This week the unusually named Shylmagoghnar are featured in Meet The Band. The Dutch atmospheric black/melodic death duo just released their second album Transience. Guitarist/bassist/drummer/keyboardist Nimblkorg and vocalist/keyboardist Skirge introduce us to their band.
Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of Shylmagoghnar, including the inspiration behind the band name.
Nimblkorg: The two of us met in early high school and became instant friends. We both were very fascinated with music to a degree that we knew we wanted to create something ourselves at some point. We didn’t play any instruments back then, but that would come soon after. Back then Skirge was already writing lyrics, and I picked up the electric guitar a little bit later. We started practicing and jamming together a lot, and there were also some early demos which would become the groundwork of Shylmagoghnar. It would still take years for us to develop the style and become adept enough at production and writing to create something we were happy with, but that early spirit and eagerness is still very much alive today!
The band name is a collection of syllables which have personal meaning to us. We tried some existing words before that, but none of them felt personal, bizarre and unique enough that we really connected to them. We wanted something which sounds weird enough that it encourages the imagination, and also something that describes abstractly what the music feels like to us. So we ended up choosing Shyl, Nar, Ma and Gogh, and after some puzzling, the one that resonated with us was Shylmagoghnar.
Describe the songwriting and recording process for Transience.
Nimblkorg: Most of our songs start from a basic melody which we’ve either heard in our minds while thinking about one of the themes related to the album, or in dreams. Our debut Emergence took nearly a decade to create, so in that time we had tried different song writing techniques for different songs. At first we would just jam a lot and lyrics/riffs/melodies were a result of that, but later on we started to become more structural. Writing out songs in sheet music and creating lyrics to that before recording them works better for us, because we enjoy a story-based approach to our music.
Many songs have “chapters,” so by working these out on paper before recording, we allow ourselves to fine-tune the details and give the song a more coherent structure. On the debut, only a couple of later songs (like “I Am the Abyss” and “A New Dawn”) were written this way, but for Transience it was done so from the ground up. Based on those preparations, the recording/mix were then once again fully done in our own home studio. We enjoy handling every step of the production ourselves, as it gives us maximum creative control over the final outcome. This project is very personal to us.
How would you characterize the album’s style/sound?
Nimblkorg: It is intended to be a spiritual successor to Emergence, where similar atmospheric black/melodic death-based elements are used to create a strong mood and tell a story. The themes are different than the previous album though, so we have adapted the music to that. We hope it will make for an intense inward journey.
How has it progressed from your 2014 debut?
Nimblkorg: We have mainly built upon the foundations created with that album. The theme for the new album is more philosophical and introverted in nature though, and we think that is reflected in the music. It’s hard to describe, but we think Transience sounds like it takes place on a larger scale. It feels a bit more “open” to us than Emergence and the lyrics are far more abstract. We are very much looking forward to hearing what our listeners from the debut think about this.
What lyrical subjects do you cover?
Skirge: I was afraid this question might come! But in all seriousness, there are so many this question is impossibly hard to answer in full. I will try to at least cover some of the more important ones, so here goes: The human condition. Defeat and perseverance. Reality inside and outside and how they are connected. Hypothetical alternate realities (paths taken and more importantly, paths not taken). Regret. Stories unfinished and untold.The possibilities and limits of creativity and our imagination. Mortality, transience and meaning. Legacy.
I cover many different topics but the one returning thing must be the never-ending, intensive and often grueling cogwheels of the overactive mind. When you cannot stop those wheels even for a second, so many thoughts cross, even on a daily basis, that everything and their opposites can be true and false, sometimes even at the same time. It is not something I wish on anyone, but it can lead to a lot of inspiration and some beautiful experiences as well. That being said, I’d like to finish on a positive note and mention another returning lyrical subject, which is hope.
How did you come to sign with Napalm Records?
Skirge: They were a label we were already familiar with, because of bands like Summoning, Draconian, and (formerly) Falkenbach (which we enjoy). Because our band is in the position where we create everything ourselves from the ground up and due to personal circumstances aren’t able to play live, we would only be interested in a label that is established in taking care of the side of things that we don’t enjoy so much, while still giving us creative freedom and the time we need to create an album the way we envision it. Napalm Records’ past work radiated these principles to us, so when they contacted us in 2016 we were excited. After some conversation, we signed with them in 2017. Since then they have helped us re-release our debut on vinyl (a long-standing wish of ours) and they are now taking care of the promotion and distribution of our new album Transience.
