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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Syven - Aikaintaite (2011)

Band: Syven
Country: Finland
Style: Neo-Folk/Funeral Doom
Label: Vendlus

Something I don't talk about, and have not discussed in the past, is my view of spirituality. Now, I do believe that maintaining a spiritual presence in music is something that can work if it's done well, though it's usually more likely to stir a debate rather than influence the music of a record in any way. But this record from Syven definitely appears to be channeling something unique and spiritual that other records haven't and is really causing a stir among people who have heard it.
This is probably the first time I've ever come across a record quite like this one and it's led me to a reaction that I can't remember having towards any other album, ever. I have a big interest in shamanism, stemming back from several years ago where I was even more nerdy and was a big fan of a television series called Shaman King, but that's neither here nor there, but while I have found records in the past that I would definitely call ritualistic in their sound and performance on a record, this is the first record that I can remember hearing to make me think of shamanism in any way. I wouldn't call shamanism an idea that wouldn't be out of place in certain metal records, and certainly within the folk and ambient genres I could picture more bands trying to channel that sort of connection, but this is a record that really, and for once, manages to connect the ritualistic sound with ideas that not only paint pictures in a listener's head, but also channel something otherworldly, mystical, and spiritual as well. There's an ambiance that is uniquely cold and desolate throughout the record that serves as a backdrop to the ritualistic instrumentation and, if I may say so, shamanistic vocalizations that bring to mind a cold night in the woods, far away from civilization where you can be completely consumed the forest around you. Every movement touches upon beauty, fragility, harshness, and calmness in a way I have not heard before.
Sonically, this is a record that essentially combines two fundamental ideas together, traditional Finnish folk music, near neo-folk almost, and funeral doom metal. It's not a record that relies very heavily on sudden shifts and changes, but rather heavy repetition and simplicity, to a fault some might say. Personally, I found the repetition to suit the record very, very well and only served to draw me into the music even further. It also happens to work more for me because most of the tracks are quite lengthy, with three of the five topping ten minutes, they are songs that pull you in slowly and just sort of put you into a center and engulf you in soundscapes that, like I said above, demonstrate everything from sheer beauty to absolute brutality. Now, I have to be fair and say that while I don't think there's a wrong foot on here, I do believe that this record could have maybe shaved off a good five or so minutes, at most, from some of the longer songs which reach towards twenty minutes. Being hypnotizing is fine, but I have to say that there were a couple of moments on here where I kind of felt like an idea was just going on for a little too long. But to touch on another positive for me, I thought that mixing the doom riffs with hand percussion was just fantastic and worked so much better than I would have thought they would have.
As a piece of music, I find it hard to find any real flaws with the album aside from its length in a couple of spots. It's an otherworldly meditation on humanity, nature, spirituality, and mysticism all projected through this piece of funeral folk in a way that is both unique and inspiring. Praise has been sung for this release for the last couple of months now, so this review won't come as anything new at this point, but if you haven't checked this record out already, I highly recommend you do, it's rare to find a piece of music that can both touch you spiritually as much as emotionally as this one does.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Track Is A Highlight

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