How and when did you guys meet each other and how did the inception of Shylmagoghnar come out of this?
We met in early high school and hit it off pretty much instantly. We shared many interests, of which a big one was music. We also liked to discuss abstract themes and somehow had a tendency to draw bizarre situations towards ourselves, which connected us deeper. To top it off, both of us had an inherent desire to create things. The forming of the band in our view was inevitable. It would be the years that followed that put us to the test though. We knew we wanted to make an album, but had no experience nor idea of which directions we should take to achieve our goal. We spent a large part of a decade going back and forth between active development of the album, running into dead ends, trying out extra band members, etc. Then fate dealt us an unkind hand, and from the circumstances that arose we decided that we would have to do everything by just the two of us, or it would never happen anymore. While the project technically had existed for a decade at that point, this final push is where the current form and mentality of the band really came into being.
What are the main musical influences of both of you? Which bands might be seen as an example or a spark to your own sound and creations?
Back when we first met there have been some bands/projects that stuck out to us as having strong and unique qualities which helped to fuel our dreams of creating our own music. We don't know to which degree they have been a direct influence, as many times they weren't really related to our genre, but they certainly helped. For metal, it would be bands like Immortal, Mithotyn, early Opeth, Death, Diabolical Masquerade, early Dimmu Borgir, Satyricon, Naglfar, Atheist, etc. But we also enjoyed film and game sound tracks a lot. Think of movie scores like the classic Conan the Barbarian, soundtracks for games like Blood, Unreal, Warcraft, Command & Conquer, or Jeroen Tel's “Cybernoid” on the classic Commodore 64.
Any thoughts on the choice of the band name Shylmagoghnar?
The elephant in the room! Here's how it came to be: At first we played around with band names based on existing words, but we were not feeling it at all. We wanted something unique and strange that encapsulates the vibe of the music. We decided to come up with syllables which somehow felt powerful or meaningful to us. You could compare it to a mantra or incantation. Those sounds were Gogh, Ma, Shyl and Nar. We put them together in the order that felt natural to us and Shylmagoghnar was born. It was bizarre, but the name instantly resonated with us. We hope to engage the imagination of the listener as to what it could mean for them personally. Both of us have found our meaning in it, and we keep it a secret - even from each other.
In 2014 you released the first full length album ‘Emergence’. How do you look back on it now and how was it received?
Nimblkorg: Looking back at it, we are really glad that we took our time with the debut. Taking the first plunge into the music world is intimidating. You spend so much time and energy on something and there is zero guarantee that anyone will even care. When we started recording ‘Emergence’, we assumed the worst. The album was just something we felt we HAD to do though, as it wouldn't leave us alone, so we figured we might as well keep working on it until we were truly satisfied with it, relative to what limited means we had available. We also don't regret producing and releasing the debut by ourselves. It bolstered our resolve and independent spirit. After all: how would you know what you can and cannot do, if you have never tried? With the exception of the artwork (which was done by our friend Minghao Xu of Void Visuals), we slowly went through every step of the way by ourselves and that experience was a reward in itself already. Then came the release and much to our surprise the small group of people we reached with it loved it so much that they started sharing it with their friends, writing articles, playing it on streams, etc. It was (and still is) astounding to us how supportive all of those people were to our tiny project. Quite frankly, it changed our lives. For that we are eternally grateful.
What can you tell about the musical evolution of the band since then? In other words, how should you compare ‘Emergence’ with ‘Transience’ as creators?
‘Transience’ is aimed to be a direct follow-up of ‘Emergence’. Much like with a film trilogy, we intend the albums to focus on their own set of concepts, while still remaining part of a greater whole. We think people will hear style elements they recognize from ‘Emergence’, but put to different use. There will also be some new elements we haven't used before, because they didn't fit to the themes of ‘Emergence’, and vice versa. Just like with the debut, songs vary quite a bit in style from one to another, but their vibes are supposed to flow into each other naturally. It's intended to be heard from start to finish.
Can you go deeper into the lyrical themes or concept on ‘Transience’? It hints to a spiritual approach of things, but can you illustrate this a bit more with details for some of the songs?
Skirge: I think it really depends on your personal definition of 'spiritual'. It is true that the lyrics for this album are more layered than the ones on ‘Emergence’, and may even have some esoteric qualities to them. However, I feel most of my stories are in their basis quite grounded. Universal human emotions, hopes and fears – the human condition in general - as well as some personal experiences and traumas. Of course, these topics are described and explored from many different sides so some layers are bound to be open-ended, spiritual or even hypothetical. My main goal was to capture the emotions the music instilled, in a way that is strongly individual yet open to interpretation. Or to say it in a slightly different way: While the meaning is very clear to me personally, I wish for others to have their own interpretation, that is just as correct because it is all in the eye (or ear) of the beholder. Not everyone sees the same looking at a painting, and that is just as it should be. Another thing that may give the lyrics a 'spiritual' quality is the fact that the stories are tied in with dreams, visions, and themes beyond our small, transitory lives. This adds a certain larger-than-life gravitas, while still retaining that core of sincerity and rawness.
