Sylvan Awe-Pilgrimage. FFO: the best modern Black Metal album in the last 20 years.


Sylvan Awe-Pilgrimage. FFO: the best modern Black Metal album in the last 20 years.

Sylvan Awe-Pilgrimage. Yes, just in time for Xmas is this gem of a modern black metal classic. This third release, I described to my friends as the best Australian black metal album ever and one of the finest black metal albums I can recall from the last 20 years. 

Pilgrimage is that red hot on every front-musically, production, lyrics, and artwork every single facet is well thought out and the final product is staggering. Plus free of all silly face paint, and crypto-nazi bullshit and it proudly presents astonishing music that will floor you on every track. Pilgrims of the Sea starts out atmospheric, and moody and takes you into the gentle winds before giving you both barrels of the black metal cannon. Sylvan Awe excels in merging traditional black metal such as Bathory, Gorgoroth, Dissection and Emperor with much more modern flavours like Saor, Mgla, Wolves in the Throne Room and Blut aus Nord etc. But as well as combining many eras or waves of black metal, they merge this with their own unique take on the genre coupled with a sense of atmosphere and build the tension in a focused manner. 

I will leave the second track for now, as that is my highlight of this release. The third track, Solus, Total Death starts off with some classical guitar magic that was beautifully reminiscent of early classic Metallica i.e. Fade to Black etc. This band is not afraid of adding varied techniques, styles and clashing colours to this release. At 1:35 min, Stuart's vocals slice your carotid with vigour, combined with sheer nihilistic aggression, tremolo ecstatic riffs and bombastic drums. This track even adds super heavy metal like solos and cheesy riff wars that work so well. Again this clever incorporation of so many elements is the opposite of overkill, it just works so perfectly in its morbidly dynamic thesis. Alleviate continues with the thick, melodic semi-early Venom, Bathory and melodeath adventures of the instrumental kind and this is a sensationally epic track that will get as much replay as the tracks with vocals-it's also got that classical vibe to it that is both innovative and masterful. Fossil is easily the most replayed track with its raw, dirge-like assertive and forceful war dance that reminds me of both classic Mayhem/Darkthrone and another joy for all the Sylan Awe releases is intelligent lyrics, but even more so the vocal attenuation and placement is so spot on. Indeed this is as important as the astonishing music we are privileged to listen to. The most pleasing and surprising part of this song is the addition of the quite shoegazey and very Smashing Pumpkins-like guitarwork that blew me away, how could this work in a black metal-style song? but it does incredibly so. Listen and be prepared to be flabbergasted at the magnificence of this concept-so amazing. 

Before I touch on the closing track, let's examine the showpiece of this dazzling album, the 14-minute gem that is The Wolves of Wilful Isolation, a startling monument to how glorious extreme music should and can be. First, we have a quite twee, almost folk-like beginning with superb playing and such a clever build-up to this generation's Rime Of the Ancient Mariner. Then we have brooding synths and acidic rifffs to draw you in even more, oh there is so much more to show you as one famous horror movie claimed. And lyrically this is a staggering beast of personal reflection and inspiration, check this:

Disgust in the norms of expectation, to deny without reason and seek oneness with thyself, my howl; unheard, we are the wolves of wilful isolation Denounce the social dance of falsity, insincerity to console a rehearsed recital of select decencies, a sway of language, social for-play of loathing

Breathtaking on every level this track-not one second is wasted on useless shit, all of this is deep and mind-blowing work. Halfway through the track, it sonically changes its approach with a solo that would sit well on any classic melodic death metal album and a biting vocal performance of spine-chilling adoration. This song has the core characteristics of what many modern black metal acts use but not necessarily so well, one example is Behemoth who can still do great live shows, but their recent releases are completely dull. Given their superior songwriting flair, Sylvan Awe steers clear of the bloated factor and can sustain deep interest. Eternal Inferno closes out the record exceptionally and crisply with wild dissonance, pure primitive rhythms and top-notch shrieking. This track pounds your head until all your teeth fall out and it certainly harks back to very early black metal, minus the shite production. And that energetic production/mastering shines through on every track, it is so aggressive and potent combined with the skills of the band members this makes for a masterpiece of a release. Thrilling, raging and grim, but so zestful in the nastiest possible way-as I suggested easily my fave black metal album of the last 20 years, no fucking doubt. And easily in my top five albums of the year, obviously!. Now I want to see the whole album live, ASAP!. 

Out now and you need this, forget the pseudo black metal, this is the real deal.

(also check out all the previous albums as well as Stuart's incredible Industrial band: Brace)

Get antisocial: