Issue 2006-025: Sylvan - Posthumous Silence - Round Table Review
Round Table Review
Tracklist: Eternity Ends (2:03), I - Bequest Of Tears (3:19), In Chains (8:38), II - Bitter Symphony (1:20), Pane Of Truth (9:06), III - No Earthly Reason (1:57), Forgotten Virtue (6:43), The Colors Changed (5:58), IV - A Sad Sympathy (1:42), Questions (6:59), Answer To Life (5:56), V - Message From The Past (3:00), The Last Embrace (3:27), A Kind Of Eden (4:55), Posthumous Silence (4:59)
Ed Sander's Review
Sylvan has been one of my favourite bands of the past years and are a good example of how some of the best current day prog rock seems to come from Germany. After several fine albums and one masterpiece (Artificial Paradise) the guys from Hamburg are back with another mind blowing roller coaster of emotions called Posthumous Silence.
Posthumous Silence is a concept album about a girl who is so disillusioned by modern society that she eventually decides to leave this life behind her (commit suicide ?). Of course this makes for some great background material but unfortunately the band hasn't made the optimal use of the context. Whereas I have always been emotionally moved by Marillion's Brave it's harder to get this involved in Posthumous Silence. The reason is not that the music is less evocative, on the contrary. It's just that most of the lyrics display feelings, not events or occurrences. As such, you get a pretty good feeling what the protagonist, a girl named Violet, feels like but the reasons for this are left quite vague and abstract. This might work for some but for me it's a missed opportunity since I've got a bit of a hard time identifying with the girl. On top of this there's talk on the web that the whole thing might be a metaphor for God (the father) and mankind (the daughter). Should this be the case than I'd find it even more disappointing since I've had enough Casino and Morse for a lifetime. Still, since this is basically my only (minor) point of criticism regarding this album, you won't find me complaining about this too much.
The concept is structured quite smartly by presenting the father of the girl who reads her diary. The father's perspective is presented through five shorter songs (marked with the Roman numbers I - V). The first of these, Bequest Of Tears, is actually a preview of the album's title track and features a beautiful piano melody as well as a marvellous orchestration with strings and cello. Bitter Symphony brings more emotional vocals combined with guitar and strings. No Earthly Reason and A Sad Symphony builds around piano, synths and percussive effects. Message From The Past shares themes with both the title track (through a beautiful cello solo) and The Colors Changed. Besides these five short pieces there's also the opening Eternity Ends that sets the right mood with soundscapes, samples of news broadcasts and thunderstorms and a beautiful choir that will later return in Answer To Life. All of these short interludes work perfectly as breathers between the more emotionally charged tracks and while they share the same mood each of them has its own small melody and theme.
The girl's perspective, or should we say 'excerpts from her diary', make up the longer tracks on the album. These range from angry and frustrated (In Chains, Forgotten Virtue, The Last Embrace) to desperate (Pane Of Truth, Questions) or hopeful sadness (The Colors Changed, A Kind Of Eden). Some songs take a while to get used to, especially some of the more aggressive ones, but when you delve into the concept you'll find yourself opening up to their mood.
As you can imagine the real highlights of the albums can be found among these tracks. There's too much happening in the 70 minutes of the album and too many moments of sheer musical genius to describe them all here but I'll mention a few nevertheless. There's the soaring guitar solo and orchestral climax of the title track (now that's how a concept album should end !). The typical 'Sylvanian' catchy melodies of The Colors Changed, Answer To Life and A Kind Of Eden. The pumping bass and guitar riffs of In Chains, Forgotten Virtue and The Last Embrace. The splendid synth solo's in In Chains, Forgotten Virtue and Questions. The tasteful drum rolls in Questions, typical drum pattern of Forgotten Virtue and quiet toms in A Kind of Eden. The beautiful bluesy guitar solo in Pane Of Truth and the semi-climax in The Colors Changed. The stunning, majestic orchestration throughout the album. And last but certainly not least the trademark vocals by Marco Glühmann who might not be completely devoid of a certain German accent but makes up for it with his characteristic style and range. Whether performing the heart wrenching emotion or the blood-boiling anger in the lyrics, Marco always hits the right spot.
