German progressive rockers Sylvan have reached a certain status over the last few years and the albums have slightly increased in power, resulting in a reasonable heavy Force Of Gravity in 2009. This time the band chose a different approach in the songwriting department; in order to personalize the album, the band decided to associate each chapter with one of the band members as a godfather for it, after nearly finishing the music. So the content and final touch of each chapter was directed by one band member, resulting in Sceneries being the most personal album so far.
Those who were attended Sylvan's show at De Pul in Uden in the Netherlands (see review) last year, already had some sneak peeks of the forthcoming album. One track was played during the regular set and another one was done as an extra encore after a lot of shouting from the audience. The impression then was great.
Now the first of the shining two discs is spinning and a nice musical atmosphere fills the room. The opening part Chapter 1 : The Fountain Of Glow starts gently with Volker Söhl's soft piano playing and the characteristic vocals of Marco Glühmann. Shortly after Jan Petersen gives us his first guitar solo of the album, emotional and intense played over the increasing sound of Matthias Harder's drums and Sebastian Harnack's bass guitar. In the second part of the song Marco's melodic voice changes into his more modern rock vocals; hints of Jonathan David (Korn) come to mind. In the mid section, a great sounding piano part returns to the basics of the song followed by relaxed a mid tempo, well-orchestrated bit of music until the ending emotional vocals and another wonderful guitar solo. Chapter 2 : Share The World With Me starts acoustically with guitars, piano and Marco's vocals. When the song continues, the tempo stays easy in a mid tempo range and Volker and Jan both have their chance to show their fantastic skills on their own instrument. The majority of the song stays acoustic-just the ending solo is a rough and an electric one. Chapter 2 is a nice song to just sit down, close your eyes and let the music come over you. A pattern is starting to show when the last chapter of the first CD begins; Chapter 3: The Words You Hide starts with a soft piano with Marco's vocals over them, but luckily the songs are getting the heavy twist I was hoping for, A nice and heavy guitar plays heavy riffs over a brilliant orchestrated background, but the smoother parts return and the mid section is intense, but relaxed again. Continuing mid tempo with a piano and guitar solo, Marco's vocals take you to the finish line.
The second CD starts with Chapter 4 : The Waters I Travelled, a powerful guitar and piano part lead into the slightly distorted vocals of Marco, who turn intense after a while, singing softly over the guitar chords and piano notes, then Jan's guitar takes over and we can enjoy his technical skills on the six-string, giving the song a dose of power and energy. The final part of the album is Chapter 5 : Farewell To Old Friends, that starts with an acoustic guitar and darker vocals that give the song a special touch. Later, a reggae rhythm with staccato vocals flow into a very melodic part, where Jan's guitar sounds nicely clear and crisp. The guitars gain on power and a true brilliant guitar part follows; Liquid Tension Experiment comes in mind (this was also played as an encore at the concert in The Pul Last year). After the heaviness, we return to a softer part, where Volker's piano gets accompanied by another spectacular part by Jan Petersen. This last song definitely is the highlight on the album for me, a combination of grace and power.
Sylvan's eight album is another highlight in their career, although something needs to be said; my expectations were pretty high for this album and for me personally, the band did not completely overwhelm me as I had expected. Most of the songs are relaxed and mid-tempo, I think I miss something like King Porn. When each and every band member can throw his heart and soul in one specific song, I would think that the outcome would be five completely different songs that show personal influences and preferences. The songs on Sceneries are still fantastic, but to be honest I cannot tell who was responsible for what song. (I guess Jan did Chapter 5 : Farewell To Old Friends). The other thing is the almost predictable patterns in the songs. I like to be surprised when I listen to Sylvan, so to them I say “take a chance, your fans won't blame you for being experimental”.
**** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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