UPLIFTING NON-METAL REVIEW: Tengil – shouldhavebeens

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Imagine if The Cure had a large part of their sound informed by black metal and post-black metal. I’m not a huge fan of using the work of other groups to describe someone else’s own unique creative output, but in this case I think the comparison is fair, and I also mean it as a huge compliment.

shouldhavebeens is the sophomore full-length release from the Swedes in Tengil. The album conveys being swept up into everything, life just overwhelming someone as they come to terms how to deal with it all. Simultaneously there’s excitement, and there’s longing in seeming equal measure, with a very youthful spin to how these mixed-up emotions are conveyed. The record opens with a very dense but bright and slightly poppy wall of sound, as “I Dreamt I Was Old” jumps right in with blurry floating synths and loops with a pounding blast beat in the drums underneath. It’s a good twenty seconds before guitar even shows up. Instruments keep layering, and the intensity grows, tugging you by the hand. By the time the first song finished all I could say was, “wow.”

In a time where what’s hot with the kids is post-black metal (not that I’d call that a bad thing by any means), it’s refreshing to see a take this fresh on the idea, a band truly doing whatever they want and setting their own sound, as opposed to following in the footsteps of bands who’ve already made their mark like Deafheaven or Alcest. In a record full of outstanding material, “It’s All For Springtime” is the standout track of shouldhavebeens, and it’s deservedly been made the single to showcase the album. Keeping with the theme of the album, it’s bittersweet and melancholy, a lament for the impermanent nature of everything.

What I admire about this album and this band is they’ve created a truly heavy sound without resorting too much to the clichés and tropes of “heavy” music, staying mostly on the brighter upper registers of their sound and playing to the strengths of vocalist Sakarias’s higher tenor voice. And a damn good voice at that, with tons of emotion and power behind it.

shouldhavebeens is bright and celestial, but also incredibly bittersweet and melancholy. It’s an album of nostalgia and longing, of standing between disparate moments, disparate states. I absolutely love this record, it’s one of the most unique and well-crafted things I’ve heard this year so far. I wish there were more material to this album, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to listen to what they did have and I’m looking forward to whatever the band does in the future.

shouldhavebeens is available April 13 through Prophecy Records. Pick it up here or here.

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