Sylvaine is a doom metal outfit from Oslo, Norway with a sound that is focused heavily on atmospheric riffs. Their latest full-length record, Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone, is the third since 2014’s debut, Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart.
Throughout Atoms Aligned it’s clear that sweeping, transcendent vocals are the album’s most vital element and calling card. By and large, it’s the titular performer’s soaring, angelic performances that are the atmosphere behind atmospheric metal.
The instrumentals on Atoms Aligned are highly polished. The opening title track follows a conventional structure and features clean guitars and percussion. Sylvaine croons her soaring line through the end, and the same script follows, “Morklagt,” which continues into a sky-scraping crescendo after a demonic vocal counterpoint cuts in.
What about this exactly fits the “doom” description though? What exactly fits “metal”?
Much of the record comes across as shoegaze, or shoegaze light. After all, real metal riffs and construction would drown out the sublime singing. “Abeyance” offers a little darker instrumental riff on the opening, returning to the vocal counterpoint before shifting into a more urgent progression that finally breaks off into “Worlds Collide” and “Severance.”
Often throughout this record I’m at a loss for the core sound Sylvaine is going for. While the instrumentals tend toward heavy riffs, they’re hardly metal, and to call any of this doom is a stretch. It’s too optimistic. Defined as “atmospheric,” the album is neither a sallow, earthen reflection, nor is it lost in the cosmos. It’s again about the vocals, and that’s a lot of weight for those to carry. Really, what I’m left with is the feeling that someone fell in love with some adjectives and descriptors and assigned them to an album that wasn’t enough of any of them to satisfy.
Rarely does an album this accomplished bore me. After running through Atoms Aligned a few times, though, searching for the underlying “it factor” I can’t find the connection. This record is for someone. It’s too well constructed and the performances are far too good for it to be ignored. I’m left feeling like this record is trying to cover too many bases, though, resulting in a sound that is too much amounting to nothing.