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3 stars It's a quit one and it seems they are turning to the sound of MARILLION. The new and not improved MARILLION. I hope this is just for ones, but you never know. The music is as always with SYLVAN very well arranged, but I would like more power.

Don't get me wrong. it's a good album, but much room for improvement. The voice is nice as always, but still, I'd like more power.

Report this review (#109336)
Posted Monday, January 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Masterpiece? Not really. Yet another quite enjoyable SYLVAN album!

After the 2006 release "Posthumous Silence" SYLVAN had set their standards really high. The problem with such a good album is that our expectations also seem to rise.

So what can we say about "Presets"? The 1st thing I noticed is that Sylvan's cover art is getting more beautiful on each album. It was done again by Marko Heisig (eyekicks) who already has done most of SYLVAN's artwork. I love the cover which is really a nice painting of some kind of half lady-half earth kind of thing. I think this painting shows us that we (human beings) should stop absorbing the world, because if we don't, we will be absorbed by the world. The same theme is also laid out in the track "When the leaves fall down". It's about the world as we know it. We have always taken it for granted, until it is too late. The falling leaves should not been taken literally, this can be seen as the collapse of the world if we continue to live our abundant lives as we have been doing for the last decades. This topic seems more relevant today as ever before. Am I right Marco?

So far about the nice artwork and concept? of the album. Lets talk about the music! I have given this disc a spin for at least ten times now and I think I'm up for a short review of the album. By the first tones that come out of your speakers we already hear the distinctive SYLVAN sound. What I noticed quickly is that "Presets" is a lot more a "mellow" melodic album and almost absent of any "heaviness". I remember the many changes and surprises in "PS" all too well. Some parts were mellow, other parts quite heavy. And even Marco was then singing, then almost whispering and later rapping and shouting! I must say I had to get used to this at first, but it made the album as a whole more appealing I think. In "Presets" al the heavy element have been deleted and therefore it has become a very mellow and polished album. Not bad, on the contrary! But I think in order to make their masterpiece they should continue the road they were on making PS. What is left is a very good mellow, melodic album with very catchy choruses as ever.

Conclusion: "Presets" is another good SYLVAN album, but still not the masterpiece I was hoping for. 3.5 stars well deserved though!

Report this review (#110062)
Posted Wednesday, January 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars On Presets, Sylvan has produced yet another good album. But in the manner of a true progressive band, the group has chosen to make an album quite different to their previous release.

On Posthumous Silence, released a year ago, Sylvan made music with slight resemblances to Marillion as well as containing harder edged songs; and the album was quite varied - with a conceptual story binding it all together.

On Presets, Sylvan has a much more mellow approach to the music. Lush keyboards still fill up the soundscapes, Marco's vocals still convey moods of melancholy and sadness, but the music as such is closer to what groups like Coldplay (and to some extent even U2) would produce.

Good tracks overall, but not a masterpiece release this time around.

Tracks worth checking out: When The Leaves Fall Down - Hypnotized.

Report this review (#110610)
Posted Saturday, February 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars This band is vastly overrated - for a number of reasons. Their new album Presets exemplifies the most obvious reason: they lack the ability to write compelling music. The songs on Presets meander along - frankly; we've been there before. Sylvan is a blatant rehash of Marillion (themselves a rehash of Genesis) and the neo-prog elements on this CD are further proof of that. A poor effort.
Report this review (#110933)
Posted Wednesday, February 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
3 stars Sylvan their previous album entitled Posthumous Silence was my first musical encounter with this German band. It was a very pleasant one, I enjoyed the varied and tasteful blend of progressive pop and neo-prog.

This new album sounds different, the emphasis is more on carrying away the listeners with often melancholical atmospheres, from dreamy to often compelling with an important role for the singer. Also because of the emotional vocals the music reminds me of Coldplay and U2, pleasant progressive pop. The colouring of the music is quite subtle like distorted vocals and sultry bass work in One Step Beyond, violin-Mellotron in Signed Away, a swinging rhtyhm with cello in For One Day, beautiful orchestrations and way-wah guitar in When The Leaves Fall Down and sensitive piano and warm vocals in the dreamy Words From Another Day. The long final track Presets (almost 13 minutes) is Sylvan their most progressive effort featuring lots of shifting moods and dynamics and some prog metal elements.

