The Vampirate Speaks: A Conversation With Nad Sylvan

Nad Sylvan, The Regal Bastard, InsideOut Music, 2019

Tracks: 1. I Am The Sea (7:49), 2. Oahu (4:19), 3. Whoa (Always Been Without You) (7:22), 4. Meet Your Maker (6:36), 5. The Regal Bastard (12:22), 6. Leave Me On These Waters (5:49), 7. Honey I’m Home (3:02)
Bonus Tracks: 8. Diva Time (4:52), 9. The Lake Isle of Innisfree (3:43)

On July 5, the mighty Nad Sylvan releases the third in his trilogy of Vampirate themed albums, following 2015’s Courting the Widow and 2017’s The Bride Said NoThe Regal Bastard finds the Swedish artist subtly transforming his sound for a third time. Across all three albums, his sound has developed and matured while remaining distinctly Nad Sylvan. Nobody else makes music quite like this. He honors the tradition of progressive rock (can a tradition be progressive?) musically and lyrically. The music is complex without being overly technical, and it shifts in style enough to keep the album incredibly interesting on repeated listens. In fact, it is layered in such a way that the listener discovers more with each listen.

Some have commented that some of the songs take a bit more of a pop approach, and if that’s true, then it is in the vein of Steven Wilson’s definition of pop, not whatever trash is currently sitting atop the American top 40 charts. This music is tasteful. And it is still 100% prog.

It is hard to nail down particular stand-out tracks because every song is fantastic. “Whoa,” “Meet Your Maker,” and the bonus “Diva Time” are my personal favorites, but the longer “The Regal Bastard” is also a very compelling progressive piece. You can’t go wrong anywhere on this album. His guest artists, which include the likes of Steve Hackett, Guthrie Govan, Nick D’Virgilio, Tony Levin, and many other talented folks, interpret Nad’s music faithfully while adding their own touch. Jade Ell, Sheona Urquhart, and  Tania Doko return on backing vocals – their voices have helped add depth to Nad’s music in the past, and it is great to hear them return.

2019 has been an especially strong year for prog so far, and even in that environment, Nad Sylvan’s The Regal Bastard stands out. His music is unique and powerful. This is not an album to be missed.


This past Friday, June 28, 2019, I had the wonderful opportunity to talk with Nad via Skype about the album, his writing process, singing for Steve Hackett, and other related topics. I screen-captured the whole interview, but even the compressed video file is too big for WordPress’ liking. You can still listen to the audio or read the transcript, which has been very lightly edited for readability, although it is wholly uncensored.

Continue reading “The Vampirate Speaks: A Conversation With Nad Sylvan”

Album Review – Garrett N. – “Let’s Get Surreal”

Garrett N., Let’s Get Surreal, 2018

Tracks: Overture (9:04), Avant (3:25), Avant3/Ahip1/Caine (4:47), Bak1 (4:16), The Eternal Laugh (14:20), Quiet (2:19), Saddam/Espace (7:25), Gorf (3:16), Reprise/Bak3/Unknown (10:08), Scorpio/Ramos (1:51), Sinister (1:58), Avant4-Outtro-Epilogue (9:33)

Webster’s Dictionary defines “surreal” as an adjective meaning “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream.” In other words, something so bizarre that it shouldn’t be real, yet it is. This may be the most accurate name for an album I’ve ever encountered.

Composer, musician, engineer, and producer Garrett N. has a background making music for commercials, films, and documentaries, in addition to a few of his own progressive albums. That background helps explain the non-traditional nature of this album. Garrett performed all the music on the album, displaying wide musical talents. He also sings on the few tracks that have lyrics.

Let’s Get Surreal is extremely synth-heavy in a Pink Floyd sort of way. I’d say Floyd is the biggest rock/psychedelic influence here, and at times it works very well. The first four tracks in particular are quite strong in this regard. There is a sci-fi cinematic feel to some of the synths sounds too, in a sort of 1950s alien sci-fi movie way. With that said, the slightly distorted acoustic guitar on “The Eternal Laugh” is a welcome addition. The next track, “Quiet,” features what sounds like extremely distorted electric guitar… maybe too distorted. Definitely a gritty sound. The blending of different types of synths, drums, and guitars manages to work, however. The bit of flute on “Scorpio/Ramos” is nice, although the song could have used a lot more of it.

