Review Summary: While on the surface the concept of this album seems reminiscent of a hallmark film, the execution is near perfect and often heart wrenching.
Formed in 1990 by Kay Söhl, Volker Söhl, and Matthias Harde (yeah these guys are most certainly European) Sylvan is a prog-rock band with heavy art rock influences. While they have been on the scene for nearly 20 years, this quintet never hit their stride until 2006 with the release of their 5th album, Posthumous Silence. This was the bands first concept album and largely refined their song structure and sound. More notably however, Posthumous Silence was the first album to gain the band a wide and devoted fan base. Even though it was fairly far into Sylvans career that their genius was realized, this success was definitely deserved. With instrumentation in the vein of Porcupine Tree, an unrivaled vocalist whose lyrics inspire and wonder, and a concept to rival even dredg’s El Cielo, its no wonder Sylvans popularity exploded after Posthumous Silence. Yet for some inexplicable reason, Sylvan remains a hidden gem all but unheard of in the States.
Posthumous Silence is definitely a prog-rock album, and the style jumps around quite often. At times, the vocals are sweeping melodies backed by piano and a light guitar lick, while in other songs, the sound almost becomes nu metal in nature, complete with grungy vocals and muddied riffs. Instrument experimentation is also prominently used throughout this album, using several instances of full orchestra, and enough variation in guitar effects to restrain the album from ever coming close to repetition, cliche, or self parody, which is a difficult achievement when writing a 70+ minute long concept album. Even though many may be first drawn to the Posthumous Silences heavier moments, the album truly shines in its ballads with songs like Pane of Truth and A Kind of Eden. The atmosphere created by this album and the emotions it ensues echo long after the 70 minute journey ends. However, after several listens you will notice one of the few problems of this album; the flow is completely carried by its lows, while the highs, such as “In Chains” and the first half of “Forgotten Virtue” eventually feel like detours from the albums tone and theme. Although lyrically, these songs never skip a beat and are important to the album, these slight delves into grunge and nu metal distract the musical flow the rest of Posthumous Silence creates.
As stated before, Posthumous Silence is a concept album, and a damn good one at that. The album revolves around the diary of a recently deceased girl who committed suicide, and her dad who reads it subsequent to her death (thus the title Posthumous Silence). It follows the voice of the father and periodically his daughters’ as he finally gets to know her through her writings. Throughout the album, the narrators grief resonates through the lyrics. We hear him blame himself and his absence for her death in Bittersweet Symphony, reflecting upon himself with lyrics like:“when you searched me, I wasn’t there, when you called me I didn’t care, all the signs that I ignored, now I learned the fights you fought.” We also hear him reminisce upon the simple, yet sweet memories that he shared with his daughter that he failed to value the first time in the song Pane of Glass, which while clocking in at 9+ minutes, happens to be one of the highlights of the album. However, the most real and rewarding aspect of this album is hearing the father go through many of the stages of grief. In Chains features the fathers anger at his immense loss, the majority of the albums mid section revolves around his depression and self blame, and finally the closing tracks climax with his daughters’ plead for his acceptance of her death and assurance it was not his fault. The pinnacle moment of this album is the chorus of A Kind of Eden, which from the daughters point of view pleads: "Please let me know you'll understand, it's not your fault I'm leaving, I'll cry the tears for you, oh Dad, please let me reach my Eden".
While on the surface the concept of this album seems reminiscent of a hallmark film, the execution is near perfect and often heart wrenching. Posthumous Silence is best listened to as a whole, as it is not an album of singles, but rather a complete story, and one that begs to be heard.
Pane of Truth
The Colors Changed
A Kind of Eden