Nearly a decade ago, Syndrome came into the world through the Belgian mind of one Mathieu Vandekerckhove due to his need for a meditative vehicle through which he could release the negative energy in his life and transform it into something more constructive. This vehicle obviously existed in obscurity, laying dormant in silence for many years before taking on the attributes of droning post-rock and finding a home in 2011 with Belgian label ConSouling Sounds where Vandekerckhove has spent his entire career under this moniker to this point. Life was officially given to Syndrome when “Floating Veins” was released last June, finding availability in both a 12″ and a CD limited to 500 copies, of which the first 100 came with a bonus DVD-R of material. Other than that and “Now and Forever” here, the only other existing official Syndrome release is a three-way split with Monotonos and Sequences entitled “Fall of Man”. Outside of Syndrome, Vandekerckhove is otherwise known for his work as guitarist for sludge doom bands Kingdom and, more importantly, Amenra whom found a decisive home in Neurot Recordings a year ago. Unfortunately it seems that, despite a promised release of the new studio album “Mass V” a few months after signing, nothing has yet been unleashed.
This slow pace on Neurot may be what has freed Vandekerckhove to pursue his solo project in such depth, and that depth has found him constructing a one-track, 28 minute opus in dedication to his son, Wolf, for this release. What few words are present here exist as a guiding light for his son towards finding himself, finding strength, helping others, and knowing no matter how distant the expanse, be it physical or ethereal, his father is there in spirit. It’s an intimate portrait of the proverbial handing of the torch in blood, primal if not tribal in spirit. A tribal nature is in fact how this album opens, with a subtle light percussive notion — the only place on the entire album where you’ll find any hint of bombast behind the epic, weaving feedback drones that shimmer harmoniously before washing away in tides of a deeper, less tenuous drone that is textured lightly by gentle noise and guitar tones. These moments will eventually give way to the heart of the track that contains the lyrical content and the most desolate production within the release to give space for the vocals to express their stern, yet inert fragility. The deep performance here, both literally and emotionally, immediately reminds of efforts from several artists including Steve von Till and later Ulver, and whose building ethereal guitar nature is uncannily reminiscent of the gut-wrenching dreamy style that Love Spirals Downwards once achieved.
Other than the obvious emotions associated with succeeding at bringing a child into this world, there has to be something incredibly special on an entirely different, subconscious level about implementing those emotions into a dedication through music. It was a decade ago, this year, that Green Carnation released their acclaimed “Light of Day, Day of Darkness” album which was inspired by, at least in part, by the birth of Tchort’s son and the death of his daughter. Obviously there is a greater sense of melancholy in that record, but there is a very distinct yet undefinable emotion that accompanied that album — an emotion that is also present in full force here. It certainly isn’t melancholy, but it is reserved all the same — focused and incontrovertibly sincere. That said, it’s difficult to place the particular portion of the painting by Matthieu Ronsse, “Bateau”, that as used as the album cover, in regards to it’s significance to the subject matter at hand. It certainly fits in with the ethereal music of “Now and Forever”, and there are certainly ties in sound to the sea, but it is certainly cryptic at best in relation. The figure pictured has a ship’s flags linked to the inside corners of the eyes, almost representing tears, while the sail itself covers the mouth. The ship itself is on fire. There are many obvious lines of thought, but they seem to contradict one another once their paths cross.
Perhaps this is an explanation best saved for another article at another time. Regardless of the cryptic artwork though, it’s hard to imagine an album of this style achieving a level of perfection that rises above this. There’s simply such an incredible amount of intensity, love, and musical prowess at work in “Now and Forever” to find any kind of negative attributes within.
01) Now and Forever