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Sylvan - One to Zero CD (album) cover

ONE TO ZERO

Sylvan

 

Neo-Prog

4.01 | 107 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

BrufordFreak
4 stars These guys are just so professional!

I don't think they've released a single song much less album since peaking with their 2006 masterpiece, Posthumous Silence that has felt underwhelming or "phoned in." Marco and Company always give 100%--to composition, engineering, production, and, of course, to performance. And there is no one in Prog World that I can think of who has performed at a higher, more sincere level for the past 15 years as singer Marco Glühmann. So, why should we expect anything to change with this 2021 release? IT DOESN'T!

1. "Bit by Bit" (6:16) hard driving surprise. Something different! (8.5/10)

2. "Encoded at Heart" (6:42) a more-typical Sylvan tension-filled ballad-like opening over which Marco applies his plaintive tones like no one else can. Very engaging melodies and chorus. (8.75/10)

3. "Start of Your Life" (3:14) sloggy rocker. (Are the boys finally tiring?) (8/10)

4. "Unleashed Power" (7:31) a nice minute piano and picked electric guitar for the intro. Marco joins in, singing in a deep-voiced whisper up front and personal. Really nice/intriguing chord shifts after the first verse. Bass and drums join in for the chorus as piano becomes dominant accompaniment to Marco's singing. Cool thick, deep, fretless bass play over the next section. Then it gets heavy. And dark. Brooding. Until Marco goes angelic for the next "voice in my head" chorus. Beautiful! What a contrast to the bass and drumming beneath! This is what masters of their craft can do! Doesn't quite reach the heights and crescendos as promised (or as previous Sylvan works would have done) but a very satisfying, mature and masterful song--and definitely a top three song. (13.5/15)

5. "Trust in Yourself" (5:33) one of Marco's multiple personality expressions--delicate and heavy, hopeful and depressing. I just love the confidence with which he sings/performs--as if no one or nothing can disturb his groove, his craft. However, the first half of this song seems merely a setup/display vehicle precisely for Marco's talent. The instrumental C section has a nice viola solo and then an interesting searing guitar solo follows before Marco & b vox close it out. (8.5/10)

6. "On My Odyssee" (6:26) interesting synth strings play opens sounding very much like a chamber ensemble as Marco enters with his vocal. Latin-like rhythm section joins in with acoustic guitar and piano filling between the drums and bass. The classically-imitative "strings" are still present--and embellished by viola and electric guitar soli in the third and fourth minutes. Guitarist Jonny Beck is different from previous Sylvan guitarists--more classic rock instead of Hackett/Rothery-like. I think I like him! The second half of the song really blends well--especially the strummed acoustic guitar and vocal performance--but the multiple layers of soloing guitars is also very cool. (8.5/10)

7. "Part of Me" (9:16) melancholy solo piano opens this one--45 seconds before Marco enters. Another remarkably controlled, mature performance from the first note. Very cool section after the first verse in which multiple voices present harmonized lyrics. Viola joins in for the second verse to nice counter effect. At 4:30 an instrumental passage is suddenly joined by full bank of orchestra strings--this is great--but then pulsing electric guitar power chords enter to try to build tension beneath Marco's treated voice. The problem here is that the volume levels on Marco's voice are way too low--making it sound like he's singing from the next room over. In the seventh minute, we return to more of the form and motifs of the first two verses--though the drums and bass are more insistent, more driving. In the eight minute Marco pleads over the orchestra strings before giving way to an awesome Sylvan- esque electric guitar solo. Despite the remarkably slow pace of this song, it never feels boring or draggy--always remains interesting and engaging. A top three song for me--probably my favorite. (18/20)

8. "Worlds Apart" (3:58) hard hits of electric piano chords with eerie synth and guitar riffs support Marco's sensitive vocal until the one minute mark when Marco's brief chorus breaks into a contrasting abrasive aggression. A second round follows before Marco and female background vocals weave in a kind of rondo chorus. Nice! (8.5/10)

9. "Go Viral" (6:41) computer sequences provide techno-pop instrumental fabric and rhythm tracks until the band jumps heavily into the fold at 0:50. Cool! One of Marco's masterful semi-rap vocals ensues before the heavy chorus section over which he delivers his trademark power vocals. A powerful and inventive heavy metal instrumental passage fills the middle of the song, but the choruses continue to fill me with a slightly disappointing "I've heard this before" feeling. (8.75/10)

10. "Not a Goodbye" (10:14) Great lead guitar work in the fifth minute. Another flawless and emotional vocal performance over some perhaps less-than-sensational music. I mean: take away Marco's vocals from any and all of these songs and you have what amounts to very standard, almost ordinary heavy Neo Prog soundscapes. Add Herr Glühmann's magical instrument and you have the very real possibility of achieving something extraordinary--he's that important--and that good. My other top three song. (17.5/20)

Total Time 65:51

While I cannot say that I am displeased or disappointed with the songs collected on this album--they all follow the formulae that have made Sylvan such a dependable success over the past 20 years--I have to admit that I was hoping for more "new" and adventurous forms, sounds, and structures. What I can't complain about--something I will NEVER complain about--is the experience of being in the presence of the magical gifts of one of the best vocalists progressive rock music has ever seen; Marco Glühmann is on a whole other cloud of mastery and professionalism!

B/four stars; an excellent addition of melodic, masterful and heavy Neo Prog to any prog lover's music collection. As familiar and perhaps formulaic as it is, it's hard to dislike such well-crafted, well-engineered, and well-performed music.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |

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