Sylvan - Encounters - 2000

"progVisions introduction to Sylvan,
a German prog-band who is about to release their third album"


At the moment this German band is working on their third album "Artificial Paradise". Because it is not ready yet and progVisions didn't wrote about this band in the past, I wrote a review about their second album "Encounters" which was published in 2000. Back in 1999 they impressed me with their debut album "Deliverance". But let's start with a short history of the band.

Guitarist Kay Söhl, keyboard player Volker Söhl and drummer Matthias Harder are together since 1990. Here are the roots of the band, which at that time first had the name Temporal Temptation, and later that year became Chamäleon. In 1991 Marko Heisig joined the band as lead singer. Matthias and Kay who were also responsible for the vocals up to then, could now focus on their instruments also. This resulted in a more complex sound and longer solos in the tracks. But in 1995 Marko Heisig was replaced by old friend of the band: Marco Glühmann who was first the lead singer of a band called Mirrors off. In summer 1997 Chamäleon changed their name into Sylvan. A year later they began to record their debut album "Deliverance" which was released in early 1999. The second album "Encounters" is a concept album and was released in May 2000. At that time bass player Patrick Münster left the band and was replaced by Sebastian Harnack. The band played on the ProgFarm Festival in the Netherlands and in the year 2001 the band travelled to Mexico to perform at Baja Prog-Festival.


Current line-up:
Marco Glühmann - vocals; Kay Söhl - guitar; Sebastian Harnack - *bass; Volker Söhl - keyboards; Matthias Harder - drums.

*On this album: Lars Köster - bass; Guest: Sören Grimme - saxophone


For me "Deliverance" is one of those great debut albums of new bands we discover from time to time. On this album are four long tracks with duration of around the 10 minutes, and the last track evens counts 16:45. Modern sympho-prog with a lot of keyboards, a good vocalist and delicious guitar solos with a lot of emotion. Those of you who frequently read my reviews will understand what I am saying and know by now that they have to listen to this CD if they have not already a copy of it.

As you can imagine I was very curious to hear this album when I bought it in 2000. But I was aware of that famous "second album" syndrome. After a great debut the second album is first of all difficult to make for the band and secondly is often not appreciated/reviewed right because of the too high expectations. As a reviewer I don't have this problem now because I know the album for quite a while and had time to listen to it often. The album opens with "No way out" (5:40). The first time I heard it I was shocked to hear that heavy guitar sound. But now I think it belongs to song and is a good contrast with the melodic and heartbreaking guitar sound I knew from the first album and which is appearing here after 3 minutes. It gives that kind of familiar feeling. I already associate this sound with Sylvan. Together with the good and special English vocals, which are sung with just a small German, accent. The second track "Essence of life" (8:05) has also a heavy rhythm guitar sound but is a song with a lot of variation, as we know from the first album. And in the end there are again those emotional guitar solos and keyboards. This is a very good track.

Next is the big suite and title track of the album "Encounters", good for more than 40 minutes of music. Part I "Overture" (3:27) opens with spacey keyboards, piano and the first vocals. After that the track develop into a nice neo-prog song with some Marillion influences in the keyboards. As I write this Part II "About to leave" (4:16) is already begun and the keyboards now sounds spacey and they reflects the sound of that other great German band Eloy. The next minute it has classical influences, so they have much variation. Also in this track a nice melodic vocal line. Part III "Your source" (3:19) has great vocals and a nice fretless bass with a sax solo on top of it. Part IV "Tremendously different" (2:11) is a short up-tempo instrumental with keyboard solos and a heartbreaking guitar solo. In Part V "Long ago" (2:16) we hear broad keyboard layers and the tension is building up. Part VI "All of it" (4:27) has aggressively sung vocals and symphonic keyboards bring us in Part VII "Presentiments" (3:20) which has a lot of variation and power. Part VIII "Would you feel better" (6:09) starts slow but is several times building up to a climax with beautiful guitar and keys. In this track you can hear how good the performance of lead singer Marco Glühmann is. One of my favourite tracks of the album. Speaking of variation in the music, Part IX "In vain" (7:49) opens with a beautiful acoustic guitar and the fretless bass. After an up-tempo part there is suddenly a break and a jazzy saxophone appears. This is the best track of the album because of the variation. After the jazzy part, melodic guitar parts, classical keyboards, a synth solo, piano parts and again the passionate melodic guitar parts. The closing theme of the album is Part X "Encounters" (2:50) and after some vocals with only piano it ends in style with a delicious melodic guitar solo of Kay Söhl on top of the symphonic keys of Volker Söhl.


After listening to this great suite and title track "Encounters" of 40 minutes I only can conclude that this CD is a worthy successor of "Deliverance". It is a real concept album and has some great melodic and emotional moments. Maybe it is even better because the compositions have even more variation and power. The band sounds more mature. Also I would like to mention Marco Glühmann who sings great on this album. There are not many good singers in sympho/prog land. Sylvan must treasure this guy because he is one of the main factors for the success of this German band. After the "old" German bands like Novalis, Grobsnitt and Eloy we have at last a new German progband who is performing in the melodic/sympho/neo-prog section. I still hate all this labels but I am sure now that you readers of progVisions know what I am talking about. I can recommend this album (and also the previous one) to the fans of melodic sympho/prog. Can't wait to hear their new album "Artificial Paradise".

progVisions will keep you informed.

author - date - rating - label

Douwe Fledderus - March 2002 -   - Angular Records