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Sylvan - Deliverance CD (album) cover

DELIVERANCE

Sylvan

 

Neo-Prog

3.42 | 91 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars While neo-prog tendencies weren't anything new to Germany as bands like Neuschwanstein, Anyone's Daughter and Sirius were on par with the British explosion that occurred in the 80s Marillion led run, most of the bands were more of a clever mix of the contemporary symphonic prog upgrades and the melding of classic 70s Genesis and Camel elements to their sound. The Hamburg based team of guitarist Kay Söhl and keyboardist Volker Söhl (twin brothers) with guitarist Matthias Harder had no problem looking to the future while adopting the UK sensibilities of the past in this case meaning the 80s updated version of the symphonic prog world that splintered off.

While many begin their SYLVAN journey with the brilliant 2006 release "Posthumous Silence," the roots of the band extend all the way back to 1990 when the musical trio would form under the moniker Temporal Temptation but would soon change it to Chamäleon with artwork and a sound clearly inspired by 80s Marillion. The band was rounded off by Patrick Münster on bass and Marco Glühmann on vocals. Despite the setbacks, the band was encouraged by a lot of positive feedback as they were developing their own brand of neo-prog and the band stuck it out throughout the 90s but found it hard to get their debut released so it wasn't until 1999 that the fully formed band named SYLVAN found its first album in the form of DELIVERANCE.

DELIVERANCE contained all the essential neo-prog elements such as piano based melodies, dramatic soap opera lyrics conveying the spectrum of human emotions and compositional fortitude that found many proggy twists and turns developed around a story which seems scrapped together from the many demos that the band released in the years before this debut. All those years of paying their dues really paid off because the band, while not exactly living up to their potential as heard on future releases, developed a mature and sophisticated neo-prog album worthy of the modern day with a nice mix between Pink Floyd inspired space rock, Genesis and Marillion infused symphonic prog and outbursts of hard rock moments. Likewise the band had learned to master the art of long epic sprawling compositions with DELIVERANCE showing off four tracks over the ten minute mark and an album closer "A Fairytale Ending" nearly hitting the seventeen minute mark.

DELIVERANCE is chock full of all those beautiful melodies and atmospheric backdrops anyone could ever hope for on a neo-prog album. The band had clearly been studying their idols quite well. There are dramatic spoken word dialogues, excellent backing vocals, sound effects, a sense of compositional surprise and the art of tension building, contrast and crescendoing up to release. The complexities of these longer tracks are quite brilliant actually and they remind me more of the those Colossus Project type release that have emerged in the 21st century more than most neo-prog of the 90s. SYLVAN went the extra mile to add more dynamic elements than their contemporaries like Arena or IQ were pumping out at the same time. In fact you could say that SYLVAN was extremely meticulous in how they handled all the elements of their sound not only regarding the compositional fortitude but the dynamics, production and vocal phrasing.

While most have come late to the SYLVAN game, it's amazing how beautiful this debut album DELIVERANCE is as it reaches the lengthy playing time of 70 minutes but in its sonic wake, the listener is treated to one of the great neo-prog bands that while not exactly at their peak still deliver a passionate and well performed album. While mature for a debut, DELIVERANCE does have a few drawbacks. There are the expected runs of musical motifs that outwore their welcome particularly at the beginning of the album and there are times when Glühmann's vocals sound a bit like Elton John! However the strength of the album clearly comes from the lengthy tracks on the second half of the album and to be honest, none of the others are bad in any way. There simply could've been a better editing job. Great album even though many better ones were to come.

3.5 rounded up (since it's not getting enough love here)

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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