Garrett appears to making a bit of a political statement on a few tracks, particularly on “Saddam/Espace.” This song has a remix of former US President George W. Bush giving a speech about Saddam Hussein and all that mess. It is an interesting reworking of the speech, with blurred repetition of Bush saying “terror” playing through the background. The album was recorded between 2013-2017, so this track seems like it is 10-15 years past when it should have been released. That particular moment has past, making this song lose a lot of its punch.

At an hour and thirteen minutes in length, the album kind of drags a bit because a lot of it sounds the same. There are a few songs that could have had a few minutes trimmed out. The album is at its best when other instruments are mixed in with the synths, rather than the lengthy sections that are only synthesizers.

Ultimately, this album sounds more like a tv show soundtrack than it does a rock album. It is mostly instrumental, with synths dominating the instruments being used. As such, it doesn’t sound like a typical instrumental prog album. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it does feel like we are missing a piece of the puzzle. “Let’s Get Surreal” won’t be for everyone, but those into the more psychedelic side of prog should appreciate it.


http://galaxian1.com/index/

https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/garrettn7

Pan Rocks Steel Drum Orchestra + @MikePortnoy Cover Rush’s “Spirit of Radio”

This is a fun one. Mike Portnoy’s latest collab finds him drumming with the Pan Rocks Steel Drum Orchestra on an instrumental cover of Rush’s classic “Spirit of Radio.” It pretty much sounds like Rush on a Caribbean vacation, and it is super fun. Check it out!

Concert Review: Riverside Rock Chicago – 5/19/2019

Riverside, Live at the Chop Shop, Chicago, IL, May 19, 2019

Setlist: Acid Raid, Vale of Tears, Reality Dream I, Lament, Saturate Me (instrumental intro only), Out of Myself, Second Life Syndrome (first part only), Left Out, Guardian Angel, Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened By a Hat?), The Struggle for Survival, Egoist Hedonist (without third part, extended second part), Wasteland

Encore: O2 Panic Room, River Down Below

Last night I saw Riverside for the first time. If I can help it, it won’t be the last. Wow. You don’t really get an appreciation for how good these guys are until you see them live. For me, there wasn’t a single moment of disappointment during this show. From the setlist to the performance to the crowd, everything was exceptional. They deserve to be playing much larger venues here in the United States.

Contrive

The show opened with Australian heavy metal band, Contrive. Contrive are a two-man group comprised of identical twin brothers. Both were great, and the drummer was particularly exceptional. The guitarist was quite good too, mixing many different styles throughout their hour-long opening set, including a few seconds of Hackett-esque tones. Opening bands can be hit or miss, but they did a good job of warming up the crowd for Riverside. They even started a few minutes before the stated showtime, which was nice since the 8pm start time on a Sunday evening with work the next day was already a bit much.

I’ve never seen a road crew break down and get ready for the main attraction so quickly. Everything was already set up for Riverside, but they had to take down all the gear from Contrive – and they did that and got everything ready for Riverside in less than 10 minutes. It was entertaining just to watch that.

The Mighty Duda

Riverside didn’t waste any time getting into it, starting out with “Acid Rain” from Wasteland. Within seconds I learned something I had never realized about Riverside – Mariusz Duda’s bass drives the show. I originally thought the driving riff on “Acid Rain” was from a guitar. Nope. All bass. I didn’t realize he was that good. I had a blast watching him play the whole night. I’ve seen John Myung live (probably the most acclaimed bassist I’ve seen live), and I’d say that Duda’s performance matched or surpassed that. At some points during the show, he was strumming one of his three or four bass guitars. Who the heck does that? The mighty Duda, that’s who. Maybe this is old news to most of you who have been listening to them for years, but allow me as a relatively new fan (I didn’t start listening to them until after Piotr Grudziński passed away) to gush over how great Riverside is.

Continue reading “Concert Review: Riverside Rock Chicago – 5/19/2019”

Royal Albert Hall Finally Fixes Its Sound System

Royal Albert Hall appears to have finally sorted its acoustics and sound system issues. I’ve never seen a show there, but I’ve heard many live albums from progressive rock artists who have played there. Most of those recordings sound like garbage because of the physical environment in which they were recorded. Hopefully this new system they have will remedy the 150 year old problem.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/london-royal-albert-hall-this-is-what-the-worlds-largest-single-room-speaker-system-sounds-like/