Stephen Svanholm is an interesting character. In the late ’80s/early ’90s, he played guitar in UK thrash-funk-metal band, Ignorance, releasing two albums on Metal Blade before settling down to study music seriously and become a full-fledged opera singer. While living in Sweden after spending time in India and Nepal, Svanholm became Sibelian, blending electronic rhythms and loops with field recordings, metal and opera. This compilation documents the history of the dramatic artist from his earliest ideas in 1999 to the present.
Sibelian’s music is difficult to pinpoint. In the broader scope of things, it could be described as goth, though that’s not entirely accurate. These songs fall somewhere between the world music textures of Dead Can Dance and Attrition‘s darkwave pulse. With all the layers, though, they are almost more sound collages than “songs”, sonic tapestries that evoke emotion to tell stories. It’s grandiose, bombastic and epic, but supremely effective in its scope.
“Wish-Fulfilling Jewel,” for example, is a brilliant work of modern opera, while “Dew Upon Your Lips” and the eponymous “Sibelian” bring electro-goth ideas to the forefront. Though “Heartshine” sports a trip-hop beat, “Red Room” boasts ethereal metal. As the tracks move forward, they shift and evolve, eschewing standard verse-chorus format for something more progressive.
Ultimately, Sibelian is an artist of great talent, as this collection attests. His ability to navigate through a myriad of genres within a single idea is astounding. Blast this Gothic Opera and revel in its majesty.