Sylvan - X-Rayed

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Point Music
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 68:47:00

Let me tell you at the outset that I am really digging this CD. As a fan who found her way to prog through Marillion, and from there to all tangents, from ambient to prog metal, Sylvan is exactly the style of progressive rock that I like. Why? Impassioned, soaring vocals - you can feel what Marco Gl?hmann is singing about. A comparison would be that he taken a few pages from Steve Hogarth stylistically, but he tone is quite different. It a mid-range voice, but quite rich and, as I said, expressive. At one point, I thought of Eddy Vedder, actually. Gl?hmann doesn't sound like Vedder (or look him for that matter), but he sings as if he is equally possessed by the emotions he's singing about. And for all the emotion he infuses into each word of the lyrics, you still feel he's holding back ? fighting against those very emotions. Also, I'd say fans of RPWL will enjoy Sylvan, especially the somewhat understated "You Are." Understated in contrast to what precedes it. You'll find the chorus haunts you (in a good way) long after the CD has ended.

Why else do I love this? Emotive guitar solos - oh yes, those kind of solos that just seem to squeeze a lot out of each note (cue Rothery and Gilmour references). Oh, but they can crunch and grind, too. These joyous and dark sounds come from Kay S?hl, where, for example they underscore the ache and longing described in the lyrics of "You Are." The keyboards seem to find just the right balance (and are mixed with just the right balance), being neither too parpy nor too tinkily, and yet very much with a modern prog sound. Holding everything together are drummer Matthias Harder and bassist Sebastian Harnack.

One might think that Sylvan can't decide if they want to be "neo-prog," hard-prog, prog metal, or modern metal. Well, they are all those things, mixing aspects of each together wonderfully, creating what I can only call a potent mix of dark, intense energy that results in something quite epic and dramatic. The epics of the epic tracks (most tracks are in the 5-10 minute range) is the nearly 13-minute emotionally cathartic "Given - Used - Forgotten." And Sylvan wring this emotional piece for all that it's worth, without, I think, making it too long or too laborious. There are enough dynamics to the piece that you are caught up in it as it moves you along. It moves from understated sections to a lyrical piano-like section to a heavy section with crisp drumming and acidic guitars? the scope is vast and yet there is also something quite intimate about it (The band's most intimate moment is the album's closer "This World Is Not For Me," a beautiful balladic piece that um? at points makes me think of The Flower Kings).

This album, X-Rayed, is a wonderful mix of progressive rock, progressive metal, something in between, and something that, in one case, would appeal also to the nu-metal crowd. And if that last bit puts you off, don't let it. It's not nu-metal, but it might bring nu-metal fans to "our" way of thinking. Though they mix all those styles up, they manage to keep it a flowing whole. Their prog rock is hard enough to be on the edges of prog metal and their metal on the edge of prog rock, that those in both camps will find much to like. But truly, Sylvan are keeping alive the prog rock style made famous by those oft named UK bands, a style that those very bands have left behind (for the most part), and yet all those other elements give X-Rayed a fresh feel. And I must say that Sylvan do this convincingly and seem to make the style their own.

The album opens with the deceptively effective "So Easy," which is where the prog rock aspect comes in. You will think of various different UK prog bands from Marillion (circa This Strange Engine) to Threshold (as you will on "So Much More," the Wilson-era in this case). Most certainly it is a track that contains the same kind of dynamics between light, open passages and darker, denser passages. Electric piano and snickering percussion lead the at once fragile and strong vocals through this ultimately powerful track. In fact, this track is an example of what I expected the whole album to be like. Towards the end, the piano becomes more music box like, the percussion hollower, tinner (an effect, it's intentional, not a flaw), and then the band show is their harder-edged side, as the vocals become nearly hysterical (as in hysteria not as in humour) and urgent. The heaviest track is "Lost," a driving, dark, harsh-edged, industrial tinged rocker sung with the kind of intensity I mentioned above. Keyboard fans will enjoy Volker S?hl's solo here, falling just short of being parpy - proggy and yet not stereotypically "proggy." Like "So Easy," this song comes across as an epic, never mind that both are in the 8 and 7 minute range, it's more the scope, the dynamics that give this that bigger than life feel.

As the band note themselves at their website, "Fearless" is a different approach for the band, as they say the beginning was "inspired by some raga influences during our concert tours on festivals." It is different and why I made a nu-metal comment above. A listen to the chorus, and you easily realize you could hear this track on the radio along side? well, actually it would overshadow those bands, as I think it's a stronger track. The latter section has a dreamier feel ("We had a rather [psychedelic] experience during the recording of this part as we [were] jumping around, hitting on all sort of things while trying to produce some interesting sound."). The slide guitar (which they note is something new for them) gives the piece a swaying feel, a feeling of peace maybe.

Oh, lots more to discover on X-Rayed to be sure. Honestly, it had to vie with a couple of other CDs over the past few weeks (cf. Trettio?riga Kriget), because it's one of those albums that is so rich - and so attractive to listen to - that it gets "stuck" in the player. I give this CD two thumbs up, high marks, a highly recommended, and, of course? a 5/5.

Also released by ProgRock Records

So Easy (8:19) / So Much More (3:07) / Lost (7:16) / You Are (5:30) / Fearless (9:11) / Belated Gift (4:07) / Today (3:10) / Through My Eyes (6:50) / Given - Used - Forgotten (12:55) / This World Is Not For Me (8:20)

Marco Gl?hmann - vocals
Matthias Harder - drums
Sebastian Hamack - bass
Kay S?hl - guitars
Volker S?hl - keyboards

Chamäleon - Chamäleon (tape) (1992)
Chamäleon - Slaves (tape) (1994)
Chamäleon - Demo '95 (tape) (1995)
Signs Of Life (track on a sampler) (2000)
Deliverance (1999)
Encounters (2000)
Artificial Paradise (2002)
X-Rayed (2004)
Posthumous Silence (2006)
Presets (2007)
Leaving Backstage (2008)
Force Of Gravity (2009)
Sceneries (2012)
Home (2015)

Posthumous Silence - The Show (DVD) (2008)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin DE

Added: September 19th 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1462
Language: english


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