It's been a few years since we've heard anything from Finland's kantele master A. Tolonen. After a handful of releases including the critically acclaimed "Trail of the Unwary" and the super limited, super gorgeous split picture LP with Agalloch, we see his project Nest come to a close. From the ashes of Nest rises Syven, a much more ritual take on Tolonen's take on Finnish folk music.
Starting with a slow, deliberate hand drum beat, we see the calm beginnings of "Syvyys." Lush keyboard drones blanket this piece in a fog, suggesting the furthest reaches of evergreen forests and distant smoke rising from cabins deep within the trees. Vocalist A.K-S.'s nice rich baritone soars over cleanly plucked kantele (Jon's note: Don't know what a kantele is? Learn about this wonderful instrument here.), reminiscent of folk singers of old.
The second (and, clocking in at 19 and a half minutes, the longest) song, "Jäljet," is by far the crowning achievement of this demo. Featuring A.K-S.'s thick, layered throat singing over ringing electric guitar and, eventually, clean acoustic and distorted electric kantele, we see a hefty doom metal influence in this piece. Jäljet, meaning "animal tracks," tells the listener the story of a lone wolf, expelled from the herd, or at least I think so, my Suomi is a little rusty. The wolf is old, and death is approaching. To bring about the imagery of death, Tolonen brings forth influence from his time in doom bands Todesbonden, The Mist and the Morning Dew, and Shape of Despair to yield maximum emotional outcome. Perhaps my favorite lyric from the song is the second stanza, which reads:
Vain jäljet hangella.
Vain jäljet hangella.
Or, in English: Herd is the oldest/the threshold of death./Your departure Memorial/Only traces of snow.
The final track, "How Fare the Gods?" (which is featured on the Prophecy Productions masterpiece, "Whom the Moon a Nightsong Sings") is definitely the closes to A. Tolonen's original Nest sound. Here we find no distorted passages like in the previous song, but A.K-S.'s baritone singing still manages to set it apart and create an entirely different atmosphere. In this song, especially, Tolonen's kantele sound is absolutely perfect; it has that nice amount of ring without getting that "faerie in the woods" sound that I always have problems with when I play my own kantele.
In this 3 song promo (in which the first two songs will be rerecorded and released on the full-length sometime next year) we see a strong start for Syven. This mystical duo sets themselves apart from the rest of the neofolk scene with a fresh take on the tribal, ritual elements found within the genre. I expect great things to come from Syven, though great things are always expected from the mastermind A. Tolonen.