Personally I am more pleased with their previous CD because at some moments the songs on Presets sound a bit similar and less adventurous and varied.

Report this review (#111658)
Posted Sunday, February 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I consider myself a devoted fan and never considered the negativity and the pompousness of ever claiming to be a critic, hence I rarely blast an album because I try to choose and to purchase judiciously. I have also noticed that most critics do not appreciate a favorite band who records a vastly "different" sounding follow up, as if experimentation is sacrilege. That is what makes it truly progressive, for crying out loud! We are asked the privilege of being open minded and accept the creativity for what it is and not for what it should be. Case in point is this remarkable new offering from Sylvan who released a well-received and highly successful album "Posthumous Silence" last year that catered to the heavier metal-tinged prog crowd. Yeah! "In Chains" is great track and the disc is chock full of moody histrionics that crunch, growl, whisper and tease. No doubt a great chapter in their career, yet speedily in prog terms, a year went by and they dropped "Presets". Expecting a sequel, wot ? Sorry, meine Herren, we have a surprise! I approached this wearily , fearing an even more metallic second chapter but the exact opposite overcame my anxiety, what an amazing record , smooth as silk, very atmospheric (right down my alley) and unabashedly melodic to the extreme of being almost Poppy-Prog (a dreamy-commercial form of Prog) with overtly anthemic hooks , hummable choruses and catchy arrangements. Yes, vocalist Marco Gluhmann shows his ability to belt out Bono style rave ups on the brilliant opener "One Step Beyond" as well as on "For One Day", "Former Life" and "Signed Away" (which is how U2 would sound in a proggier environment), even daring to delve into his best Midge Ure imitation when leading Ultravox on their wonderful "Rage in Eden" album. (Both U2 and Ultravox were the most progressive units from the New Wave era). With" When the Leaves Fall Down", Sylvan highlights the growing (Al Gore inspired-marketed?) concern for our beleaguered planet and the dreadful pounding that it must endure, by plaintively expressing the pain. The final epic 12 minute track could have been included on IQ's stellar "Dark Matter", arguably one of recent Prog's shiniest monuments, with Marco's finest Peter Nicholls rendition. No, "Presets" is not original or earth shattering but it definitely is a daring and bold move on the part of a highly confident unit that is slowly aiming for the stars. I have been humming absent mindedly at least 5 melodies from this record on a daily basis and I can't shake it off, even by listening to Isotope's "Illusion" or the new Seven Reizh opus "Samsara", trying to stop howling publicly! Mission Impossible, love this record and so will you, as long as you don't fall into the senseless comparison monolithic mind trap. 5 umbrellas
Report this review (#118099)
Posted Wednesday, April 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tristan Mulders
4 stars Sylvan - Presets

I came in touch with this German band via British rockers Marillion. Sylvan used to support them on their 2005 "Not Quite Xmas Tour" in Germany and a friend of mine went to see Marillion in Cologne back then. Afterwards he was not only raving about how well Marillion performed that evening, but he was also pleasantly surprised by that relatively unknown German band that supported the band that evening...

And so he talked me into checking out Sylvan's "Posthumous Silence" album, because -as he told me- it was "... a combination of Dream Theater's "Scenes from a Memory" and Marillion's "Brave" album". You have to admit... that description sounds rather tempting, does it not?

Anyway, I decided to check them out and I liked several aspects of their music, especially the beautiful vocals and the various mellow parts of that concept album, but I thought the band were lacking that bit of 'punch' whenever the music turned from dreamy pop rock into a form of progressive metal. Those heavy guitar riffs just did not sound heavy at all to these ears. And I have to admit that I could perhaps be a bit spoiled when it comes to heavy riffing, but I can't help thinking that if Sylvan just adapted those parts to a bit more crunchy, aggressive sound on the guitars, that the whole thing would've worked a lot better... Anyway, I'm drifting off..

