Nad Sylvan: The Bride Said No (InsideOut)
Nad Sylvan's name may not be well known to those outside of the prog circles but his voice will be recognisable as the Gabriel in Steve Hackett's Genesis Revisited shows and on in it's live line up. The Swede is and interesting character affectionately known as a Vampirate his flowing locks and shirt put him in the 18th Century from looks alone and this is where his latest album is also set. Following on from the Vampire concept record Courting The Widow released in 2015 The Bride Said No is a continuation of the story line, albeit with a much broader musical scope, it's dramatic even cinematic at times having the feel of a Broadway musical (think Meatloaf) with Sylvan handling the keys, orchestration, programming and most of the guitars with Anders Wollbeck aiding with additional sound design, keys, programming and orchestration which gives this record it's unique sound.
There's Gothic tendencies, some pop flourishes and of course prog rock but it's all very understated with the songs able to speak for themselves. Obviously with Rolodex (old school folks) like Sylvan's he's calls upon some friends to help him out and they are high profile of course, What Have You Done features guest guitar solos from Steve Hackett and Guthrie Govan, most of the drums are performed by Nick D'Virgillo and bass from Jonas Reingold, however on three of the tracks most notably When The Music Dies, which is a tribute to all the stars we have lost recently, the bass is taken by Tony Levin who plays some dirty distorted Chapman Stick on this song in particular.
Other guests are Ronie Stolt (Flower Kings) on guitar and Jade Ell, Tania Doko and Sheona Urquhart on backing vocals with Jade duetting with Sylvan on What Have You Done and Urquhart providing sax on A French Kiss In An Italian Cafe. The Bride Said No is a fascinating record with rich musicality to it that is bolstered by the performances, Sylvan has a unique voice with a wide range that tells the story well with all of the performances on top form. It may be a bit overwhelming for those that prefer their music a bit simpler but for fans of complex, theatrical music this is excellent. 8/10
Nighon: The Somme (Inverse Records)
War huh? What is it good for? So asked Edwin Starr in 1970, well one answer would be nothing as Starr himself said but one thing war is good for is lyrical inspiration on metal albums, so many bands have covered war or wars as themes with Sabaton being the first name that comes to mind for most. War is also the theme of the second album of Finnish industrial metal band Nighon, not just any war though 'The Great War' the so called "war to end all wars" (complete bollocks of course) and in particular the battle of The Somme which one of the most famous and most bloody battles in all of human conflict.
The darkness and harrowing nature of this conflict is perfect for an industrial metal band as they can really mimic the relentless march of war machines on tracks such as the Blow Them All To Hell which has a grinding black metal riff backing the harsh vocals of Nico Häggblom, while Alva Sandström sails above the heaviness like an angel watching over the damned souls, see a tracks such as The Dirge and Lest We Forget which has her repeat the line "all hail the glorious dead" like a chant of regret.
The groovy down tuned riffs of this record flawless mix with the cinematic elements of the record the instrumental elements are really strong with a fist pumping heaviness that allows the duality of the vocals shine through. It's an impressive piece of work with excellent use of light and shade to really draw you into the album's darkness on Scharnhorst, Reclaiming Ravenpoint and I Fear For Tomorrow but adding the female vocals and orchestration for great effect. 8/10
End Of The Dream: Until You Break (Painted Bass)
Any band from The Netherlands that has a female singer will instantly draw comparisons to fellow Dutch acts Within Temptation, After Forever and Delain but it's whether or not the comparisons are complimentary or not is the real kicker. So with that in mind I put on the second album from End Of The Dream and I must say that this is happily in the former, it is quality female fronted metal that is nearer to Delain, Within Temptation and even The Gathering in terms of sound there are lots of synths that bring delicate orchestrations which adds to the records Gothic feel. It's the Gothicness of Erase Me that also puts them in a similar vein to Evanescence due to Micky Huijsmans vocal prowess and the emotive power of the song. On the other hand Wakeless and The Heart In Me both have the symphonic sounds of Sharon Den Adel and co.
The performances are slick and the production clear as you'd expect from Joost van den Broek (After Forever, Everything) with songwriting that knows its audience but doesn't do anything new, you can compare them favourably to their compatriots but much like Within Temptation and Delain have done they will need to tweak and advance their sound to survive in a very cramped genre. Still the talent shines through and End Of The Dream deliver a high quality second record that reaches it's peak on the incredible I Am Nothing in the middle of the record. 7/10