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(77:00, Gentle Art of Music)
TRACK LIST: 1. Not Far from the Sky 6:30 2. Shaped Out of Clouds 6:02 3. In Between 10:50 4. With the Eyes of a Child 4:19 5. Black and White 7:14 6. The Sound of Her World 9:23 7. Sleep Tight 5:31 8. Off Her Hands 3:42 9. Shine 6:18 10. Point of No Return 5:25 11. All These Years 5:40 12. Home 6:05 LINEUP: Marco Gluehmann – vocals Sebastian Harnack – bass Volker Soehl – keyboards Matthias Harder – drums With: Jonathan Back – guitars
Prolusion. The German band SYLVAN has been around for just about a quarter of a century at the time of writing, and for the last decade or so they have been among the more popular progressive rock bands coming out of Germany, with their 2006 album "Posthumous Silence" often cited as their finest moment. "Home" is their ninth studio album, released through the German label Gentle Art of Music in 2015.
Analysis. As a band, Sylvan started out as a unit that combined aspects of progressive metal with melody-based sequences, with a closer tie to what many describe as neo progressive metal, combining details from these forms to create powerful music with a strong emphasis on melody, but also with ample room for more aggressive passages and intermissions when needed. As time has passed they have mellowed somewhat, the metal aspects of their earlier material gradually loosing ground for an expression of a more gentle nature. As far as I experience this band, this process is taken one step further with their latest album. Progressive rock is often described as music for the intellectual, music that inspires the mind if you like. While Sylvan does still explore a brand of music that is undeniable progressive rock, with multiple themes, alterations in pace and intensity, sweeping passages, paired off with movements of a more delicate nature, and compositions gradually unfolding while shifting and turning along the way, ultimately Sylvan as of 2015 isn't a band I'd describe as creating music for the mind, though. Instead I'd describe them as a band that makes music for the heart and the soul of the listener. Those fond of music that is technically challenging and presented as such just won't get much joy from this CD. The songs tend to be slow to mid-paced affairs, and dominated through and through by themes and motifs of a haunting nature. Frail piano details are a recurring feature, the guitars are toned down and more often than not used in a careful and subservient manner, where plucked guitar motifs are just as common as riff constructions, the latter also with a tendency to be dampened in expression and only rarely given a dominating spot. Up to and including guitar soloing. Keyboard layers and orchestration are much more prominent, creating sweeping majestic backdrops and overlays, as well as brittle and often haunting moods with associations towards sadness and tragedy. But most of all this is a production that highlights the voice of Marco Gluehmann, with his expressive, emotionally-laden vocals a key feature throughout. I've always been fond of Gluehmann as a vocalist, and he manages to pull it off on this album as well, still able to carry a song quite nicely and often able to add a characteristic emotional intensity to the proceedings. But as much as I'm fond of his voice and his specific style, my impression is that he isn't on top of his game this time around. Especially in the few harder edged, most intense passages my experience is that his voice just isn't up to it. If this is a result of age, a bad day at the recording studio or just my own taste in music changing and my personal standards being higher than they were a decade ago is a question of which I really don't have the answer. But for whatever reason those moments of breathtaking, goosebumps inducing high emotional impacts just aren't present this time around. "Home" is still a rather strong production, but for me at least it's lacking in those fine details that made Sylvan at their very best a band that produced stunning, breathtaking music.
Conclusion. A thought that frequently struck in my mind when listening to this CD is that this specific album would be the perfect one to pull out for your wife or girlfriend if they just don't understand your fascination with progressive rock. Play it to them on a long car trip, and I suspect that those who so far have been mystified by this type of music would start comprehending it, and perhaps even start to like it themselves. Because this is an album that speaks with and to emotions as I experience it, music that speaks to the heart and the soul, with haunting emotional-laden moods aplenty. Those who find such a description alluring should give this CD a spin, especially if you tend to enjoy emotional lead vocals and music with a strong emphasis on melody in general.
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