REVIEW: Nad Sylvan – Spiritus Mundi

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There’s no denying that hearing the landmark prog colossus of an album, “Selling England By the Pound,” by GENESIS for the first time kind of shattered my perception of music back when I was a juvenile metalhead with an attitude. By the sonic looks of it, the Swedish prog maestro Nad Sylvan most likely shares my unbridled love for this progressive rock masterpiece released in 1973. His previous efforts, the “vampire trilogy” comprised of the albums, “Courting the Widow(2015), “The Bride Said No” (2017), and “The Regal Bastard” (2019), already demonstrated this beyond reasonable doubt. His new studio album, “Spiritus Mundi,” to be released on April 9th, 2021, via InsideOut Music, delivers yet another proof of concept. Sylvan channels the early-1970s British prog sound so authentically that it is simply impossible to imagine anyone more suitable to have stood in for Peter Gabriel in the Steve Hackett-led GENESIS REVISITED. That is to say, Nad Sylvan‘s new offering is eclectic prog at its finest: maybe not so much for the fans of flashy pyrotechnics as for the connoisseurs of the good, old-fashioned symphonic prog with a modern twist. The universal law according to Sir Isaac Newton states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Prog is a concept that is notorious for driving otherwise reasonable men to rapture and excess. As an incurable prog enthusiast I guess it is only good for the soul to listen to the cosmic equilibrium being restored, every now and then, by a smooth and deliberate gesture such as “Spiritus Mundi.”

The album radiates with a warm and welcoming atmosphere. There are a lot of acoustic guitars present, yet it does not come off as baroque hippie-folk; pretty far from it, in fact. On occasion, the album resonates with the aura of both Steven Wilson and Peter Gabriel, most notably on the track, “The Hawk.” It is probably safe to assume that Sylvan‘s signature sound would work like magic on the soundtrack of some contemporary British drama. Salman Rushie wrote in his 1999 novel, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, “Our lives aren’t what we deserve. They are, let us agree, in many painful ways deficient. Song turns life into something else. It shows us a world that’s worthy of our yearning.” Nad Sylvan‘s new outing evokes feelings to such an effect. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the album centers, lyrically, around the poems of the Nobel Prize winning Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, who was a master of double meanings. These multi-layered texts, juxtaposed against the sparse musical arrangements, leave plenty of room for the listener’s subjective interpretation, basically meaning that you might have to put the record on repeat to get to the bottom of it, properly.

While the album marks a subtle shift from Sylvan‘s previous albums, focusing more on the lyrics and vocals in tandem with the lush orchestration, it boasts a rather notable cast of guest musicians. Tony Levin plays bass on four tracks and Jonas Reingold of THE FLOWER KINGS on one. This Swedish prog outlet of Rainer Stolt also lent the drummer, Mirkko DeMaio, at Sylvan‘s disposal for the making of “Spiritus Mundi.” Steve Hackett makes an appearance, playing the 12-stringed guitar on the bonus track, “To a Child Dancing in the Wind.” Obviously, the performance is top-notch throughout the album, let alone the mix and the production. While some of the mixing and mastering was done during 2020, the writing and the recording of the album started already in late 2019, well before the global lockdown. Being off the road apparently allowed for more time to refine each nuance of the music so that it is easy to agree with anyone who thinks it is by far Nad Sylvan‘s best offering to date. There is something about writing a song that can conjure up visions of that strangely appealing other-world. It is a skill that cannot be taught. Sylvan definitely possesses that special talent. His new studio album “Spiritus Mundi” is one of those rare albums that whisper secrets in our ears, in a dreamy sort of way, lighting our journey down the yellow-brick road like a tungsten lamp.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. The Second Coming
  2. Sailing to Byzantium
  3. Cap and Bells
  4. The Realists
  5. The Stolen Child
  6. To an Isle in the Water
  7. The Hawk
  8. The Witch and the Mermaid
  9. The Fisherman

Lineup

Nad Sylvan – Vocals, keyboards, guitars, orchestration, bass, drums, programming

Andrew Laitres – Vocals, guitars, additional keyboards

Tony Levin – Bass

Steve Hackett – 12-string guitars

Neil Whitford – electric guitar, slide guitar

Jonas Reingold – Bass

Mirkko De Maio – Drums, congas

Steve Piggot – Additional electric guitars

Kiwi Te Kanna – Oboe, Chinese flute

Label

InsideOut Music

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