Jason Ian-Vaughn Eckert - Bass
Evan Madden - Drums
Sylvan - Guitars, Vocals
Sylvan Realm is an intriguing American project that incorporates many different black metal styles. In 2011, "The Lodge Of Transcendence" (reviewed on our website) has been released, and now we are going to try to learn something more from Sylvan himself, mastermind of the project.
Welcome to our website, how are you?
Sylvan: Greetings! I am doing great, really excited to be going into the studio soon to start working on the next album. As well have been very happy with all the feedback the lodge of transcendence has been getting lately.
Let's start by pointing out a couple of things to our readers: how did you give birth to Sylvan Realm and what was the reason that led you to stop the project Reverie?
I suppose the best way to paint the picture of how Sylvan Realm was born is to explain the death of Reverie. Reverie was a depressive black/death metal band of mine that I started composing material for 10 years ago. After the release of the 1st and only Reverie album "Isolation" I changed in many ways as a musician, as a person, and spiritually. I felt that I had expressed everything that I wanted to with Reverie and it was best to lay Reverie to rest. From the ashes of Reverie and having a new life perspective as well as personal, spiritual, and musical growth I embarked on creating the musical journey that is Sylvan Realm.
How did your passion for metal and, specifically, for black metal begin? What were the stages that led you on this path?
This started back in 1996 for me, that was when I found metal music. I ended up finding all styles of metal at once in that year and have never been the same since, I threw away my skate board and bought a guitar and said this is it I am never looking back! I remember going to a local book store around 1997 or 1998 and picking up a metal maniacs magazine that was their special "black metal edition" were that entire issue was only about black metal. I obsessed over that magazine for months. I researched every band in it, and even got catalogues from every record labels that had adds in it, I was simply intrigued! I remember placing a ton of orders through the label full moon productions and always calling them up asking for recommendations. I ordered from them so often that they started to send me lots of black and white fan-zines and from there I really started to study black metal. I started to tape trade as well with a friend I made who was an exchange student from Norway and he also gave me plenty of great recommendations that ended up becoming some of my favorites. I also was taking guitar lessons back then learning the classics like black sabbath, judas priest, iron maiden, etc. so ever since 1996 the year I found metal I have been totally hooked and have dedicated a great deal of my life to metal.
When did you get in touch with Jason and Evan? Had you ever played with them before?
I got in touch with Evan in 2009, I randomly found him on the internet when I was looking for a new drummer who would suite my style better. Originally Algol from the band Forgotten Tomb was going to do the drums on my album, but him living in Italy and me living in America it just didn't work out. So I sent out some emails to Evan and a few other drummers and Evan contacted me the next day saying that he would do it. I sent him the rough guitar mix in the mail and the 1st time I ever met him was in the studio. He is a truly amazing and gifted drummer, he wrote all the drums for the lodge of transcendence in a few months, and recorded everything in the album in one day. The guy played drums for nearly ten hours straight!
As for Jason, I was having some issues with a friend of mine who was going to do the bass so I asked Ron Vento the owner/engineer of Nightsky studio and mastermind behind the band Aurora Borealis if he knew a good session bassist who fit my style and he recommended Jason to me since Jason had played with him on some of the Aurora Borealis albums. Jason and I met up once at my house to go over the songs and then the next time I saw him was in the studio. He laid down all the bass lines in two days and was great to work with. I liked Jason's style so much that I asked him to preform a bass solo at the end of the song temple of not, as well he even managed to pull off my crazy slap bass request at the end of the title track "the lodge of transcendence" I can be a little challenging to work with as a musician so I really could not have asked for better musicians then Jason and Evan. Both guys really have a wide range of styles that they play and both really know their metal. With that being said I will be returning to the same studio and working again with Ron as the engineer, Jason again on bass, and Evan returning to the drums.
"The Lodge Of Transcendence" is a peculiar disc, combining a Scandinavian matrix, some moments that emotionally recall the "Cascadian Scene", a little taste of rock; what kind of sensations did you feel while composing the album? What kind of problems have you found? And, more than a year after it has been released, do you still think "this is what I wanted to achieve" when you listen to it?
Personally I love the album, it is one my all time favorite albums ever made. I put 4 years of my life into the album and put every ounce of my effort into making it. TLOT is an album that infuses various influences and styles of music. Sure there are some Scandinavian influences on there, and a lot of classic rock influences too. However please note I am not influenced by nor am I part of the Cascadian scene I am from the east coast of the country in the application mountains range. I am not knocking the Cascadian scene, for I do enjoy a few of the bands playing that style. However Sylvan Realm is an eclectic dark metal band and is not part of any scene or movement, we are an anomaly and stand alone.
I think the biggest problem is people not understanding the intentions behind the band and what the album was made to be. There are plenty of people who do get it and really enjoy the album. However there are a good amount of people wanting SR to be another USBM band or simply a black metal band. I love black metal and grew up listing to it, as well black metal is a big influence of SR however SR is not a black metal band. I consider SR to be an eclectic dark metal band that draws from many musical influences black metal being one of them. I have nothing against black metal, I just don't want any boundaries or barriers to the style and sound of SR's music.