How do you look back at the recording process of ‘Transience’?
It was intense to say the least. Just like our debut, 'Transience' is a fully home-made production. The two of us share a strong vision of what Shylmagoghnar should be, so by keeping the creative ropes in our own hands we hope to translate that vision as clearly and unadulterated as possible. The downside to this is of course that it's quite the Herculean task. This time it took us roughly four years, but it really didn't feel like that at all. We focus a lot on the details within the music and when you get into the process of refining something, it starts to cost exponentially more time to see notable increases in quality. The sky is the limit, so it was a constant battle to find a balance between perfectionism and progress – and the emotional struggles that come with that. We feel deeply connected to this project, so the finality of production can sometimes cause a sense of loss. With that said, there were also plenty moments of joy and elation. We are very satisfied with the outcome and eager to share ‘Transience’ with the world!
I guess Shylmagoghnar is a studio project until now. Are you planning to expand the band with session musicians and play live or not?
Nimblkorg: No, the existence of Shylmagoghnar in its current form is partially a result of my lacking personal health. Without getting into too much detail, I get overwhelmed by external stimuli very easily, so I am forced to live as a recluse. I don't mind it, as I like to be alone with my thoughts. But I'm afraid the stage is no place for me.
Let us shine a light at the visual aspects. Would you like to invigorate your music with video clips? I think you already have a YouTube channel, please tell us a bit more about that?
Yes, we have been working together with Minghao Xu (Void Visuals) for both of the albums' cover arts and he is also the creator of the official music video for this album's track “As All Must Come To Pass”. Ming is a long-time friend of ours and a multi-faceted artist; working with him comes naturally. The aforementioned video is a mixed media piece of video, animation and 3D animation (3D animation by Arman Saberi). We always enjoy it when a video clip isn't necessarily about the song, but the imagery goes together with the music, so together with Ming we decided to go for a Short Film-like story. Other than that, we have been uploading small outtakes of the recording sessions for our new album, so people could get a taste of what we've been up to. We also have a lightly animated full album video of the debut album ‘Emergence’ on our Youtube channel. We plan to do the same for the ‘Transience’ album some time after the release.
There are quite a few (lengthy) instrumental tracks on the album and they work very well in the whole listening experience. Does it mean that your compositions are initially instrumental or how do you see the balance between vocals and music?
Nimblkorg: Tracks are mostly started from an instrumental basis, yes. There are some exceptions, but usually Skirge and I use a system where I write the musical core of a track and then send it to him. He then does the same with his lyrics. We bounce it back and forth like that and adapt the arrangement and lyrics to better suit each other. A cool thing with this is that we rarely ever have to discuss what a song is going to be about. We know where we want to go with an album, and what message we want to send. The rest just falls into place at some point. We do usually determine beforehand whether a track is going to be an instrumental or vocal piece, as our writing style for them is different, but it's never set in stone. We feel that music has a will of its own and it's best to embrace it - even if that means deviating from the original plan. It may at times be disheartening to let go of a concept when there is a lot of emotional investment, but we feel that the quality of the end result should always remain the goal.
Skirge: Of course, sometimes it is painful to have some hard work and inspiration ending up unused, but I don't mind taking a backseat if a song works better as an instrumental. In my personal experience, there is little worse than a good piece of music ruined by unnecessary or intruding vocals. Most of the times it is an intuitive thing; you hear what needs to be added or taken away. You cannot force your work to 'work', it either does or it doesn't.
Personally the album mainly struck me as a blend of Summoning and early Dimmu Borgir, while the magnificent leads are very much into classic heavy metal and ultra melodious. Can you find yourself a bit in this vision of mine?
Nimblkorg: We like all of those, so it's possible that they have had some influence during the forming of our style over the years. To avoid misconception though, I do wish to emphasize that this project is not trying to be like another band. We are standing on the shoulders of giants, but our intent is to create something personal. A blend of our personalities so to speak! For 'Transience' I have purposely deprived myself of music for years to make sure everything written was as uninfluenced as possible.
Skirge: I can attest to that. As for myself, I have been listening mostly to music genres other than metal during the creation of this album. Many of them were instrumental as well, so I doubt they influenced my vocals. The vocal structures and rhythms tend to be a bit more complex than on ‘Emergence’, so maybe some of the jazz and technical death metal I was listening from time to time rubbed off? It is very hard to tell, to be honest.
What are the plans for the near future?
We have some other music projects and ideas (shared or individually) which we've been playing with for years. We don't know if those will ever see the light of day, but we might spend some time on them anyway – even if it's just to relax and give ourselves some time to come up with new ideas for Shylmagoghnar. That remains the goal in the long term.
If there is anything you’d like to add, please feel free to do it right here…
Thank you Vera and thank you readers! We hope this interview was informative and you will all enjoy our new album. And to anyone out there with a dream we wish to say: if you feel there is something you need to do in your life, even if it seems insurmountable, do it. It's normal to feel overwhelmed at first, but it gets better and it's worth the effort. Today's frustration is tomorrow's experience!
All the best from Skirge & Nimblkorg!