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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Sylvan

Posthumous Silence

Review by Gary Hill

I have to admit to ignorance when it comes to this band. Although they have been at it for a while, I had never heard of them before. That's a shame as these guys are an extremely good neo-prog band. While I would say this disc isn't perfect, it is darned good. It wanders a bit into some really odd territory at times, but overall is a cohesive work that captures the classic elements of the best progressive rock while not imitating any of it. There are few moments where you can point to a specific artist as inspiration. This is essentially a concept album and really flows as one long piece of music split into numerous sections. I may have not heard these guys before, but you can bet I'll follow them from here on out.

Track by Track Review
Eternity Ends
Keyboards and the sounds of nature lead this off, with the keys gradually rising up. Hints of vocals come over after a time, then joined by weird effects and chaos. This rises until it crashes like thunder, then it drops to just atmosphere with a voice on the TV. Next amidst true thunder sounds choir voices rise up to carry the melody. Eventually just the sounds of nature are left to end this instrumental and pull it into the next.
Bequest of Tears
A pretty melancholy piano weaves a balladic line coming out of the last number. Eventually a voice joins to bring in the first lyrics of the disc, and other keyboard layers and symphonic atmospheric music is woven over the top. This is sedate yet powerful and begins gradually growing upwards. Noisy elements emerge over this at points, but it is mostly just icing on the cake as this stays a progressive rock ballad approach. Then it drops to just atmospheric sounds with waves of louder texture running over the top of this motif. A bass line comes over towards the end, but never really emerges as anything new. Instead this mode carries straight into the next track.
In Chains
The bass line of the last cut moves the band into this one and the other instruments join in the first real rocking moments of the album. This one has a bit of a metallic edge, but overall is powerful hard rocking prog. They move this through a number of intriguing changes, at times powering it out towards more pure metal, but then dropping it back to the more melodic. A killer synthesizer solo dominates the track later. This dynamic piece is very strong neo-prog. It turns a bit weird later. This one has so many different sounds and textures that it isn't for everyone, but if you like your progressive rock delivered with crunch and a sense of adventure, this one is really for you. It has metal, fusion, keyboard prog and a whole lot more.
Bitter Symphony
This comes out of the chaos that ends the last number and is a sedate prog rock ballad, with just vocals and atmospheric music. It's not exceptionally long, but does serve as a nice respite. A guitar line at the end carries into the next one.
Pane of Truth
With the guitar from the last track starting this, piano and other keys join and this becomes a melancholy sounding ballad. Strings play over the top after a time. Eventually it powers out into a potent progressive rock journey that is not metallic, but also not mellow. This also doesn't feel like any band in particular (or even era) creating it's own musical textures. They drop it back to the mellower, but incidental sounds join the mix at points this time around. They twist it around later into something with more of a fusion texture, although that sound gradually rises within a new progression in the old format. Then they take the ballad sort of stylings and bring in more layers to create a more powerful motif. Then all sorts of sound bites (like people arguing in several separate conversations) come over the top. They eventually go away and leave just the ballad like structure again to carry the cut forward. This turns later towards the noisy and chaotic for a time, then drops to a pretty mellower progression. They build it back up gradually from that point and eventually launch out into a very pretty and melodic instrumental progression with some very tasteful guitar soloing over it. This has some very minor elements of bands like Pink Floyd and Genesis. When the vocals return over this motif they are even more emotional than last time around. There are some echoes of Yes-like sounds on this, but only in a minor way. Another meaty guitar solo emerges again and carries the track to a drop back to just keys and strings. More sounds come over the top of this mode as it turns a bit towards weird unsettling sounds. Then a more dramatic, movie soundtrack type of texture with choral vocals takes in a very effective manner. This eventually crescendos, then leaves just the keys behind in its wake to lay down a pretty melody. At over 9 minutes this is one of the longer cuts on the disc. It is also one of the most dynamic and a standout.
No Earthly Reason
This one feels a bit like "Tubular Bells" to me at first, but eventually becomes another dramatic ballad. The cut gains its power from the increasing layers of the arrangement as it stays fairly close to its roots throughout. This is a fairly short one, but it does shift towards dramatic weirdness late.
Forgotten Virtue
Coming out of a progression that began building on the next number, this one comes in as a crunchy neo-prog melody. Eventually it twists towards metal, but still is way too weird to qualify as that genre. It drops back down to a more energized version of the sounds that came before. After another round of running through these alternating patterns they explode this out into a new progression that is heavy and meaty, but also very prog. This then drops down to more atmospheric sounds and keys carry a new melody to move it forward slowly. The next vocals come over this backdrop. Then the group begin reworking and recreating this structure gradually. After quite a while it begins to take on a more rocking approach, but still only tentatively. This gets a little dark, but also extremely powerful. It moves outward into a keyboard dominated instrumental segment that feels a bit like Genesis, but then drops back to the stripped down mellower approach. They take it back to the metallic after a while and then really explode out into a powerhouse segment that certainly borders on prog metal. It drops back to a combination of metallic jamming and symphonic instrumentation, then turns out into a potent ballad structure once more. This is another exceptionally dynamic track.

