Hoyland is the solo alias of Marc Hoyland whom is a Norwegian artist that has become fairly well-known throughout the dark ambient world as of late — this despite having a low amount of output since the project found its debut release through the now-defunct German label Quartier23. Along with a few other Quartier23 artists, Hoyland is part of a close-knit collective of musicians that branches out to include the likes of Melankolia and Immundus, a fact that will often see his name mentioned in paralleled conversations to these gentlemen and vice versa. Prior to this project where his work began in 2006 but wasn’t realized until 2010, Hoyland has also been a part of the UK-based black metal project Ethereal Forest whom to this day, nearly a decade after their founding, still have only one demo unleashed upon the world to their name. His work with another UK black metal project — Heathen Deity — was a bit more fruitful though they too have long been on hold and haven’t seen label support in their modest career. He was also part of the Norwegian duo Wither, whom had a demo released in 2006. It was Hoyland’s work in the Cacophonous Records-based goth rock project 13 Candles that is perhaps the most celebrated of his previous works.
Of course, all of this information constructs the foundation of a by-gone era for Hoyland, whom now looks, unwavering, to his future in strongly neoclassically textured dark ambient. Hoyland’s style is unique in that it is both crystalline in sound, mirroring the arctic atmosphere of a number of lesser-known Canadian projects such as Ancient Tundra and the complex keyboard compositions of Ceremonial Castings, as well as holding onto a subtle hint of medieval influences. These medieval influences are what make the project special, but they also make it difficult to call Hoyland dark ambient as there isn’t anything overtly tenebrous about the music itself. The compositions are certainly cinematic with a vast open production that is epic if only in the imagery that it creates — visions of desolate environments from endless white glacial plateaus to snowy grey mountain terrain populate the album track by track with the only exception being “The Summer Glades of Yore” which, like the title implies, represents a rather warm and relaxed mood amongst medieval-era wildlife.
In truth, perhaps the project that Hoyland reminds me the most of is the unequaled quality of Uruk-hai whose music has, for the past number of years at least, been expertly crafted through various subtleties that combine to create something both intense and fragile in his less bombastic works. Hoyland’s music is similar to this style though it is less drone-based and instead is created on the back of a strong melodic performance with occasional stock field recordings. That said, the music of “Upon the Mountain Vastlands” should perhaps be approached as a neoclassic effort that is geared towards a fantasy-style soundtrack that would fit right in alongside of artists like Aardia and Za Frûmi on Waerloga Records. The album isn’t without its flaws which mostly lie in a lack of complexity in some tracks which leaves them sounding too thin, as well as an occasional questionable instrumental sound from what could simply amount to an obsolete keyboard software engine. Regardless, he represents one of the first new artists of the past few years to be trying to do something both unique and fulfilling with the fantasy genre and represents one of the few sources of light for a dying breed in that respect.
01) Pagan Soul
03) Raptures of Darkness
04) Upon the Mountain Vastlands
06) Lament in Winter
07) The Summer Glades of Yore
08) Cthulhu Rising
09) This Kingdom of Mine