In the lyrics of "Temple Of Not" it is said, and I quote: "Creation through destruction, destruction through creation. We are nothing, everything is nothing, nothing is not". This part reminded me of some thoughs from Chuck Shuldiner from the period of "Individual Thought Patterns". As forced as this comparison may seem, what I wanted to get to was that now, thanks to these damn mp3s, people probably don't take much of the lyrics into account anymore, while extreme genres (death metal and black metal) are always those that offer significant thoughts to reflect on; don't you think that people underestimate this issue a little too frequently?
I appreciate the link to the band Death Chuck was one of the most important figures in American metal, or in metal in general. However Death was never an influence on me or my playing. But I did get to see them on their last tour before he died and am very happy about that!
Its true a lot is lost today through mp3's, thats why I always still buy CD's or Vinyl. I buy sell and trade CD's every week and have been collecting music since 1996 the year I found metal. The lyrics behind TLOT were based around unlocking keys to the cosmos found in nature and a spiritual journey through the cosmos veering the microcosm into the macrocosm and becoming one with the universe.
Mp3s may work for pop hits, but not for metal or music with substance. I enjoy bands who put a lot of thought, time and effort into their music, lyrics and artwork and am always happy to buy their CD's. Some people think I am crazy for still insisting to buy CD's and vinyl, but I always will. Its my contribution to all the musicians and artists out there to help them keep creating.
You did create the logo, is that right? Have you also managed the entire artwork? What does the cover mean?
I did not make the logo, Christophe "lord of logo's" szpajdel created it for me. As for the album art, I did hire a graphic designer to format everything with the font etc, but yes all the album artwork are pictures I took while I was living out in the rocky mountains of Montana. The cover portrays an emanating force of enlightenment shining through the lodge of transcendence.
Is there a specific reason why you chose to use the purple as a dominant color in the cover, in addition to the black?
Yes indeed there is a purpose for the purple theme. Purple is a royal, mystical, magical color. Purple is the color that I associate with dream, magic, and creativity. So thats why I chose to use that color for the album art.
"Enter The Sylvan Realm", an entrance in your musical realm, as well as an entrance in the realm of nature; in your opinion, to what extent is mankind currently missing his contact with mother earth? Here in Italy, for example, we are experiencing a period of continuous tragedies as a result of repeated earthquakes. Do you think that our planet has reached its limit and it is ultimately turning against us?
No I don't think the earth has reached its limit, however humanity may be getting close to reaching their limit. We need a big change here on how we live and treat nature. We need to stop pumping our food, animals, and farms full of pesticides and toxic chemicals. Stop building tons of new houses and buildings when we already have plenty of those. And in general start to treat the earth and each other better. When man kind constantly reaps the earth form all its resources not out of survival but out of greed the earth strikes back. But its the capitalistic system partially to blame along with mans greed. What has been set up to make money is materialism and over consumption. Man no longer takes what they need to survive and be comfortable, greed has gotten out of control and the earth is striking back. Of course this is just my personal view.
What do Words such as religion and belief mean to you? Do you think they have been distorted in order to turn even the most sincere and genuine connection with nature into something else, some twisted and trendy concept? I'm thinking, for instance, to all those bands popping up in this period who claim to be playing folk (or pseudo folk).
A great question! I think spirituality should not be put in a box and that no one can own enlightenment, a higher power, or what have you. I think a lot of teaching in religions are beautiful and profound. However add money, power, control, greed and you get corruption. This sadly has happened to most religions, they turned into corrupt businesses obsessed with money and power, spoiling the spiritual teaching and using them as means to enslave people for power, control, and money. With that being said I am a very spiritual person but consider myself to be spiritual and not religious. I have a holistic view were I see nature, matter, time, space, creation, destruction, and the vast universe to be all connected and ultimately one entity that I and everyone and everything is part of. I have faith in that entity and believe that connecting with and becoming one with that brings peace and enlightenment.
As far as a trend in folk related music, I don't know much or follow such bands so I am not sure about their claims. The folk oriented bands I do follow are bands like tenhi and empyrium and I think they are also very genuine in their approach of incorporating nature into spirituality.
Let's take a step back. Were it not for Scott Alisoglu, I probably wouldn't be aware of your project; is the work of the guys from Clawhammer bearing fruits? What kind of results have you achieved so far?
Working with Scott has been great, I am into creating not promoting I just like to make music at the end of the day. Sure I am on some social media sites and post reviews and interviews however SR remained extremely underground. One day I decided that I wanted SR to be heard and wanted to spread my music out into the world. So I asked a few people who I know and they recommended that I contact Scott at Clawhammer. So now I can spend my time creating and not looking for reviews and interviews, Scott takes care of that and I just respond to interviews.
