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Sylvan - Sceneries CD (album) cover





3.94 | 426 ratings

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5 stars There are some bands for whom the phrase "the best album since" usually represents something of a kiss of death. The need of some critics and fans to relive a classic moment means that the later releases somehow never really hit the mark, simply because they are lost in comparison. The best example I can think of is AC/DC, who have been cursed with the "best since Back In Black" for every album over the last twenty years, or so.

This is the danger inherent for Sylvan, the hugely talented German outfit, for Posthumous Silence from 2006 is such a titan of an album, such a work of genius that, quite honestly, it really is impossible to think that they could ever scale such heights again. Thus, Presets & Force Of Gravity, both excellent albums in their own right, suffered a tad in comparison with that marvellous album.

And so to 2012, and Sylvan bring us a massive 90 minute slab of music in Sceneries. Unlike its famous predecessor, this is not a concept album, per se, but, rather, five individual pieces of music and musings each individually inspired by the five band members personal experiences or thoughts. At this point, I would point out that the lyrics are available as a free download on the band's website, and well worth it it is too.

I don't like it a great deal when a band spells out for me exactly what the lyrics mean. I like to place my own interpretation on what the lyrics might mean, and, more importantly, what they mean to me as an individual and as someone who has always tried to relate his most important music to personal experiences in life. Thankfully, in the interviews I have seen, the band have left it to the individual, to the extent that I still do not know which band member inspired which movement. Thus, what follows is my personal take on these lyrics.

The Fountain of Glow is, to me, an expression of love conquering all of the nasty, selfish, and greedy tendencies that abound in the world, and that love will, eventually conquer all. Sentiments that would lie well, I think, with Jon Anderson fans, and whilst the lyrics do not contain his "other world" expressions (some would regard that as a good thing), they are, to me, suitably poetical.

The second movement is Share The World With Me, a beautiful paeon to a lost friend (a very close friend) whilst exploring the incredible power and beauty that the planet has to offer, as experienced during a particularly intense walk.

The Words You Hide tells me of a story that is timeless in rock music, that of anger at the words spoken at a loved one, whilst then endlessly regretting the words never spoken, the latter, of course, being the ones you truly wished to speak.

Chapter Four is The Waters I Travelled, a rather nightmarish dreamscape portraying the power of the ocean, and its power to consume.

Lastly, we have Farewell To Old Friends, which, to me, are quite the most inspirational lyrics as a dedication to war, and the feelings it can bring, I have seen since Roger Waters at his peak. This is the story of how an old war veteran could inspire and bring hope to a younger man, in spite of all the horrors witnessed, and how, as a race, the light and a better way are there for us, if only we could take the chance. It is, in essence, a celebration of life itself.

There we go. Those are the musings of this particular reviewer. At this stage, most readers are probably thinking, "all very well, pal, but what about the bloody music?". Words, really, almost fail me. I cannot think of an album since Oldfield's Tubular Bells I & II where a piano, the simple piano, has been at the heart of all around it. And from such delicate keys, this band have woven a work which is just about as powerful and emotional as it is possible for an album to get.

Fans of Marco Gluhmann's ability to soar and drip the entire room with layers of emotion, in both his delicate, quiet, moments and his powerful cries (which put Ronnie James Dio at his loudest to shame) will not certainly not be disappointed. This is just about the most emotional and incredible vocal performance I have heard since, well.....Posthumous Silence. The conclusion of Share The World With Me, especially, simply has to be experienced in a very dark room, with the speakers turned up to the maximum, because this man's vocals, backed by the most incredible guitar work, combined with a wall of sound, are really quite astounding, and send shivers running down one's back.

Talking of a wall of sound, I think I have said before of the band that the only act I can compare them with in terms of being able to simply fill a large space with pure sound (and this includes the numerous passages where we have merely piano and vocals) is Genesis in their pomp. You know, albums such as Wind & Wuthering, where the feel and sound of the work was as important as the songs themselves. The only other modern act I can think of that come anywhere near are Pendragon in their finest moments (and fans of that great band will find much to love here).

This album veers from delicate, to downright heavy, with passages of the most incredible symphonic power that it is somewhat difficult to believe that it was created by five blokes, rather than a full orchestra.

So. To conclude. It is with utter certainty that I say that this album is Sylvan's finest since the remarkable Posthumous Silence (there, I said it!). Not only that, though, this is an album which simply has to be experienced in its own right and is such a powerful emotional experience that it leaves the listener incredulous and breathless, emotionally drained, at its conclusion.

For those who still think, in spite of fine releases in recent years by acts such as Pendragon, Pallas, Marillion, Edison's Children, and IQ especially, that all neo-prog is is a copy of classic prog acts, and a poor one at that, then think again. This is the sound of a modern progressive rock band absolutely at the top of their form. This is the sound of progressive rock in 2012, and delightful it is, too. Whilst its length will preclude you having it on every single day (unless you have a lot of spare time), it is one that you will return to time and time again, and one which demands to be listened to as a whole.

If you buy no other album in 2012, make sure it is this one. I can describe it as no less than an utter masterpiece. An incredible performance by an incredible band.

lazland | 5/5 |


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