1. Who is the band? What is their history? What motivates them?
“For a lot of fans, their personal Sylvan-story starts with “Posthumous Silence”. No other of the band’s albums has made so many uncommitted “just a little”-listeners instantly to enthusiastic devotees. In relevant forums, you often find statements like “I didn’t know the band before and then I listened to them on the festival and it just blew me away.” Progressive magazine reviewers were enthused, too, and awarded top scores in a row” (http://www.Sylvan.de, 2009).
“Posthumous Silence” is a milestone in a long history reaching as far back as 1991, when keyboarder Volker Söhl, guitarist Kay Söhl and drummer Matthias Harder were schoolmates in Hamburg and together founded a band. Singer and bassist in those days was Marko Heisig, but he left soon to engage in other projects. When in 1995 Marco Glühmann joined the band (at that time still called “Chamäleon”), Matthias Harder and the Söhl-twins had finally found the charismatic voice they had been searching for so long. Together, they renamed the band as Sylvan after Sylvanus, the god of woods and forests” (http://www.Sylvan.de, 2009).
“From the very beginning, the band’s founders had committed themselves to opulent compositions and epic stories like their role-models Marillion, Genesis, Queen and Pink Floyd and they went on with this style under their new name. That was proven when Sylvan in 1999 released their first album “Deliverance”, with five of its eight songs running close to ten minutes or even longer and being correspondingly complex” (http://www.Sylvan.de, 2009).
2. Why did they make this album? What was the passion or message that forced them to produce what they have? Or, simply what was their motivation for the themes they chose for this album?
This is the follow – up album to one of my favorites, Presets. The level of excellence achieved on Presets, and their continued critical success and 2008 appearance at CalProg and some US venues must have drove this band to want to make a masterpiece which would broaden their fan base even more.
I am a fan and now possess all but their first two albums and the Posthumous Silence DVD, which are very difficult to get in the USA.
I have stated before that the only thing missing for this band was deeper lyrics, their music was already excellent. Mission accomplished on this album. They are clear for liftoff and I suspect they will win many awards and accolades with this new album.
3. What message are they delivering through their lyrics and music?
01. Force of Gravity (5:12) - The opener. Wow! What a commanding way to open the album. Get to the heart of the mission right away. “I light up a fire – a fire that stands for all injustice that we see.” Who doesn’t want to see injustice stomped out forever? Watching the world under the force of gravity being pulled to the lowest common denominator and in search of a “savior…against the fall.”
Pounding drums, guitars, and that wonderful piano that is now a trademark of any Sylvan album. Rocket launched and the power has just begun. They have always been fantastic musicians, but now with deep powerful lyrics behind them this one really accelerates.
“Climb up high and weightless, brave the fall. “ “My burgeoning fire, please fly, please shine!” What inspiration. Reminds me of Ben Harper’s Fly One Time in its inspirational power. Off to a great start.
02. Follow Me (4:39) - The economic crisis and the shallow lies of the economic and political leaders who begged us to follow them unquestioningly. Connecting with the audience and providing empathy for what the world has been suffering lately. Timely lyrics delivered with, well, force. One of the most powerful songs on an album full of powerful songs.
A reference to SPV. Clearly the band has been touched personally by this economic crisis along with all of us.
The music is delivered with expediency and at a pace that highlights the speed and rising gloom and doom of this global crisis. It is also one of the heavier songs they have done. The lyrics deliver on the strength of the message and destructive capacity of following any political leader too closely. Be careful with your passions.
03. Isle in Me (6:00) - Wow! I connected with this one immediately. This one starts with the quiet effect and I visualize walking through a forest in a fog, (Silvanus was the god of woods and forests). When you finally can see, there the ocean sits before you. The opening is mystical and then that crystal piano just welcomes you to the moment. If you have never seen a mountain or the ocean, this song transmits the effect of seeing it for the first time.
“And I dream of mountains higher than the ache in me.” Then the refrain, one of the best I have heard this year:
“Live for the dreams you shared with me.”
“ Live for the places where we’ll meet.”
“ Live for our mystic scenery.”
“ Live for my isle we’ll visit again.”
Another of my favorite lines and an example of the well designed lyrics is, “there I see the ocean, deeper than the pain I feel.”
A love song for human relationships and our relationship with nature. When all seems lost, get on your shoes and head out on a hike you Happy Wanderer, (famous German folksong), and seek company with nature.
Best song on the album. The drums and sound of a full orchestra supporting as the guitar solo rips through the air. Just amazing. One of the best songs they have ever done.
It joins Pain of Tears, Presets, Artificial Paradise, On the Verge of Tears, Former Life, Given – Used – Forgotten, and This World is not for Me as part of a collection of masterpieces which separate and define this as one of the best bands in art rock music.
04. Embedded (3:30) - A love song that’s refrain will remain with you long after you hear the song. Delivered with confidence and determination. Drums, guitar, and piano and a stripped down sound after all the power and surrounding anthems of the first three songs.
05. Turn of the Tide (6:53) - Gentle piano to open this deep, peaceful and reassuring music. Hope pouring out on the page and through the speakers. “Hold on till the flood of tears have dried.” “Wait for a new turn of the tide.”
