A lot of talk gets bandied about regarding the evolution of prog and its current state. Between die-hard purists bemoaning “it’s not what it used to be”, and an ongoing influx of acts bringing in newer influences, discussions can get dicey fast about whether “progressive” music can actually progress. The finale to Nad Sylvan’s trilogy, “The Regal Bastard”, succeeds in bridging older stylings with a more modern sound.
A regular with Steve Hackett’s band (to which both Hackett and fellow bandmate Jonas Reingold contributed on this album), Sylvan manages to create a new and fresh work that stands up amongst both newer releases while having enough classic flourishes to satisfy the more discerning die-hards of the 70s-era.
“I Am the Sea” is an atmospheric grand opening, washing over with hollow, echoing keyboards and crashing drums, and eventually crescendoing into a stellar guitar solo from Guthrie Govan, From there, this album is set up to take the listener on a journey with Sylvan. While taking tangents like the harpsichord shantylike number of “Oahu”, or the more pop-influenced sensibilities of the uplifting “Whoa (Always Been Without You)” and the ballad “Leave Me on These Waters”, Sylvan’s musical journey is one of searching, discovery, and satisfying resolution. On vocals, keyboards, and guitar for this album, Sylvan displays technical skill, musicality, and a sensitivity for.
Tony Levin features on bass for “Meet Your Maker”, bringing freshness to the satisfying noodling and bouncing, funky sound. Tania Doko’s guest vocas provide a wonderful counterpoint to Nad’s soaring vocals, a lovely interplay in the same vein as Ninet Tayeb on Steven Wilson’s work. (As an aside, the idea of Doko and Tayeb collaborating would be interesting to hear.)
The titular track, The Regal Bastard, is both the longest on the album and the best piece to singularly describe the album itself. Grandiose? Of course. Clear in how it takes others in to feel the emotional and musical highs and lows? It does so wonderfully.
Admittedly, the bonus tracks, while not fitting with the narrative whatsoever, still suit the work well. “Diva Time”, as a driving number, accusatory yet diplomatic in its anger, with a level of Sylvan-appropriate sass to capture that point of being completely done with others’ pettiness.
The Lake Isle of Innisfree is a soft, delicate ballad that calls to mind pre-Raphaelite paintings, mystic mossy groves, and weeping willows. It’s a quieter closer for the deluxe edition as compared to the narrative’s optimistic “Honey I’m Home”, but remains a very suitable and quite pretty way to finish off the musical experience.
For a regal bastard, he comes across as clever, thoughtful, and musically well-tailored. For those who still thrill at jaunty flourishes and grand theatricality, it’s an album to be absolutely Nad about.
1. I Am The Sea
3. Whoa (Always Been Without You)
4. Meet Your Maker
5. The Regal Bastard
6. Leave Me On These Waters
7. Honey I’m Home
8. Diva Time (bonus track)
9. The Lake Isle Of Innisfree (bonus track)