Nad Sylvan – Spiritus Mundi Review

Growing up in northern Michigan with half of my extended family living in and around Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I have countless memories of sitting in the backseat of my parents car making the four hour trek to visit my grandparents. Our approach to the Milwaukee city limits was typically marked by my parents turning off the CD player, which was likely loaded up with anything from Enya to the Bee Gees, and instead flipping on the radio to the scan setting until we found the Milwaukee smooth jazz channel. I’m not sure exactly how or why this ritual started, but something about that radio station was so incredibly relaxing. I remember it more often than not helped lull me back to my backseat nap for a few miles longer before my parents had to carry my drowsy self from the car straight to the bed my grandma had prepared for me. I certainly didn’t anticipate there would be moments on Nad Sylvan‘s new album which would give off a similar vibe. And yet, “Cap and Bells” was exactly the track I needed to remind me of those frequent trips. With birdsong, gentle acoustic guitar, sparkling chimes, and the aforementioned unexpected smooth jazz section, “Cap and Bells” is a truly eclectic track demonstrating the diversity in Sylvan‘s sound.

To be frank, my expectations were not high going into listening to Spiritus Mundi. As a Nad Sylvan noob, a quick glance at Sylvan’s promo shots and the choice of album cover had me performing the dreadful sin of judging an album by its cover. The deeper I made it into Spiritus Mundi, however, the less I questioned the numerous times El Cuervo has sung praises of Sylvan’s progressive rock in each of the ‘Vampire Trilogy’ albums. I unabashedly admit that Nad Sylvan knows how to write a charming album.

As on Sylvan’s previous albums, Nad’s heartfelt croons are supported by an assortment of organs, flutes, harpsichords, piano, guitar improvisations, and even the occasional smattering of birdsong. While this time around the Swedish prog virtuoso’s music is still heavily a nod towards 1970s British prog, melody and lush orchestration are more at the forefront on Spiritus Mundi. Firmly in my own guitar wheelhouse, the unadorned beauty of the first half of “The Stolen Child” features pretty Travis picking. Percussive stomping reminiscent of “You Win Again” by the Bee Gees then joins the fray, turning the track into a more aggressive rocker. El Cuervo pointed out several times that Nad’s voice most closely resembles Peter Gabriel’s, but on this latest album, Sylvan sounds eerily similar to Cat Stevens to my ears. The fantastical “Sailing to Byzantium” left me half expecting Nad to break out into “Moonshadow” at any time. Speaking of vocals, most of the lyrics (save for bonus track “You’ve Got to Find a Way”) aren’t actually written by Sylvan this time around but are borrowed from poems from one of Ireland’s finest poets, Nobel Prize winning William Butler Yeats.

Yet, something holds me back from singing higher praises in my interpretation of Nad Sylvan’s music. Spiritus Mundi is simply too happy go lucky of an album for me right now. I can’t get over the lacquered, overcooked feel which causes the album to lose its eclectic appeal. Many of the tracks (“The Second Coming, “The Hawk”) teeter into the territory of the kind of inoffensive lounge music you might hear when you take a seat in the waiting room of a dentist office or enter the lobby of a midscale hotel.

I am overall shocked and impressed that Spiritus Mundi turned out to be an album I genuinely enjoyed listening to and not one I would spend the hour chortling and shaking my head through. Will I be coming back to Spiritus Mundi, though? Doubtful. Closing track “The Fisherman” unfortunately killed the mood for me. This track had me feeling like I was watching the end of a Disney Tarzan film instead of reviewing an album for Angry Metal Guy. I think I’ll stick to the Milwaukee smooth jazz radio station instead.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 11 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Insideout Music
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 9th, 2021

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