With a beauty and mesmerising ambience that is as distinct as the lands and force that inspired it, the debut album from Syven is an impressive and wonderful piece of work. “Aikaintaite” unveils and brings forth old stark wastelands and the wonder and power of nature, in a truly effective and impacting manner. It also stretches things too far, to make listening evolve from hypnotic joy and impressed awe into a lost focus looking for eager distractions.
From Finland Syven is an ambient metal collaboration between multi-instrumentalist Aslak Tolonen (Nest) and vocalist Andy Koski-Semmens (Ereipia). Their aim is to create dark, heavy, primordial and even shamanistic music, which they are very successful in doing, with music that transcends metal to find a place within numerous instinctive and emotional spheres. Using traditional self-made instruments such as 15 stringed acoustic, 12 stringed electric kanteles, and Lapland drums Tolonen has conjured soundscapes that drip with atmosphere to envelop and transport the stunning baritone might of Koski-Semmens.
From chanting to shamanistic ritual Koski-Semmens‘ vocals bring a depth and intensity to punch through the synth beauty whilst holding hands with the primal rhythms. The effect is stunning and it is impossible to not be swept into the album’s icy walls and solemn proud landscape. It is also very hard not to be slip out from it either, not due to the quality or sound but due to the imposing length the often repetitive flow takes one to. With two of the five tracks touching 20 minutes and a third exceeding 12 minutes, the pieces turn into background ambience eventually. It is sad as the music and creativity on show is impressive but the test on ones staying power often proves too much on certain songs and on the album as a whole.
‘Syvyys’ opens the release and is easily the most accessible and pleasing track. It is not the most creative track but for effect and impact it is immense and a fine start to the album. As with most pieces it blends sounds of the natural world into its body starting with forest calls as a tribal rhythm slowly dawns the songs arrival. Koski-Semmens’ deep resonating voice adds to the impending feel as images of tribal grounds and forest shadows come to mind. The track is relatively simple but easily the one that lingers, its emotive chants and heartfelt beats emerging without warning hours after.
The album title “Aikaintaite” is Finnish for, in rough translation, “the passing of time” and that feeling is apparent in further tracks starting with ‘Jaljet’. The song is an epic in all aspects. With guitars as creative as the weight of the dark vocals, the song moves through variants of metal and tone, its folk flight heavy with black riffs and ominous vocals veined by steely melodies. As it progresses and slowly moves down arresting avenues and directions the duo’s imagination is clear and strong unlike their restraint on the clock. It is a shame but even by the tenth minute one is wondering what the next track will offer rather than concentrating on what is currently tantalising the ear and by the thirteenth minute the urge to move on is an unbearable itch.
The same applies with the following track and again it is a massive journey for the emotions and attention. ‘Ne Jotka Selviävät Talvestamme’ is a wonderful piece of thought and craft, its funereal grace, captivating upon the senses. This is probably the finest example of the bands composing on show but again it is negated by its length sadly. It is a track one can dip into wonderfully and that is maybe the album’s strength, being something to pluck moments from as you find peace in the day.
The remaining two songs effectively continue the magic and beauty but by now the album has worn a little thin on the ear. Now do not mistake this for a negative on the quality of the release, it is amazing and deserves full credit and praise. It is just too much in one go and gives the fear it will put many off in this quick pace life we lead before they give it a chance. “Aikaintaite” is a triumph but one that is losing track of time…