Nad Sylvan 01First things first: it’s no coincidence that the eponymous frontman of Nad Sylvan sounds remarkably similar to Peter Gabriel. Fresh from performing on Genesis Revisited II and subsequently touring with Genesis as principle vocalist, Nad Sylvan now exercises his musical talents on his own album. Some (read: me) have described him as the Ripper Owens of prog rock, but fortunately for Sylvan, he isn’t saddled with the subtitle “rank amateur.” Courting the Widow brims with vibrancy and is a remarkably fresh take on 70s prog, with great individual songs and a tongue-in-cheek approach ensuring it’s a thoroughly enjoyable listen.

Unsurprisingly, Courting the Widow is full of proggy charm and has all the trimmings you’ve become intimately familiar during your time with bands flourishing in the 70s. There are occasional strings and organs which remind me of Genesis, a frequent jazz flute which recalls Jethro Tull, and plentiful jamming guitars, elaborate solos, and diverse piano and keyboard passages to flesh out the remainder. Nad Sylvan predictably relies most heavily on Genesis and Yes but consider it a rose-tinted survey of all that made that scene great. It certainly is derivative but don’t misconstrue this as an inferior homage – the song-writing is sufficiently diverse and memorable to enable Sylvan to stand on his own two feet.

Nad Sylvan 03Make no mistake: there are some really great songs here. It isn’t a seamless concept album nor an album with overlapping tracks to unravel in its entirety. Nothing feels out of place, but the songs all have their own, separate, musical signatures. The opener, “Carry Me Home,” is a charming, upbeat number with a lovely melody in the chorus; the title track begins and ends as a perverse lullaby (“beside his corpse she will stay… I court the widow I make”); “Ship’s Cat” is a jaunty tune with its story strangely reminding me of “Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats; “The Killing of the Calm” bears a Medieval flavor with its harpsichord; and the linear progression and marching percussion of closer, “Long Slow Crash Landing,” makes for the most epic song on the album. It may not constitute a complete and unified album, in the vein of Wish You Were Here, Closer to the Edge or The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, but it’s hard to deny the quality of the material here.

Another big plus for Courting the Widow is its irreverence and humor. Sylvan channels The Ghost of Gabriel Past in his lyricism and delivery, but never gets lost in the finer details of his own rectum. I’ve already referenced the lyrics and stories of a couple of tracks, and this light-heartedness and unwillingness to take himself seriously does wonders for the material.

However, there is one key way in which this release differs from its heroes: for a single album, it’s very long. The towering, progressive behemoth at the center of the album, “To Turn the Other Side,” recalls the ambitious “Supper’s Ready” by Genesis, except it’s an addition to an entire album’s worth of material already available. The technological limitations of vinyl in the 70s restricted the evident potential for vociferously wanky music, but there’s no such limit here. It’s 20-30 minutes longer than most classics (excluding double albums). I’m not saying that “To Turn the Other Side” is bad but it outlasts its welcome and its removal would have enabled Courting the Widow to hit the progressive sweet-spot for length.

Nad Sylvan 02

I should also eulogize about how good the album sounds. Recorded at a wholesome dynamic range of 11-13, there’s crystal-clear distinction between the different instruments. The hearty thump of the drums and rumbling bass-lines are both particularly pleasing, and it’s great to hear such clarity where many instruments are layered as is often the case on this very progressive release. The subtle differences in the guitar and drum tones aren’t lost on the listener given the great depth.

There have assuredly been more innovative releases this year, but I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun listening to prog rock. It isn’t quite maintained through the entire album but the groovy, diverse highs more than make up for the lows. Ripper Sylvan needn’t fear the amateurish connotations of his new nickname.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 12 | Format Reviewed: 192kbps MP3
Label: Inside Out Music
Websites: www.nadsylvan.com | www.facebook.com/nadsylvan
Releases Worldwide: October 30th, 2015

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  • You wot m8?

    4/10 There is no Dr. Grier on a washboard, so thus it is not proggy enough.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Also, my emersion-from-the-holy-lake-to-distribute-swords-of-almighty-ruling-to-the-chosen-ones photoshoot is sooooooo much better.

      • Pimpolho

        Prove it or you’re click baiting.

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          They’re still being developed. Taking much longer than usual. Apparently a couple of the employees had seizures and went into shock, or something like that.

          • Pimpolho

            I volunteer.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        “Listen — strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony…. I mean, if I went around sayin’ I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me they’d put me away!”

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          Ha! Ha! You got it!

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          Quiet big nose

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    Pretty sure that’s alternate King Diamond cover art run through a monochromatic filter.

  • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

    hahahaha oh man, that name….that photo…I just spit out my coffee all over my keyboard.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Really great sound. Don’t think I’ve heard such a good production since Hand. Cannot. Erase.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Why did you use a picture of a guy auditioning to be a clown at Cirque Du Soleil ? Is this a new kind of unicorn shaming? This time you went too far!
    Wait… that´s the real picture! The unicorn shaming would have been unicorn face saving.

  • AnnieK13

    Comparing this guy to Peter Gabriel is like comparing Jim Bakker to..OK lets not go there. Suffice it to say not even same league does not cover it.

    Seeing Gabriel perform Biko live in 1986 was a life changing moment for me..nothing will ever compare.

    Yes I’m biased on this one…but that track above…ehhh.

  • sir_c

    why is it that the phrase “…gets lost in the finer details of his own rectum” somehow reminds me of Dream Theater?

    • sir_c

      oh and on-topic: even though I can hear the quality, I think the music’s not for me. But the youtube did point me to Mystery’s Delusion Rain. A nice discovery, as I did not yet know this band.
      And for this, we thank you

  • This song is decidely what is playing whenever I put on a big silly hat, grab my jacket, and head out into a windy fall day to see what adventures await me. Followed by various hilarious antics on my way to the bus. And a kitten. It totally ends on a zoom in on a kitten.

  • madhare

    So October was one the most amazing metal months in living memory. Now it turned to November, and immediately all we get is cheesy Broadway musicals schaisse like this and Amberian Dawn.

    Well, it had to stop at some point.

  • Innit Bartender

    Back in the 80s, when Prog was a bad word, I used to say: Thank God for (Fish-era) Marillion for still having _faith_ in this. Now it’s 2015 and there’s still someone who has _faith_ in this. I can only applaude him. The song is not bad at all!!