It was then that I discovered the fact that in 2007 this talented bunch of musicians would release a follow-up to "Posthumous Silence" and I was in high hopes that they would but that minor aspect of their music to perfection... And they succeeded in doing so if you ask me!

Perhaps that because of the fact that, unlike "Posthumous Silence", this new album ("Presets") is a collection of songs and not a full-blown prog concept album, gives the band a bit more space to write 'song-songs' instead of narrating-songs... What I'm trying to say is that the music sounds more in balance than it did on the album's predecessor. And as a result of this, this whole album has a more straightforward feel to it and perhaps it is less progressive, but I know I already love this album more than I liked "Posthumous Silence" in the beginning.

The band aim for a more coherent and less fragmented approach here, which means lesser variation between heavy and slow sections and as I said before the songs are more song based and not constantly shifting and changing key and time signature. Nevertheless, the band still maintain that typical sound...

There are still those evocative string sections, the vocalist still manages to raise the hairs in the back of my neck with his warm voice (I just love the way he raises the pitch of his voice at moments, that's what made me love the band in the first place actually!), but here they've tuned their guitars to a more 'rocking' (for lack of a more suitable adjective) sound and there's even a couple of drum computer segments included and somehow I like it when artists include those in their music, at least when they put them to good use like they do here!

With "Presets" Sylvan delivered one of my favourite albums of 2007 so far.

Report this review (#118864)
Posted Wednesday, April 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album is a decent listen. There is nothing special or incredible about the album Presets. There is nothing to complain about, everything is decent. The only problem is that nothing is daring, there is nothing new and exciting. In my opinion, this doesn't reall count as prog rock. Its average rock, albeit somewhat differant from your average run of the mill modern rock.

I cant say anything bad about the album other than the fact that its mediocre. If your a fan of the band, then I would deffinately get this album. However, if you had never heard the band before, I cant really reccomend them. I'm not overly impressed by this album.

Report this review (#122891)
Posted Sunday, May 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars I have to say that from the five Sylvan albums, only "Artificial Paradise" and "Posthumous Silence" were of interest to me. So, as usual with this band, I approached this new effort with some circonspection.

Don't worry, the opener "One Step Beyond" has nothing to do with the great Madness song (might have been funny though!). It's a pleasant but repetitive song. As usual, Marco is very good (he is really holding the band together, IMO).

"Signed Away" is a dull song, but there will a lot of these type here like (at random) "On The Verge Of Tears", "Cold Suns", "Heal" etc. The best possible comparison for this album is some late Marillion releases. Most of the songs are completely uninspired, dull and pointless. This boring feeling will prevail almost throughout the whole lenght of the album (and it lasts for over an hour!).

The mellowish mood is present at every corner (although CD's have no corners). But even when being mellowish, Sylvan also achieved to be noisy at times (which is a performance).

When not noisy, they reach the bottom of what I am able to bear with "Words From Another Day". OK, it is the shortest one here. There is no need to depict this "work" track by track. It is almost like we are confronted to a one and only song. I can tell you, it is quite a challenge to listen to this for more than sixty-two minutes ! And "Hypnotized", although slightly better than average, won't hypnotize me and have me deviate from a tremendous poor feeling about this album.

If I had to vote for the best song, it would be without any doubt "For One Day". Very Bunnymen oriented (you know, Echo & The Bunnymen this great and influent band...). "Transitory Times" is also a bit more melodic than the rest.

Would the longest song save this album ? It started with a nice keys intro, but I cannot say that I am overwhelmed with an incredible feeling when listening further on this song. Then, all of a sudden, at precisely minute three the track kicks a bit and becomes very melodic and full of flavour for about two minutes. There will even be an attempt to sound as Crimson for a moment ! At this time, this song is virtually going nowhere. At times, the melodic chorus comes back as a fresh breeze, but it is really not enough to make this song a good one. Very average, I would say.

