I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Inside Out Music is on fire in 2017. I’ve been a fan of Nad Sylvan since seeing him perform with Steve Hackett, and I was surprised to find how great his last solo album was. So, here he is releasing another solo album, and he really destroyed my expectations once again. The album is called “The Bride Said No”, and it proves that Nad might be the most underrated prog musician today.
Nad keeps good company. While he provides guitars, keys, orchestration, and programming on this album; he is also joined by the likes of Steve Hackett (guitar), Roine Stolt (guitar), Guthrie Govan (guitar), Nick D’Virgilio (drums), Tony Levin (bass), and Sheona Urquhart (sax) in crafting this record. There are several other guests throughout the album, too. So, basically, you can have confidence from the start that the performances are going to be lush and mature, and Nad’s own playing is very good. I would say that his keys might be some of my favorite of the year, especially the surging synth solos.
Nad’s last album, “Courting the Widow”, was one of lush 17th century trappings and flowing theatrics mixed with 70’s progressive rock. It had a certain elegant flavor that I liked, and I was eager for more. However, I find “The Bride Said No” to be a different beast completely. While it still contains the theatrics and even the historical and nautical tones, this album is grounded in the 80’s to my ears. There are still some 70’s influences, obviously, but the bulk of the album feels and sounds much different.
Why do I say the 80’s are apparent here? It’s not with over the top clichés that are becoming the trend once again, and it’s not a tendency towards cheese. No, it’s with the subtle synth, the catchy melodies, and the pop-oriented sophistication that I detect 80’s influence. I asked Nad about this, and he confirmed that George Michael and Tears for Fears can be found in this album, and I’m a sucker for that sort of influence.
Influences aside, though, the album rocks because of one thing primarily: composition. Nad is once again showing that his composition skills are up there with the best of them. Nad’s music, and especially this album, is always chock full of all sorts of themes and ideas, never finding itself trapped into a single genre or style. Whether it’s a fun theme or subtle accents and sounds in the music, Nad makes his music stand out from the crowd. However, when the rubber meets the road, this guy can craft grooves and melodies that are truly monumental and visionary, and I can hear that especially on this album.
I think that is one reason I like Nad’s music so much. He can go from a sweet 17th century theatrical presentation to an awesome 80’s pop style song and then back to a jumpy, playful melody in the next song, as seen in transition from “The Quartmaster” to “When the Music Dies” and on to “The White Crown”. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, but the music is always on inspired and whole.
Nad always provides a certain flair in his style. My favorite song (for now) is “The Quartermaster”. This track, along with its haunting intro “Bridesmaids”, is one of my favorite songs this year without a doubt. Yes, that whole seafaring theme is back, but it’s the killer synth melody, the super odd song structure, and the climactic moments that have caused me to fall in love with this song. Much of the album does not play out with the same sort of themes, however. “When the Music Dies”, for example, is a pop-styled, slow-building track with an out of this world chorus and low burning electronic accents. It’s absolutely awesome and another one of my favorite songs this year. It absolutely gushes with musicality.
So, Nad has crafted a winner of an album here that bests “Courting the Widow”. His own musical experience and also his time with big names like Hackett have really fine-tuned his style to be eccentric, yet grounded; idealistic, yet inspired. Other songs on the album show this. “What Have You Done” is a ballad of sorts with a fantastically emotional guitar solo in the middle. while “Crime of Passion” has this huge violin-led melody with a rockin’ groove that always makes my neck hairs stand on end. “A French Kiss in an Italian Café” is a surprisingly fantastic song with a slow and steady rhythm accented by some classy saxophone, reminiscent of George Michael. There is even a hidden track at the end with an unabashed poppish flair and a wonderful chorus.
So, every track has its own personality and standout moment. The title track, I think, deserves special mention. It flows from gentle rhythms and funk-influenced violin melodies to quirky bass grooves and synth madness reminiscent of Tears for Fears. It has such energy and also such addictive breaks that this will probably end up being my favorite on the album eventually. The title track is a good representation of the whole album, and it contains some of the best moments, too.
Inside Out Music is on fire, but it’s because the musicians are firing on all cylinders. They are lucky to have musicians like Nad Sylvan who can make tight, fantastic albums like “The Bride Said No”, and who also continue to have amazing ideas. This album truly is a sublime work of poetic art and inspired finery from start to finish.