On Posthumous Silence the band also perfects the art of merging musical passages and songs seamlessly. They already showed their skills in impressive epics like Encounters and Artificial Paradise but they reach new heights on this album which is basically one long tour de force without a second of silence whatsoever. The album also finds a good balance between the more melodic approach of the Artificial Paradise album and the more dark and disturbed mood of X-Rayed.
To be perfectly honest, most of the music is not enormously groundbreaking for the band and at times you might even call it self-plagiarism (The Last Embrace sounds a bit too much like a remake of the middle section of Artificial Paradise), but overall one can consider this new album the sum and optimisation of what the band have done before. The end result is a stunning album that can easily stand among the great concept albums of the last decades and will most probably end up being my favourite album of the year since Sylvan has set a standard that will be very hard to beat.
Extremely highly recommended !
Andy Read's Review
It must be six year's now, since I first stumbled across this progressive rock band from Germany, having been mightily-impressed with their performance at a festival held by the UK's Classic Rock Society in Rotherham. (I seem to recall that Holland's Ricocher were on the same bill, and left a similar impression.)
Anyway, I think Sylvan was promoting its second album then. That also proved very enjoyable, before they upped my interest with the impressive, neo-Prog workout that was 2002's Artificial Paradise. A couple of years have now passed since their fourth album, the moderately successful X-Rayed, and now, the band unveils its first-ever concept album - evocatively entitled Posthumous Silence.
Without a lyric sheet and with minimal info to be found on the press blurb, I decided to resist the temptation to visit the band's website and find out exactly how the story unfolds, preferring instead to let the music stand on it's own two feet. From what I can gather, it tells the story of a father, who discovers for the first time the life of his lost daughter through her dairy. I'm sure however, that a better appreciation of the lyrical content would bring a whole new dimension of enjoyment.
In effect, this is a true concept album - one, multi-faceted piece of music, which seamlessly blends 15 tracks across over 70 minutes of music.
The first thing to say, is that this really does need a fair few listens before it begins to work. But it is worth the patience, as there is a lot of very good music to be enjoyed here. A few tracks tend to pass me by still, yet there are long passages of music where the melodies and instrumentation possesses a power and passion that really draws you in.
Musically the band sits somewhere in-between the progressive rock and metal genres - maybe closer to the former, than the latter. The one thing you can't accuse Sylvan of doing, is living in the past. Where so many progressive bands merely rework musical history, Sylvan has managed to bring a very modern approach to their music. Nu-school prog, if you like labels.
Vocalist Marco Gluhmann will ensure the band always has its own, definable sound and his work on this album is compelling. This is especially the case on the album's more tender moments. The hauntingly beautiful voice and piano on Bequest Of Tears is brilliant, as is the way that the song flows into the more up-tempo In Chains thanks to a great, little bass line.
With its great groove and catchy hook, Answer To Life is my favourite track - a few Coldplay influences here. The vocals again shine on the fabulous, forceful ballad The Colours Changed, while I just love the contrast given by the heavy prog instrumental section that cuts through Answer To Life. The orchestration and flowing guitar work that joins the two closing tracks, ensures the whole thing ends on a grandiose climax.
As I said, a few tracks don't quite maintain the same quality, along with three or four of the more theatrical/instrumental interludes which rather break up, as opposed to assist, the flow. The occasional straying into nu-metal territory and the distorted vocals used on three of the tracks, also grates a little.
According to the label, this album is 'real masterpiece of progressive rock'. Well they're entitled to a biased opinion, but I think that's blowing their trumpet a little too loudly. Personally, this just shaves Artifical Paradise as the band's best offering to date and will certainly be among the best albums of its kind released this year. But I still have a feeling that this band has yet to fully realise its full potential and to deliver a real classic.
Highly recommended nonetheless.
