Sylvan – One to Zero
Before I start rambling about this new album of Sylvan, I just have to warn you that this won’t be a completely objective review. I’ve been a fan since I discovered “Posthumous Silence” and after that, I bought every album they had made. On the opposite side of this, I don’t have any problems with being critical with this band.
Sylvan has an amazing history in making (Neo)progressive rock music with combined concepts and stories, with “Posthumous Silence” and “Artificial Paradise” as their best works. When I first listened to their music, I was immediately in love with Marco Glühmann’s voice. He is not solely responsible for my love for Sylvan, but I also think the Germans are one of those few bands in which every member is recognizable. Normally that is the job of the lead singer, but with Sylvan that’s different. I remember when Kay Söhl left the band, I was really bummed about that. He had such a unique way of creating and playing guitar solos that I was sure this would be reflected in the sound of the band. Still, with the arrival of Jan Petersen and later on Johnny Beck, Sylvan managed to keep their unique sound.
As said, I’ve been in love with Marco’s voice, but over the years he somewhat changed his way of singing. The main thing that I loved was the way he fluctuated his voice within sentences and words. Slowly he started to exaggerate this style, and it reached its pinnacle with Sylvan’s last album “Home”. And after loving his voice for so long, he now started to get a little on my nerves.
Therefore I can say that I am really happy that the old Marco has returned with his great singing on “One to Zero”. He is back with his sweet, warm, dreamy voice, his great switching between styles and turning his sound into the more powerful and raw. This man possesses all skills in vocals. And yes I even loved how he seemingly loses control of his voice on the “Force of Gravity” album.
The album starts with random noise and turning on an electric engine, you feel a concept album coming again and indeed this is the case. An autobiography of an A.I. from its own perspective told across 10 songs. If you rule out the lyrics, this is one of the few moments that a concept feeling is brought up. Personally, I am not someone that is really listening to the lyrics, although I think vocals are very important. I even dislike most instrumental albums – that does not sound logical, does it? However, there are quite some albums where it’s so obvious you’re listening to a concept album with a story. “Posthumous Silence” was such an album. Still one of the most emotional albums I know.
“One to Zero” is more like an album like “Presets”, where there are separate songs. I think that making a concept album must bring more than loose songs. A narrator, real-life sounds, tracks that flow seamlessly into each other can create a different feeling. This can suck you into the story, even when you’re not really listening to the lyrics. This album would have been perfect to let the songs flow into each other, a somewhat missed opportunity in my opinion.
Is this flaw cracking the quality of the album? Absolutely not! I just do not listen to it like it’s a story, but just like any other story-less album. “One to Zero” is a step towards the old Sylvan, with all the ingredients we are used to, but it does not feel as ambitious as for example “Sceneries” or the before mentioned “Posthumous Silence”. This album does not need many spins to get into, but just like with “Presets” you immediately know if you like it or not. And even after playing it many times, it does not bore me. The music is overall quite mellow, just a few songs that have a bit more power to them. ‘Go Viral’ is one of those, you can check out the video made of this song, but I have to say it does not give a full impression of the rest of the album.
Sylvan – Go Viral (click here if the video does not play)
As said, the album has 10 songs, with an average length of 6-7 minutes, 2 short songs and 2 long songs. The 2 more epic ones, ‘Part Of Me’ (9:16) and the final song ‘Not a Goodbye’ (10:14) are my favourites, they are easily the most diverse. The more powerful ‘Go Viral’ and sing-along song ‘On my Odyssey’ are also on my list of favourites.
For some, this album might contain too many slow songs, but there is enough diversity to be found here. It would be nice though if in the future Sylvan injects a bit more power and tempo into the songs.
Besides the amazing vocals, the melodies Volker Söhl gets out of his keyboard are finger-licking good again. He might just be my favourite keyboard player out there. The synthesizer and piano sound always brings a great vibe and mood to me. He never disappoints. Johnny Beck gets me playing air guitar, while he brings up another beautiful, sensitive and intense solo, putting the mood of the song right where it should be. Sebastian Harnack’s bass is subservient to the music and perhaps not as outstanding as on previous albums. The same goes for the drum work of Matthias Harder, but when one of the few more powerful parts comes along, he accelerates his drumming and you can hear why he is one of the better German drummers. The cherry on the pie is the addition of violins on several songs, giving it just that little push that makes this album feel more progressive.
Besides some critical notes on the lack of aggression on the album, I am very pleased with the overall performance of Sylvan this time around. In detail, there is a lot to discover again and the returning of the vocal styles from the earlier days makes me fall back in love with Marco Glühmann. Hopefully, he will keep this up, and the next album will go in a more ambitious direction again.
For the real Sylvan fan, this is a riskless purchase, for people who never heard of the band before, the last album might just be a good beginning.
- Bit By Bit
- Encoded At Heart
- Start Of Your Life
- Unleashed Power
- Thrust In Yourself
- On My Odyssey
- PArt Of Me
- Worlds Apart
- Go Viral
- Not A Goodbye