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Sylvan: Presets

If Presets does not put Sylvan in the same league as contemporary progressive-rock champions Porcupine Tree, then clearly an imbalance exists within the musical universe. This German quintet has followed the lead of PT's most recent albums and crafted a superb record laced with abundant melodies, shorter and more structured songs and expressive emotions. Eschewing the cold, complex concept of 2006's Posthumous Silence (portraying a man who discovers his daughter's diary after she committed suicide), Sylvan emerges less than a year later with Presets — its sixth album since 1999.

Recorded at the same time as Posthumous Silence, Presets exposes a band ready to complete a major leap of faith, segueing from cult band to prog elite. Each of the dozen songs are treated to more breathing room than previous compositions, and their brevity (nine songs clock in under 5 minutes) makes the entire album a more memorable listening experience. The differences are discernible from the first track, "One Step Beyond," which finds vocalist Marco Glühmann singing with more conviction and joy than ever. His enthusiasm continues on other standout songs like the radio-ready "For One Day" and the mysterious "Former Life." Tracks that do venture beyond the seven-minute mark also shine. On the 13-minute epic title cut, unexpected female vocals add drama to the chorus and some killer electric-guitar work stuns with its heaviness. Both sound out of place on a Sylvan album — especially considering that this band never really rocked before. But in the context of Presets, the additions make perfect sense.

That said, for the most part, Sylvan prefers to find an atmospheric comfort zone somewhere in the musical mists of Pink Floyd, Marillion and even Coldplay. As a result, the band boasts potentially broad appeal. And despite wavering in the middle with songs that get bogged down in similar structures and too much atmosphere, Presets is a bold step in a succinct new direction for a band that finally requires your undivided attention.


Track Listing:
1) One Step Beyond
2) Signed Away
3) For One Day
4) Former Life
5) On the Verge of Tears
6) When the Leaves Fall Down
7) Words From Another Day
8) Cold Suns
9) Hypnotized
10) Heal
11) Transitory Times
12) Presets

Added: April 11th 2007
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Score:
Related Link: ProgRock Records
Hits: 3792
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Sylvan: Presets
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-04-12 10:36:52
My Score:

It's always fun watching a band grow during the course of their career. Germany's Sylvan have been around since the late 1990's, and have been releasing albums at a pretty brisk clip ever since. Their 2007 release Presets follows their very successful concept piece Posthumas Silence, and takes things back to basics to a more song oriented format. While much of the band's earlier material had elements of symphonic rock and even a touch of progressive metal, they now have morphed into a very accessible act that creates songs rich in melody, mood, and atmosphere. Elements of Porcupine Tree, Marillion, Coldplay, Pink Floyd, and Blackfield can be heard throughout Presets, from the haunting melancholy & pop leanings of "For One Day" and "Signed Away", to the driving rhythms of "One Step Beyond". This is not your normal progressive rock, as even though there's plenty of rich instrumentation created by keyboards and guitars, don't expect mind blowing solos and complex passages. Instead you get dreamy and lush pieces like "Former Life", or gothic tinged pop on "When the Leaves Fall Down". The vocals of Marco Gluhmann are what could possibly take this band to another level, as he really is an excellent singer with a very mainstream style that should easily appeal to fans of modern rock and pop music.

The band basically settles into one groove for most of this album, which for some might be a bit of a turn-off, only rarely diving into uptempo territory, which they do on the rocker "Hypnotized", a great number featuring soaring vocals, tasty guitar work, and bubbly keyboards. The title track is the albums longest piece, clocking in at nearly 13-minutes long and containing some of the most personal lyrics on the CD. It's also here that the band gets to strut their prog-rock chops for one of the only times on the CD, as guitarist Kay Sohl and drummer Matthias Harder really lay down some impressive muscle on this one.

The end result is a very solid album, that, while lacking some fire at times, contains plenty of catchy melodies and heartfelt lyrical content, showing a band that seems on the verge of breaking away from the prog genre and possibly moving into the accepting hands of a more commercial fanbase.



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