Then the trauma starts. Grinding guitars, drums and effects surround, before the vocalist sings “Hold on…” Don’t give up hope. “Bright and clear – in time you’ll see…”
The emotion in the delivery of the words is something I haven’t heard since Tim Bowness of No Man. Deep emotion that really grabs at the heart. You can feel and experience this music as well as hear it. Sylvan music is just that, an experience.
06. From the Silence (5:43) - Slow building effects and sounds all around before the guitar, piano, strings and drums kick in. That lone piano that just lifts, “come from the silence and the silence will come after all.” “Huge black towns – quiet fatalistic, endless sounds...” Perhaps a call for a return to nature and the silence of the forests and mountains.
07. Midnight Sun (5:12) - The second best song on the album! A wonderful duet, sharing the light with Miriam Schell, who has performed on Sylvan’s albums in the past. Together Marco, Miriam and the band have built a wonderful tribute to a painting. The song was inspired by the painting, “The Sea of Ice“ by Caspar David Friedrich. Picture here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sea_of_Ice. Music celebrating art!
Remarkably, Miriam sounds very much like a young Kate Bush at times. She has a beautiful voice which compliments Marco’s perfectly. I hope there are even more collaborations like this in the future.
Piano and strings and heavy drums, then the slow powerful delivery of these lines, “an ice crystal ocean as far as the eye can see, and when I listen closely the silence speaks to me.”
Bands like Sylvan, No Man and Nosound have found a brilliant way of blending soft yet powerful sounds which remind you of silence and tranquility delivered with incredible emotion by their lead vocalists. This new art rock music is extremely interesting and the lyrics that support the music force us to think and dream on a higher level.
08. King Porn (7:31) - Not sure what happened here. This song starts off well. After all the higher level thinking and dreaming on this album, this song is an unfortunate contrast. You need a lyrics sheet to fully understand the concept. It is a protest to the amount of visual entertainment available in the world.
The music is good even if the subject matter taints a very powerful album.
Wish they would have left it off the album or made it available as an extra. It is way out of place after the beautiful Midnight Sun.
09. Episode 609 (6:00) - The subject matter reminds me of Genesis’ Turn It On Again, off the Duke album, (which is a good thing), even if the music is completely different. The lyrics are very good and bring the concept up to date.
Synths start this off and Marco’s vocals take over with guitar in the background. The lyrics here capture the concept well, “I’ll be there…I live your life – day and night – I’ll be there.”
Unfortunately for many people, tracing all the way back to the idea of a lonely Eleanor Rigby, there are no friends or family and TV is the only opportunity for interaction with the outside world. Sylvan captures that feeling well in this song.
10. God of Rubbish (4:01) - And what is available in the media today that we are turning to and away from nature? This song answers the question well.
Almost reminds me of the building of a Pearl Jam song. Very different vibe and sound for Sylvan, but I like it.
This time more of the protest is directed at “King radio” and the record companies that demand the same sound.
The final lyrics really bring home the message: “I’m a billion brilliant billboard dream…!” “Interested in success? Come baby kiss my **s.”
11.Vapour Trail (14:30) - The epic! Normally my favorite and I really like this one. Violins and strings open this up and then Marco takes over with support of piano. “Flying to the stars – way down or far up?” “Feel the time runs out…Thinking of the past – if this day’s my last who’ll think of me?”
The instrumental part really builds well with guitar, drums and supporting background noises. Unlike Posthumous Silence, where the background screams overshadowed the music, there is just enough for effect, which is to say I like the mixing on this one better.
The piano interludes on this song really bring out the power of this band and their understanding of that a lone piano can sound so perfect.
One of the last lines on this track has a powerful hook, “Heading for the stars, for the ones I love – I think of you…”
4. Does this music improve, change, or add to the genre? What does the listener receive from listening to the music?
This definitely gets Sylvan’s sound up to date and provides ten songs that add to a very substantial discography of music. They have created something different, while retaining that fantastic signature piano and the overall sound.
It doesn’t really push the barriers or add new style to the art music genre. It is a reflection and reaction to the external environment that the band and its fans live within.
However, the lyrics have improved considerably. They have always been very good at creating great musical hooks and some of their best songs have very good lyrical hooks as well. But this one really does show their maturity and development as a band.
While some of their peers have created short six song EPs, this band still has enough talent and songwriting ability to deliver over an hour of new powerful, deep emotional music. The well of ideas has not dried up and the use of Miriam Schell points to even further development and a maturity to add to the palette of ideas they will draw from in the future.
5. Does it have longevity? Is it something a fan will like to play again and again?
Yes, it hasn’t left my player since I received it. It is very good and a welcome addition building on the strength of their last album. A fan wants to see one of their favorite bands stretch their creativity and talent and deliver a full 60 minutes or more of new music. This band has done that and more. These songs will definitely add to the wonderful catalog of music this band is creating.
This album connects with its audience in so many ways. The lyrics and music on this album are both strong giving balance to their sound and proving they can deliver a powerful album in a language that may not be their native, since the band hails from Hamburg, Germany.
Rating: 9/10. If not for King Porn this would have been 10/10, but that one song leaves that glimmer of doubt as to where the band is heading and keeps this album from reaching perfection.
Reviewed by Prof on August 26th, 2009