How does that affect your goals and expectations for the album?
Skirge: We feel that expectations are dangerous, as the music industry is so impossible to predict. Our goal however is to create music which touches people on a personal level and encourages them to take a moment and reflect, so that it can either help them to fight through hard times in their lives, or give them the confidence to be the best they can be during the good times. With the label increasing our reach and availability, we hope this goal is more likely to be achieved.
You’ve been exclusively a studio band so far. Do you anticipate it remaining that way?
Nimblkorg: Yes, the project largely exists in its current form because I’m chronically ill. As a result, I have great trouble being in public/noisy spaces, so I spend most of my time locked away in my home. Practicing audio/music and writing for Shylmagoghnar is my way of giving my life meaning.
Who were your early influences and inspirations?
Nimblkorg: When I was a kid, some of the very earliest influences were Jean Michel Jarre and Smetana. Both of them felt very visual to me and I think it caused the realization in my mind that stories can be told through music. At first I was more interested in audio than music though. I hadn’t really found a genre I liked back then, but I did very much enjoy playing around with my dad’s tape recorder, vinyl player and radio and hearing the way stereo sounds would feel like they were flying across the room. He very much enjoyed those things himself, so I think some of that fascination rubbed off on me. Much later on I was introduced to rock and metal by friends. I think it all started when I heard Smash by The Offspring for the first time. I loved the way the distorted guitars sounded and knew right away that I wanted to play that instrument. From there on out, I got into bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden, etc (I’m sure you all know the list).
Skirge: I honestly don’t know when it comes to this project. Because when I look to what I really love in lyrics, I see sometimes bizarre and abstract but also sometimes deep stuff like Tom Waits. Or very simple but powerful stuff like old Metallica and Death, and my lyrics seem nothing like it. And while my voice sometimes gets compared to the likes of Jon Nordveidt and Shagrath on older Dimmu albums (not that I necessarily agree, though I’ll take that compliment any day – I love Dissection and Stormblåst/For All Tid) – I think we can doubtlessly agree my style of delivery and how it is incorporated into the music is very different. So what inspired me for this project exactly? It’s hard to tell. I could say that I tried to be genuine, but trying here implies crafting it to be so. I just did what I felt the music needed, or demanded, without trying to emulate something.
What was the first metal concert you attended?
Nimblkorg: I’m not quite sure anymore. I think it was one of the local rock/metal festivals like Pink Pop, Gras Pop, Dynamo, Fields of Rock. Those were the ones I visited most, as they usually had a pretty varied line-up.
Skirge: I don’t remember, probably something in a local venue where I grew up called the Oefenbunker, where a lot of local bands played and practiced.
Who are your all time top five Dutch metal bands?
Nimblkorg: to be honest with you I don’t know all that many Dutch metal bands which really struck a chord with me. So I’d like to take this opportunity to give a shout-out to our friends at Cirith Gorgor, Algos, I Forlorn.
Skirge: I hate to grade all the good stuff into top whatevers, so I’ll just call out a few random Dutch metal acts I enjoy or have enjoyed a lot in the past. Kjeld, Pestilence, Houwitser, Marcel Coenen’s instrumental songs and while not metal, no list of Dutch bands can ever be complete without mentioning Focus.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
Nimblkorg: Dim and Slimeridden Kingdoms by Slugdge. One of the best bands I’ve heard in recent years.
Skirge: Some of my favourites that you will definitely hear from time to time are Diabolical Masquerade (Anything of them, but Death’s Design may be my favorite) Slugdge, Bolzer, the soundtracks to the original Conan the Barbarian movie, and Fluisterwoud and lately, Apocalypse Orchestra. Also I simply must mention Bal-Sagoth; a band that seems to get a lot of flack for some reason or another. While a bit hit or miss, I think they make some marvelous stuff, and when they are being “cheesy,” as is often the accusation, it is the good kind of cheese.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
We’d like to thank you for having this interview with us! We hope you and the readers enjoy the answers. Kindest greetings to you all. Our new album Transience is out now, so we hope you will check it out!
(interview published June 30, 2018)
Very creative and original music. Great melody and instrumental skills.