Sylvan is a German band that should be known by the average progressive rock fan; their distinguished style is their trademark for over fifteen years. For their album Home a few things have changed. When it comes to the band, guitarist Jan Petersen left the band after two albums; Force Of Gravity (2009, see review), which I highly regard and the double CD Sceneries (2012, see review) which I think is a cool album, but I know Sylvan can do better. The second change is the signing to Gentle Art Of Music, the record label founded by fellow musicians Yogi Lang and Kalle Wallner, both known from the band RPWL, providing them with a new home, surrounded by people who know their way in music.
Listening to the album Home, it immediately shows the direction Sylvan has chosen; basically back to the album that was one of their most successful ones, Posthumous Silence (2006). Sylvan went back to form a concept album for Home, basing the album on long forgotten childhood memories and the way our protagonist deals with it. The album opens theatrically with Not Far From The Sky, a composition that is based on piano, heavy orchestration and the emotional, typical voice of vocalist Marco Glühmann. This song could be seen as an extended intro to the following Shaped Out Of Clouds; one of the compositions that drags you back to the aforementioned album. Sylvan's characteristic style is perfectly shown during this composition; a slower, keyboard orientated start that gently works towards a relaxed guitar solo part by the hired gun Jonathan Beck-who might or might not be a permanent member of the band-again a smooth part that gains power towards the exciting end of the composition. Sebastian Harnack's bass takes you to In Between, a more powerful song where another element of Sylvan's music can be heard; an alternative staccato style of singing which I personally like very much. For a fragment or so you hear Ronald Reagan, which takes you to an absolute spectacular part of the song. Then the mood changes back to laidback and presents a keyboard solo by Volker Söhl and a neo progressive guitar solo. With the Eyes Of A Child Sylvan has an impressive song which again sees the piano and Marco's voice as main points of interest, alongside the orchestrated parts. With Black And White I hear the guitar again that I had missed during the previous composition. Basically Black And White has the same style of composition as the previous song, but with the addition of a nice guitar part. When The Sound Of Her World begins, I first get a sort of Spock's Beard feeling, which immediately is blown away by the orchestration, to return to Sylvan's own way of composing; creating a sort of relaxed feeling that builds towards a powerful climax. During Sleep Tight the softer piano/vocal partakes about half of the song, then a nice drumbeat from Matthias Harder slowly takes the song to another level; accessible, modern rock orientated with a heavy guitar sound. Like some previous compositions, Off Her Hands focuses on vocals, piano and orchestration, which seem to be the main instrumentation on this album. The album's pattern continues with Shine, which has strong elements where the guest guitar player is perfectly used. The same goes for Point Of No Return where we are treated to nice guitar riffs that are in contrast with the more melodic way the keyboards are used. All These Years sees the orchestrated combination of piano and intriguing vocals again and also Home is strongly based on a piano tune, but here we can enjoy a long melodic guitar solo.
OK, Home is taking you back to the music of the past, but more, I get the feeling the whole album is just composed on and for piano and orchestration-strong elements when it comes to progressive rock music, but personally I miss something. I get the idea the guitars were only added to spice things up, not really integrated into the compositions. Forgive me, but this is the way I hear things. During the moments the guitars are used, the songs gain an extra dimension, lifting the compositions up toward the standard we are used to for a band like Sylvan. Home has several compositions that are based around the emotional vocal lines of Marco Glühmann in combination with Volker Söhl's piano, that are heavily orchestrated, but are a bit overdone in my opinion. An acoustic guitar could have created a similar atmosphere. I would like to see a strong guitar player; which Jonathan Beck is, getting a chance to level up the compositions, which he will certainly do live, and bring back the balance into the songs.
**** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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