Shylmagoghnar are a conundrum. The Metal Archives lists their genre as progressive/melodic death metal, but that is a misnomer. Those looking for prog will be disappointed; the only song that could reasonably masquerade as such is the opener, “I Am the Abyss”. The other genre tag is even more misleading – Emergence has almost none of the raw aggression or speed characteristic of any form of death metal. The production is clear as day, and keyboards provide soft atmospheric textures that swaddle the album in a decidedly not death metal glaze. Elements of black metal, such as the rasped vocals and wicked tremolo riffs in “Edin in Ashes” also permeate the album, but not enough to be considered defining characteristics. What is left, then, is an album that defies genre boundaries, not out of pretension or defiance but simply because two Dutch guys got together and wrote some metal on the instruments they knew how to play. And fortunately for us, they’ve written some remarkably tight songs.
So enough, then, about what the album isn’t. Emergence is an album with an ear for the careful balance between melodic hooks to ensnare the listener, and rhythmic groove to keep them there. The album is pleasantly spiced with proggy machinations, especially on instrumental tracks such as “The Cosmic Tide”. Smartly used piano riffs lace the latter part of the album, and find themselves surprisingly welcome among the already somewhat dense sound. Played in the higher register of the piano, the notes have room to dart in and enhance the proggier moments of the album or add their voices to a growing crescendo. Emergence also has a few of those rare moments in music when the timbre, enunciation, and natural lyricism of a word or phrase meld perfectly within the structure and melody of a song to create an exhilarating moment. For instance, in “The New Dawn”, Nimblkorg wails “The new dawn! Emerges! EMERGES!” just as the song emerges into the final stage of its climax – and I can’t help but sing along.
Although Emergence fits in no clear genre boundaries, it has something to offer for fans of nearly any kind of metal. The songs are polished and uniformly well-constructed, offering seamlessly natural transitions between riffs and playing styles. The riffs in songs like “Edin in Ashes” or “Emergence” are engaging enough to capture a listener who may have been bored by the atmosphere of “This World Shall Fall” or the endless guitar leads of “I Am the Abyss”. Do yourself a favor, and get lost in this hodgepodge of blackened atmoprog – or whatever it is.