Monday 24 April 2023

SkyThala - Boreal Despair

Labels: I, Voidhanger Records/Moonlight Cypress Archetypes

Formats: Vinyl/CD/Tape/Digital

Release Date: 18 Nov 2022


1. Eternal Nuclear Dawn

2. Variegated Stances Of Self Mockery

3. Boreal Phrenological Despair

4. Rotted Wooden Castles

5. At Dawn They Walk

6. Yielding Quivers Of Revolution

If ever there was a greater enigma within underground/avant-garde extreme music currently, it would be  experimental and orchestral black metal band SkyThala. So much so that as a band they decided to remove any obvious reference to modern US musical influence in favour of Russian history and the classical music of Igor Stravinsky, Naturally, they found a home in the form of I, Voidhanger Records alongside the mysterious label Moonlight Cypress Archetypes in which to release their debut album Boreal Despair. Let's not waste anymore time, for twisted wonderment awaits.

This album is truly where classical music and extreme metal meet. Symphonic bands have tried to marry the two together for many years now, but in my opinion they’ve failed with each attempt. SkyThala mixes cold and somewhat curdling black metal with orchestration that includes keys, woodwind and brass instruments. Okay so it does at times nod towards off-kilter/avant-garde jazz, but there’s nothing wrong there as it challenges you as a listener. I certainly wouldn’t call in anti-music but it’s not an easy listen throughout the ten minutes of opener ‘Eternal Nuclear Dawn’.

‘Variegated Stances of Self Mockery’ makes me think about the varied differences between mainstream music (and even what could be considered gateway metal) and the truly inspiring, thought-provoking works that pass us by everyday. It’s a travesty that we’re not encouraged to listen to more intelligent music and indeed musicians. I guess that’s just the world we live in right now. I never did truly understand music theory nor did I attend university, but I’m utterly fascinated by this album already. 

They say that music is one of the greatest of escapes (aside from travelling maybe) but as the calm acoustic/stringed tones of ‘Boreal Phrenological Despair’ begin, you’re whisked off to somewhere entirely different. It strangely prepares you for the black metal intensity that follows. Airy orchestration sits amongst the extremity, with unnerving choral singing hidden within it’s depths. Varied mental images are painted throughout each of Boreal Despair’s six lengthy songs, but none more so than here. 

The album’s second half is as transfixing as it’s first, as ‘Rotted Wooden Castles’ flourishes with instrumental prowess and truly epic choral melodies that give way to a clash of yet more ice cold black metal, and constantly switching jazz/classical textures. The lead guitar work really sticks out here as well, giving the song’s latter half a proper old-school headbanging twist, at least for a couple of minutes. 

Penultimate song ‘At Dawn They Walk’ contains probably the greatest orchestral-metal ratio of the entire album; however, SkyThala manage to retain an extreme edge from within their haunting crypt. The organ that leads much of this song is brilliantly played and while it seems like the song’s full nine minutes are split into smaller movements, everything works as a (slightly odd) cohesive whole. Album closer ‘Yielding Quivers of Revolution’, with the additional guest vocals of Starer, is an exceptional way to end. Musically, it encompasses everything that makes SkyThala such an engrossing and enjoyable band to listen to.

I refuse to accept that bands like Five Finger Death Punch or Falling In Reverse are considered challenging. Okay, those examples are somewhat lazy but as I eluded to earlier in this review, the breadth of talent within the counter culture that makes up extreme music is growing ever richer and SkyThala belong in the pantheon of the most extreme, and musically gifted. 

You can stream Boreal Despair and buy it all available formats via Bandcamp below:-

SkyThala -

If you're in Europe and would like copies on CD/Vinyl, head to I, Voidhanger Records here -

I, Voidhanger Records -

Moonlight Cypress Archetypes -

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