On previous releases, the good guitar play from Kay Söhl was a good support for Marco's vocals. Nothing as such here. On top of that, Marco sounds pretty much uniform all the way through. I have been bored to death while listening to this album. I will rate it two stars, but three out of ten should be a max on my scale. I have reached the end of the album with a feeling of relief. At last, it is over.

Report this review (#123396)
Posted Friday, May 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Hot on the heels of their 2006 concept album Posthumous Silence, Sylvan come out in 2007 with it's twin disc entitled Presets. Pretty fair to assume that Sylvan are heavily influenced by not only the older prog bands, but take a lot of today's modern rock and incorporates it with their own brand of neo prog. For the most part, it's a formula that works, but falls short on Presets.

The album begins with the very atmospheric "One Step Beyond". Very lush and well produced with a 'smooth as silk' approach. Nice album opener that leads right to "Signed Away". Again, we hear that modern rock sound that's reminiscent of Collective Soul or Live, with a Edge like guitar sound. Whatever they're doing, it's successful and the nice production makes it for pleasant listening. It's neo prog that has a bit of a bite to it, which is something Satellite could do on their next album. Nice vocals by Marco Glühmann, who really shines on this disc.

"For One Day" has sounds a little like a tune from the 80's and has more characteristics of a new wave song or an early U2 (even bassist Sebastian Harnack sounds like Adam Clayton) or Ultravox song rather than prog. I'm not really put off by it as it's nice qualities. Fortunately, this disc isn't full of songs like this, which may drag it down if overdone.

"Former Life" begins with a driving drum beat and a Cure-esque guitar riff. A good track, but after this and "For One Day", you're awaiting the band to really break loose. Especially drummer Matthias Harder, who has impressed me greatly from previous efforts. Again, good song, but nothing too memorable.

"On The Verge Of Tires" embodies (some of) the elements that I've come to enjoy with Sylvan. Empassioned lyrics and vocals with nice atmospheric keys. "When The Leaves Fall Down" take on (once again) an 80's new wave feel, much like "For One Day". We're halfway through Presets and it's pretty clear that the first part of Presets rests some of the prog tendencies, and focuses rather on shorter and melodic.

With only voice and piano, "Words For Another Day" take on a very intimate and melancholic tone. A nice way to break up a prog disc, if only Presets had prog characteristics aside from the first song. "Cold Sun" on the other hand, see a return to older Sylvan and sounds like something that could've worked on Posthumous Silence. Very good song with absolutely beautiful lyrics and vocals.

U2 influence another song with "Hypnotized", complete with searing guitar riffs. I can't help but like the song; but, see another diversion from the progressive side of Sylvan. The guitars are so Edge like that it sounds like a song that could've been on How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.

OK, not being a prog snob, I do like the songs from Presets. "Heal" is a perfect example why I like this disc. Nothing flashy and progressive about it, but I love the delivery of the vocals, which seem to have really matured on the past couple of discs by Sylvan. Again, don't expect prog, but a pleasant song in it's own right.

Presets closes with "Transitory Times" and the title track. While we're still awaiting some prog, Sylvan finally deliver with "Presets". The longest track by far at a little over 12 1/2 minutes, the song builds from a pretty modest beginning, transitions with some nice drumming, to an absolute glorious chorus. After another visit to the chorus, the band finally strips down and progs out. Nice drumming that is intricate and smooth, with the band changing up signatures. The song closes with beautiful musicianship, production and a choral accompaniment that gives you chills. Presets is literally saved by the title track.

If only they had approached Presets as they did the first and last song, then I'd love to give it a higher rating. They seem to be holding back until the final song, which is a shame. This band is wildly talented and I can appreciate how they've taken modern elements and married them with old neo from early Marillion and IQ. That philosophy is missing from Presets. If you're wanting to introduce yourself to this band, maybe start with Artifcial Paradise or Posthumous Silence. This is a good addition to any music collection, but maybe not to a prog collection. 2.75-3 Stars. I wish it could be more according to prog standards.

