Can there by a finer voice currently in the prog scene than Sylvan ‘s lead lung? Besides the impeccable technique, he also is arguably one of the most recognizable vocalists in any genre, with a unique style whereby he ‘squeezes’ out harmonic vowels with a mini delay that either elevates or emphasizes the passion he seeks to interpret. Not many singers like that, Bono perhaps (the voice and not the activist) would be a worthy example, though in my mind, Marco is way more engaging, comfortable in both the serene and the stormy. His quarter of a century career with Sylvan finally has led to record a very personal solo album, as the German band is currently on a mini hiatus with various side projects going on (Violent Jasper and Ylves, in particular). A crew of well-known names are in on the act, RPWL mates Yogi Lang, Markus Grutzer and Kalle Wallner, Sylvan guitarist Johnny Beck as well as some dudes called Billy Sherwood and Steve Rothery. Tommy Eberhardt (Blind Ego) handles the drum kit.

We have a dozen songs that never go beyond 6 minutes, indicating that the concentration here is not on concept, storyline or epic prog symphonics. That is what Sylvan does, arguably rather superbly. This album is all about melody, atmosphere and passion in well-chiseled, intensely fresh, and positive contexts that exude all the charm of the universe. The opener “Hear our Voice” sets the tone right from the first note, no fiddling around with any overture at all, the guitars laying down the main melody, a brief transition with acoustic guitar, rubbery bass and Marco establishing his incredible voice. The backing vocals emit a powerful surge, settling down with a twinkling piano, shuffling drums, and a melancholic moment. Back to the chorus and, there is little doubt we can hear his voice, Marco and Billy sharing the microphone before a sizzling guitar solo swerves into the starry skies.

Just to ensure this will not be an entirely mellow affair, a bruising rock number in “Never Say Goodbye”, owner of a gloriously majestic chorus, sweeps the slate clean with power and sensitivity. The swaying of emotional sections from forgiving to vigorous are exhilarating, the sublime chorus keeping the balance intact. Tremendous number.

Calm after the storm on the serene ballad “Reach Out”, a vocal display that underlines the qualities defined earlier on, at one moment gently fragile and then overwhelming, as it soars in intensity. That vocal ability to veer from one extreme to another is amply shown here once again, a Marco claim to fame, as every word is completely intelligible. The symphonic crescendo on the finale is breath taking, tormented voice and tortured guitar burning adding to the plea.

Rage shows it true colours on “Faceless”, a thrashing pulse full of piss and vinegar, doom-laden walls of keyboards adding dim colorations, and a decidedly angry vocal disposition verging on fury that just pummels along without any remorse! So much for a peaceful album!

Marco has that romantic ability to interpret the deepest emotions, a trait I find particularly appealing. The spectacular” Look at Me” is a highlight moment here, showcasing a level of intricate expression in the tender paternal lyrics, ornate classical piano twinkling in fluid rapture, and a stunning chorus that will stick in your head forever more. “Follow me now”, repeated endlessly as a plea for the ages, just like my own father had said to me so many times. “At Home” is the companion piece fortified with similar piano and voice construction, a song about responsibility, dedication, protection, and unconditional love. Having been an only child and then a father of five, this one also hits deep into the soul.

A duo of brief pieces, one light and the other dark are up next. A simple song that claims no more than just being as natural as possible, “For A While” is a little, sweet, and honest tune that still stuns by the impeccable prowess from the Hamburg native. “Black the Shades Out” out is a chugging alternative, with a highly urban, moody, and repetitive disposition, totally addictive upon even the first listen. Keeping the stark feel of apathetic routine, “One Last Hope” diverges from grey matters to barely hopeful and only monetary resolve, with dense electronics clouding the horizon. Another hallmark event on this release, all the pieces firmly convincing, especially Marco hitting the colossally high notes with apparent facility.

Might as well toss in another truism, as this album is already full of them, “Life is Much Too Short” is the sad reality of our immortality, a reflection that has no time or space in our algorithmic schedule, where even sleep is a complicated matter. Nothing worse that a life of endless regret, the ultimate failure. Again, the theme is maintained as a segue, “Running Out of Time” having this interesting 80s synth pattern flowing though it, as Marco does his best Peter Murphy impersonation before reverting in the chorus to his usual tone.  The brash guitar barrage heightens the apprehension, the clock tick the same second for everyone, there is no turning back. Ripping guitar solo to highlight the impending arrival of finality.

The absolute best is kept for last, “My Eyes Are Wide Open” is a sensational finale, a crowning melody, brilliant chorus, and a Marco delivery that has CLASSIC stamped all over it. If you thought Sylvan’s “Shine” had overpowering emotion, well this is in the same league. The legendary Steve Rothery provides a luminous guitar solo as only he can, soaring brightly, making it impossible to close your eyes with any finality.

Easily a leading contender for 2024 honours, a perfectly concocted collection of meaningful songs, expertly prepared and honestly delivered. What a voice, though!

Wirklich unglaublich !

5 Gentle gifts