David McCabe's Review
Since discovering Sylvan's Deliverance some time ago, I've been an avid follower of their melancholy take on melodic prog, and they've yet to disappoint.
An album with the title Posthumous Silence was never going to be a happy-go-lucky effort, and certainly Sylvan are on form here. Marco Glühmann continues to impress with his impressive command and distinctive voice, but this is far from the singer's show. Particular highlights are the changeable Pane Of Truth, the sample-laden Questions, the climax to The Colors Changed and the soaring yet wistful A Kind Of Eden.
In this genre, it would be impossible to avoid comparisons with Marillion's Brave, and certainly there are superficial similarities, particularly structurally. However, dismissing this as a clone would be an unfair and misleading judgement. There are no throwaway pop songs here or breaks in the flow, and Sylvan display an impressive amount of inventiveness. This is an emotional "tour de force" that has more in common with Pain Of Salvation.
Sonically, the album is a little dense, and this is the only shortcoming; a little more openness in the production would show off the dynamics of this suite more effectively. That really is nit-picking, though; this is a fine album that demands repeated listens, but nails one to the wall all the same. Newcomers to Sylvan should still go for Artificial Paradise, but fans of complex and inventive music will lose many hours with this one.
Yalcin Inel's Review
I can already feel that this review is going to be a waste of my time. I could summarize this review in only one sentence instead:
“This album is one of the best records I’ve come across in the last few years, so go and buy it!”
Of course I’m going to elaborate on the paragraph above. Posthumous Silence is a conceptual album about a father, whose daughter committed suicide and now, after reading her diary he realizes what he has (not) done and his indifference for her in the past. This theme is presented both from the girl’s and the father’s perspectives, but I must say that lyrically the whole concept is somewhat linear and doesn’t possess many turning points etc… It’s not bad, but it’s not amazing either. But I think although the lyrics are quite important, it is the music that counts. If I cared more about the lyrics, I would buy a book instead of a CD. Well, musically Posthumous Silence is nearly perfect.
Some of you might know about the band’s past efforts (Deliverance, Encounters and Artificial Paradise) which were leaning towards the so called “neo-prog” (namely IQ and Marillion) with some metal touches here and there. Their last effort X-Rayed combined this style with a more modern approach by borrowing some darker elements and synthesized effects from modern rock, even alternative rock. It was a great record and showcased the band’s gift for amazing melodies and emotional soundscapes without losing the prog touch. And now, Posthumous Silence surpasses everything they’ve done so far by combining the band’s best aspects and re-wrapping them with a much more mature and passionate approach. The expressive and captivating vocals of Marco Glühmann, the melodic nature of Kay Söhl’s laid back guitar solos, the tasteful and versatile drumming of Matthias Harder and Sebastian Harnack’s solid and groovy bass lines are all top notch as before. But this time around the keyboards really shine throughout the record by setting the mood with wonderful piano and atmospheric arrangements or effects. A big thumbs up for Volker Söhl! In addition to all this, the beautiful cover artwork and the great production quality leave nothing left to be desired.
It’s really hard to give some favourite tracks. You should really listen to this in its entirety. But Pane Of Truth, Answer To Life and although it has nothing to do with prog, due to its irresistible melody lines The Colors Changed are the standout tracks on this record. Especially Pane Of Truth, in my opinion is the most prominent track in the album showcasing almost every strength of the band. Wonderful piano arrangements, tasty bass licks, simple but expressive guitar solo and the use of the delay effect on guitars in the right places, a beautiful cello accompanying the band and of course the amazing vocals of Mr. Glühmann… All in a 9 minute long musical journey make sure that you cannot feel how time passes by.
If the idea of a Pain of Salvation’ized mixture of “neo-prog” with Fates Warning (maybe also with some Abydos touches here and there) sounds fine for you, you won’t be disappointed with Posthumous Silence. This album is a glorious showcase of melody which takes you through a journey of almost every mood possible in a progressive rock/metal setting. It’s too early right now, but I’m quite sure that it will end up as my favourite album of 2006.