Sylvatica
Cadaver Synod LP

This long fairly long-running Norwegian black metal band is new to me, but when I saw references to the likes of early Arcturus and Borknagar in the promotional blurb that came with it, I had to check it out. And Ye gads the blurb was correct!

And indeed, eccentric symphonic black metal with a quirky but addictively catchy 70s vibe to many of the keyboards is what Sylvatica ply, and ply very, very well, imbuing Arcturus’s quirky second album, La Lasquerade Infernale and svelte third album The Sham Mirrors as well as Borknagar’s The Archaic Course , Quintessence and such.

The synths are the highlight here, along with smooth songwriting that balances more progressive, avant-garde, symphonic black metal from the 90s heyday. There’s a nice mish-mash of styles battling in all the songs as well, with an almost theatrical circus-y, playful vibe here and there (with ‘character’-ish voices to boot) to almost Viking beer hall joviality.

Bouncy opener “Strife” starts the proceedings with a bang, with haughty 70s moog-ish styled synths, that you might hear on an Amorphis record. The next track, “Papa Poltergeist” is one of the tracks that really steps into more trippy, avant-garde realms with a plethora of styles and vocal deliveries, but it’s fun as heck, though it might be a little much for some.

“Titivilius” really leans hard into the circus, haunted house atmospheres, but has a wondrous little pre-chorus keyboard bridge. But those ghostly, cartoony shrieks might be a little over the top for some listeners, that want their symphonic black metal a little more stern or frosty.

For those folks “Pope Innocent VIII”, will be a little easier to swallow with a mid-paced, more traditional gait, riffs, vocals, and epic synths, that imbues early Arcturus or Dimmu Borgir with some nice choirs and killer bouncy little piano bridge about 3 minutes in. Then personal favorite “Song of the Leper” really shifts the mood with a somber, catchy, almost balladic tone that is simply killer, except for those cartoon vocals again. There is also a lovely acoustic reprise to end the album.

“Scapegoat” switches again, to a big, brash, 70s prog rock mood again, while another standout, “In the Eyes of God” is more traditional 90s melodic/ symphonic black metal (I’m hearing some Children of Bodom), showing what a real chameleon Sylvatica can be.

If you can get past some of the more over-the-top theatrical elements, Cadaver Synod is an exquisite, layered listen, that does a lot right and certainly has some tangible influences it pulls from, but puts a creative spin on things, that symphonic black metal needs now and then.

The only downside to this killer record, and just a personal thing, is that the album is only available on digital or LP- no CD option. C’mon man. Now I have to buy TWO 2 friggin’LPs this year (this and ExulansisHymns of Solace).

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
October 24th, 2023

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