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Sylvan - Artificial Paradise

Sylvan - Artificial ParadiseJust before the Hairless Heart Herald was resurrected as a website in 2001, Danny Mayo had the pleasure of seeing Sylvan perform at Rotherham Rocks and liked what he heard.  Well, this band from Hamburg, Germany, who have also performed at Baja Prog, has just completed their third album; Artificial Paradise.

Artificial Paradise deals with topics such as deceitfulness, superficiality and the ups and downs of life and the human nature – at the time the promo CD was sent out the booklet was still being printed so I gleaned this from the Sylvan website.  The lyrics are full of emotional turmoil which is duly reflected in Marco Glühmann’s clear and sometimes grungy vocal deliverance.  You know what?  Grunge and prog, Sylvan style, combines beautifully.  Could this be a new prog sub genre?  It doesn’t really matter but I’ve no doubt this album will open up prog to a whole new audience.  Lyrics and vocals are in English and is to Marco’s credit that they are sung with hardly a hint that English is not his native tongue.

Kay Söhl’s guitar work is powerful yet delicate and full of emotion.  Taking the track Human Apologies as an example he seamlessly changes from an early ‘Dave Gilmour’ style to a touch of ‘Steve Hackett’.  Matthias Harder’s drumming is very well controlled in the sense that it is restrained much of the time with the intricacies to hold the thing together without ever being obtrusive.  There is a very high ‘tingle down the spine factor’ here!

Six of the nine tracks are well over the 5 minute mark and one even passes the 20 minute mark, but more about that one later.  I Still Believe at just over 3 minutes in length would make a superb single.  Nirvana fans would surely give it a top twenty placing in the charts in the US and UK.  Souvenirs is a short (2 minute) song with some great piano playing by Volker Söhl.  Apparently it was originally written with French lyrics but they decided to use English lyrics in the end and changed the melody in places accordingly.  It is easy to imagine Peter Gabriel performing this reflective song.

The first eight tracks on this album are fairly diverse yet coherent musically and lyrically to the overall theme.  The final track, the epic title track is a masterpiece and a particular joy to listen to late at night slouched in an armchair with the volume set suitably high.  Sebastian Harnack maintains a mesmeric bass line allowing themes within the track to change in style and pace.  Near to the beginning is a reprise of the theme first heard in the first track, Deep Inside, but various changes occur leading to an almost grunge rap section, it’s difficult to explain properly, but as quickly as it starts it ends with a ‘Hackett’ style guitar with keys to match, delicate, intricate, thoughtful leading to yet another refrain of the initial melody.  Delicate and grandiose and close to being a tearjerker, the twenty minutes is gone in a flash.

Prog fans will love most of the tracks.  Indie and grunge fans will love most of the tracks.  Those of us who relish good music, inventive arrangements and styles will love the whole album.  This is not an album you’ll easily tire of.

Track List

  1. deep inside

  2. that's why it hurts

  3. strange emotion

  4. human apologies

  5. timeless traces

  6. i still believe

  7. around the world

  8. souvenirs

  9. artificial paradise

 Jem Jedrzejewski


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