What are your thoughts about today's music scene and, specifically, about the extreme metal scene? In my opinion, it's absorbing some pop music features; don't you agree that this flattening, this standardizing is progressively expanding?
The music scene today is very different then what I knew in the 90's and early 2000's. I remember going to record stores and talking metal to people there for hours, reading magazines and buying CD's. One day everything seemed to change when I pods came out. I do own an I pod but I own every thing on it on CD and some on vinyl as well. I don't really get the whole buying a mp3 deal, seems like a rip off. Whats hard is now everyone can record from home and slop together a album and cheep cdr and the quality of metal has drooped. There are some good DIY type bands that have made decent albums this way, but I can only count them on one hand.
I have had 1000's of albums pass through my hands since 1996 and at one point even checked out every band on metal archives back in 2003 it took me two years of listing to music for about 4 hours every day! What I am finding now is just a lot of copy cat bands and bands trying to market gimmicks. Its like fast food music, you throw down your 6 bucks and get a gimmicky metal album thats cool for that day and then you shelf it and move on. I am finding less albums with substance that you can sink your teeth into and enjoy for years and years and never get tired of like how a lot of the older albums were.
However its not all negative today, there are some amazing advances in music gear and recording that has helped metal. And in general metal seems more widely accepted then ever before. I think the world has finally seen metal is here to stay and that the metal world finally has world wide respect.
Have you had the occasion to play the music of "The Lodge Of Transcendence" live, or isthe band just a studio project?
For now its a studio project, I would like to play live in the future but there are no plans right now for live shows.
In the artistic wake that you've traced so far, have you experienced moments when the objectives you were trying to reach appeared too heavy or complex to achieve? Have you ever been tempted to give up?
I suppose my musical goals can seem a bit complicated, however I love a good challenge and did not want to simply make another black metal or death metal band. Its been a great challenge and I love doing it, and have never for once thought about giving up. I love music more then most things in life and I live to create. As long as I am alive there will always been SR albums coming out. And I will never give in to making cheep poor quality albums recorded on bad gear. As well I put endless amounts of time in writing and rehearsing and if I don't love a song and think its my best material then I won't record it. I will always seek to make each album better then the last one and always to make a good quality album.
What is Sylvan Realm planning for the future, what should we expect? Are you already working on the second album?
I am currently gearing up to hit the studio this summer to record the second SR album. The album will be very different this time around, same members and same studio but different in style and the album has been confirmed to be mixed and mastered by metal legend Dan Swano. The new album will be more focused on doom, gothic, neo folk, and dark metal featuring a lot of clean guitar tones and a different approach to the song writing. However the vocals will be in the same style as the last album.
Who is Sylvan outside of the musical dimension? What are his dreams, his passions and how does he live his everyday life?
Well by now its clear that I absolutely love music and am a giant metal enthusiast! As well that I am a spiritual person seeking enlightenment and always striving to progress and better myself as well as the world around me. I believe in empowering people and helping people realize that they can make their dreams come true and that this world and life is really an amazing place, its all a matter of perspective. Don't get me wrong I am not mister happy go lucky, it took me years of depression and soul searching to become who I am today. I am also very into psychology and philosophy and in general my studies and experiences in psychology, spirituality, and philosophy has made me into the person I am today... maybe its more metal to say I hate life or something negative or hopeless... but why lie? I love my life!
As for my dreams I would like to see humanity become more spiritual, take better care of each other and the earth, and ultimately make the world into a utopia were we live in harmony with nature. Again maybe not so hip and metal for me to say, but I am a genuine person with nothing to hide, no gimmicks, and no filler!
I guess that the interview may end here. Thank you for your willingness to answer and, wishing you the best luck for the future, I'll give you the chance of concluding the interview with any final words you find fitting.
Thanks for the interview bro I had a great time writing it and I wish you the best of luck with your website.
Ss for my last words to anyone reading this...
Live life with passion and never for a second think you cant make your dreams come true and make this world into a utopia. It all starts with empowering each other and bettering ourselves as people and rising above our fears and greed. The world economy crisis is due to mans greed and large corporate companies enslaving the masses trying to convince people that happiness and good quality in life can be bought as a cup of coffee, phone, or pair of sunglasses. All its doing is making people focus on materialism and living to work instead of working to live. Its a sad sight but we can overcome it and there is hope.
Don't let life and the magic of this life be about greed, fear, materialism and money. If you don't like your life, this world, society etc get out there and make a change and quit hiding behind your computer. Go face your fears and make contact with people in person and make a difference in their lives, you will see in return it will make a difference in your life as well. Don't like society? Good then don't buy into what TV, radio, and commercials are trying to market you as happiness…live life the way you want to and find your own true happiness from within because true happiness and content in life comes from within, it does not come from money, fame, or sex. There is a amazing wonderful life out there to explore, don't waste it away alone behind a computer eating a cheeseburger on your phone unhappy with regret. And if you can't afford my album, then go steal it from the internet and enjoy it!