Report this review (#124310)
Posted Friday, June 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars SYLVAN is one of those bands that is good, but non-essential (in my book at least). I remember I gave few spins to “Deliverance”, it was good but something was lacking. After visiting Loreley fest this summer (ironically the day after SYLVAN played) I’ve chanced to pick their latest CD there. I listened to it and unfortunately it has left me cold again. It’s like watching from the glass – you can see but you can’t touch to make sure if it’s real. Some songs are very good, like opening “One Step Beyond” and closing “Presets”, but in general material lacks power and something that would hold listeners’ attention. Everything is TOO sterile, too polished, too predictable after all. To give an idea of how SYLVAN sounds like, take BLACKFIELD, add some H-era MARILLION, and some alternative rock to make the mixture even more accessible. Nice, but I doubt I’d hunt desperately for any other SYLVAN album in the nearest future.
Report this review (#146789)
Posted Wednesday, October 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Might not favor those who love legendary prog, but .

I knew Sylvan for the first time through "Encounters" album which favored my taste and expectation especially with such track as "No Way Out". I then purchased "Deliverance" (debut) but did not really satisfy me - the music was, I would say, no where to stand. If it's neo prog, it's definitely not the good one. When the band released "Artificial Paradise" in 2002 that was totally a different one compared to the band's previous album "Encounters" in terms of composition, style and structure. At first spin, I was not impressed with the music as it sounded so empty, musically, for my personal taste. Especially, if I've just listened to prog met style as this album is overall mellow in style. Surprisingly, my appreciation grew significantly after couple of spins. The first comment was an easy listening prog or just call it an ear candy prog. The more I put this CD on my player, I could see the value of this album's music. It's the same experience when I listened to CARPTREE at the first time. In fact, they both share similar music style.

Since "Artificial Paradise" the band has confirmed their music direction in this kind of music which basically less complex than legendary prog music like Genesis, Yes, ELP etc. It's quite enjoyable music, overall, even though it's less challenging because of its simple arrangement. It depends on how you have grown yourself, musically. If you have got used to legendary prog music, you might tend to reject this album. But you have been, somewhat, contaminated by modern music like Radiohead, U2, Muse, you might welcome this album. There are other bands in the similar vein which have been categorized under prog but share similar style with later Sylvan, such as: Carptree, Pure Reason Revolution, Phideaux, RPWL, later Marillion and many more.

Specific to "Presets" by Sylvan my initial reaction when I first the opening track "One step beyond" (7:14) was that I could predict the overall tone of the album whereby Sylvan still consistent with its style since "Artificial Paradise" album. The opening track is quite interesting especially the excellent voice quality of Marco. The next track "Signed away" (4:27) brings me to ecstasy as the song is very "intense" in building the ambient nuance with mellow style. It gives me peace of mind even though the music is quite dark. "For one day" (3:47) is basically pop in nature with predictable melody and rhythm section which is dominated by guitar fills in the vein of The Edge's U2. This song gives you a brighter side of Sylvan music with its upbeat tempo.

"Former life" (7:11) starts with a repetitive rhythm section combining bass, guitar, drum and keyboard followed by a break where the vocal enters the scene. The timing for the vocal to enter the music is good and it successfully creates good ambient for the music. The music flows in simple way with excellent vocal line. "On the verge of tears" (3:26) kicks beautifully with soft piano touches by Volker's keyboard work. What interesting is when vocal starts to roll in mellow style.

"When the leaves fall down" (4:54) is in medium tempo with good melody and arrangement, maintaining the ambient nuance. I believe for newbies would find that until this point they are satisfied with the stream of music Sylvan is offering because in general they would determine Sylvan's music style.

The album title track is delivered to conclude the album nicely. It starts with mellow ambient, in slow tempo but it builds up steadily into relatively complex arrangement with heavier progressive elements. For most prog rockers, this title track might serve as the best track because it flows progressively, i.e. it changes its styles and tempo even though moderately. It shows that the composition is quite dynamics while maintaining the root of Sylvan's music.