The Colors Changed
A piano based melody starts this one seemingly straight out of the last track. As the vocals enter I am really reminded of early Genesis quite a bit on the arrangement here. This one is another very emotional piece. Eventually it explodes out into a more powerful take on the musical themes that make up the song proper. This doesn't reinvent anything here, but only revitalize it. Later, though, they turn this out into a very expansive take on the song's textures. This one is simply incredible both in terms of musical textures and emotional vitality. It is without question one of the highlights of the disc. It has everything that makes prog great.
A Sad Sympathy
This is a short segment that reminds me a bit of some of the more atmospheric music of early Marillion. At first this is mostly just textural keys and sound effects, but a little bit of melody emerges late, along with some vocals. Still, there is nothing exceptional here. It's more just a mood piece that leads straight into the next one.
Questions
Like most of the album this comes out the previous track, and begins a gradual building process. As this moves forward I definitely hear some Genesis in the mix of the more lush segment. This doesn't stay around long, though, and they drop it back. When they pull it back up it feels a bit more like Yes. An instrumental break later includes more of the shouting sound bites. They move this through a couple reiterations, then a theremin comes in and heralds a drop down to weirdness. This turns to atmosphere for a time, but then the pretty keyboard elements from earlier begin a gradual return. After a time guitar joins and then this turns to a very Yes-like instrumental progression that is simply awesome. They turn it to a more heavy, dissonant metallic jam later, but the keys remain over the top of this to give it just a bit of a King Crimson like texture. This one gets a bit weird through here, but then resolves back out to the more melodic. It is definitely another of the strongest cuts on show here. A crescendo gives way to the piano that both ends and segues it into the next number.
Answer to Life
Extending upward from the last cut a dramatic and powerful prog rock jam with symphonic instruments starts this off. It drops back towards a more stripped down verse. The chorus on this one is among the most potent moments of the disc. They drop it back later to some extended atmosphere. The song eventually rises like a phoenix back out from there. This one feels very empowering.
Message From the Past
This is another fairly short and sedate ballad-like piece. It has more symphonic instrumentation that a lot of the album and because of this actually feels very much like classical music at points. There are also segments that call to mind the soundtrack to a horror film.
The Last Embrace
This one has a bit of a strange jazzy groove. After a time, though, it shifts towards the more metallic, then they alternate between these sounds. An incredible hard-edged jam later is a highlight, although it turns very metal in nature. In a definite show of their versatility, though, they drop it back afterwards towards ambience, then power it back out into more typical prog rock fashion to outro.
A Kind of Eden
The sounds of birds begin this one. As the music and voice gradually comes up out of this backdrop it is both sedate and very pretty. They turn this into a very potent prog ballad that again feels a bit like Yes to me. This turns extremely powerful later, and those Yes elements are all over the triumphant sound here. This is another of the standout cuts on the album, even though it is a bit short comparatively. Sound effects and TV voices end this and carry it into the album's closer.
Posthumous Silence
A pretty and poignant piano based ballad approach leads this one off. It very gradually and organically grows out to an exceptional evocative version of itself. The instrumental progressions that come in over this are simply wonderful. This one doesn't wander far in terms of song structure, but variations on its themes present a very satisfying conclusion to the album and the best track on the whole disc. There just isn't any better way to end this journey.
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