CD Review – Nad Sylvan – Spiritus Mundi

Nad Sylvan’s profile has been building up over recent years. As vocalist with Steve Hackett’s band, he’s secured world-wide exposure and gained plaudits for his ability to sing both Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins’ vocal parts with some style. Prior to this he was also a member of Agents of Mercy with Roine Stolt, and Unifaun, a Genesis inspired group who released an album in 2008. He has also released several solo albums, not least of which, and most recently have been a trilogy of vampire- based concept albums which gathered some decent acclaim.

For the release of Spiritus Mundi though, Nad has taken a new tack. He has decided to base the songs on the poems of WB Yeats. It is notoriously difficult, according to many people, to try and marry poems and music, and was somewhat left to the world of classic music to create for many years. In recent times the debate has arisen again, powered by Bob Dylan receiving the Nobel prize for literature and a discussion as to whether rap music is poetry or not. Although both arts contain rhythm these do not necessarily marry well, and the cadences of the poetry become lost within those of the music itself. Lyrics can be poetic, but some will argue that they can never be poetry. It is the kind of wrangle that will continue without conclusion for many decades to come.

On the album, Nad has worked again with Andrew Laitres, a songwriter he met a couple of years or so ago. Andrew wrote the song The Lake Isle of Innisfree, which ended up as a bonus track on Nad’s last album, The Regal Bastard. Listening again to some of the demos Andrew had sent him, Nad thought them worth working into proper songs with great arrangements. Andrew agreed and the two spent some time exchanging files.

The album itself centres around the poems of Nobel Prize winning William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), who Nad believes to be one of the finest poets to come out of Ireland. “The lyrics for The Lake Isle of Innisfree, that I initially sang on the previous album, are also from Yeats, so I just thought why not just use some really fantastic lyrics, so I don’t have to write them this time,” laughs Nad. “It was just kind of nice not having to write the lyrics and focus solely on the music.”

The songs on the album are a definite change of approach for Nad. Rather than the tense darkness and intensity that the previous vampire trilogy required, the music here is much more colourful and airier. “The whole album is based around my vocals and Andrew’s guitars spiced up with some orchestral stuff.” Nad explains, although he was more meticulous with his vocals this time, even down to where to breathe in the songs, as the music demanded. “I worked very hard on the vocals on this one. I would link bits together I thought really worked and then I would go back to them and do another take on a word that could be more emphasized,” he says.

Nad has again invited an impressive roster of musicians to appear on the album. From the prog world, besides Nad and Andrew themselves, Tony Levin, Jonas Reingold and Steve Hackett bring their nimble fingers along, while The Flower Kings’ Mirkko De Maio warms the drum stool. There are telling contributions from Neil Whitford and Steve Piggot on guitars, and Kiwi Te Kanna adds some tasteful oboe and Chinese flute. There is no showing off though, all contributions being pertinent to the songs and their requirements.

Nonetheless, this is undoubtedly Nad’s show and his performances are impressive. Sometimes he is counter-balanced by Andrew Laitres’ voice, but mostly he creates a multifaceted accomplishment of his own. He displays intimacy when it is needed, elucidation at others. Like Yeats poetry, there is no clear-cut way to read this album, much being left to the audient themselves to interpret. This is a classy, tasteful, pleasing release that remains artful and elegant throughout. After the frequent bleakness of Nad’s recent releases it is good to hear him stretch into something more friendly and welcoming. This is no poetry recital, but a high-class prog-rock album.

Available as: Special Edition CD Digipak (incl. 2 bonus tracks), 180g Gatefold LP

Vinyl Edition (incl. the entire album on CD) and as Digital Download

1. The Second Coming (7:00)

2. Sailing to Byzantium (6:41)

3. Cap and Bells (4:47)

4. The Realists (2:18)

5. The Stolen Child (4:58)

6. To An Isle In The Water (4:36)

7. The Hawk (4:09)

8. The Witch and The Mermaid (1:57)

9. The Fisherman (5:28)

Bonus Tracks:

10. You’ve Got To Find A Way (5:55)

11. To A Child Dancing In The Wind (5:08)

Nad Sylvan – lead & backing vocals, keyboards, orchestration, electric & acoustic guitar, bass, drums, programming

Andrew Laitres – lead and backing vocals, acoustic nylon, steel and 12 string guitars, additional keyboards

Tony Levin – bass

Steve Hackett – 12 string guitar

Neil Whitford – electric guitar, slide guitar

Jonas Reingold – bass

Mirkko De Maio – drums, congas

Steve Piggot, additional electric guitar

Kiwi Te Kanna – oboe, chinese flute

Release Date: 9th April, 2021

Label: InsideOut Music

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