Overall, this is a very good album (the 6th release) by Sylvan with the same music style with previous three albums. There are catchy segments you might find throughout the album but the most important thing is how Sylvan builds the ambient nuance of its music, excellently. This album might not favor those who love legendary prog music, but if you have an open mind, you would enjoy it. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild -GW

Report this review (#148233)
Posted Tuesday, October 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars So this is my third review of a Sylvan album in a very short time. But I wanted to get rid of them, I'm a little weary about Sylvan, don't really know what to think of this band. I don't hate it, I don't really like it either so after this I'm done with them. This doesn't sound pleasant but I don't mean it insultingly. It's just that Sylvan will never be my cup of tea, still I bought 3 albums of them but I think I will leave it at that.

With Presets I believe we are back at the level of two albums ago (X-rayed). Posthumous Silence appeared to be the highlight of the three latest issues. In fact I can only detect one highlight on this album and that is the final (title) track. The rest is mediocre material to me. It's even a bit dull. After 3 albums I have heard enough Sylvan. Again: this is not bad but it has no special spark to enchant me. And the fact is: there is such an incredible lot of great prog to be found these days that I'm not really waiting for these kind of albums by Sylvan. This is another 3 star effort but no more.

Report this review (#153103)
Posted Thursday, November 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Such a long time i dont do a review of an album, and this is going to be my first one since then.

To begin with, i do not consider Sylvan as a Neoprog. band, at least in their last two albums, i think they are a nice melodic rock band, with progressive touches, or as they call themselves, a comercial rock band, but with progressive elements.

Presets is, for me, better than porthmouths sylence, i think its more melodic, also a little more simple, but the simplicity of this album is really nice, and gentle with our ears (of course, it is not, britney spears pop).

The weak point of the album is that it is not a regular album, that means, it has really excellent songs, such us One step beyond, Signed away, For one Day, Heal, Transitory times, and the masterpiece of the album, Presets.

The others songs of the album arent bad at all, but I think they are very common, and similar, after a time, they migh seem a little bored.

At last, I think Presets is the real masterpiece of Sylvan, its a great album, really nice to listen lots of times, dont expect something complex as Crimson, VDGG, ELP, or just Genesis; just expect a beautiful album

Report this review (#159775)
Posted Friday, January 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars While this album is progressive, it has pop music intertwined, making the songs quite accessible. Of course, people who do not listen to progressive music would probably think the music was from another planet, but for prog-heads, this music would likely seem to lean toward pop music. However, in this case, Sylvan makes it work as an accessible progressive rock album.

Marco Glühmann's vocals are superb on this album. He may use falsetto on this album a little too much, but makes up for it by belting out high registering passages in other areas. Indeed, his voice is the most beautiful when he pushes his limits in the higher registers (without going into falsetto).

For those who are not familiar with Sylvan, Glühmann's vocal range is not the highest in pitch and that is a good thing in my opinion, as I typically enjoy male vocals that are above the average range for male vocalists. Additionally, I have yet to hear him use vibrato (which I usually do not enjoy).

The production on this album is superb; everything flows nicely together, creating a beautiful album. It is nice to see a band setting aside their need to prove their technical skills as musicians and becoming great song-writers/creators instead. The rhythms are not anything special, but they make up for it with well-crafted songs.

The songs typically involve an oscillation between brooding, melancholic and sometimes rather restricted (tonally) grooves that explode into ethereal, soaring, confident, sometimes joyful, sometimes melancholic and always beautifully drawn out crescendos. This album makes good use of orchestral elements often incorporating many instruments.

This album is not necessarily an album you would want to listen to from start-to-finish (while all the songs are good, they are somewhat limited in stylistic variety), but it makes a good addition to any progressive music collection for those who like to shuffle their progressive music for variety.

Report this review (#536881)
Posted Thursday, September 29, 2011 | Review Permalink

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