from an ethereal Enya track and thrown straight into the fiery depths of hell, and it’s wonderful.
Clocking in at almost ten minutes, Mono no aware, which in Japanese means “the pathos of things,” is one of two long epics on Nova and it is an adventure from start to finish, the other being the wickedly brilliant Fortapt. Seamlessly and continuously changing from viking chant to black metal, the song will keep you enthralled for the entirety of its twelve minute runtime. It is big and bold, with Shepard effortlessly alternating between an array of clean vocal styles and black metal screeches, making for an equally mesmerising and haunting experience. The other, shorter tracks are no slouches either. Nowhere, Still Somewhere hypnotically plods onwards whilst I Close My Eyes so I Can See has a terrific main riff and is probably the most accessible song on Nova. Everything Must Come to an End sounds like a brooding, more metallic take on a Clannad song rounding things up very nicely indeed.
Nova is a riveting journey through the world of dreampop and blackgaze, ultimately resulting in an album that proudly defies such simple categorisation. It’s a forty-five minute record that flies by and will have you reaching for the repeat button before the closing track has ended and it’s a definite highlight in the musical year that is 2022. Expect to see this one spearheading quite some lists when December rolls around.
Label: Season of Mist, 2022
Buy it here: https://sylvainemusic.bandcamp.com/album/nova
- Nova (4:37)
- Mono No Aware (9:44)
- Nowhere, Still Somewhere (4:35)
- Fortapt (11:56)
- I Close My Eyes so I Can See (5:15)
- Everything Must Come to an End (7:49)
- Sylvaine – vocals/guitars/bass/synths/arrangements
- Dorian Mansiaux – drums
Review by Ralph Plug