A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of reviewing ‘The Bride Said No’ by Nad Sylvan. It was the second part of a classic progressive rock trilogy; based around the wooing of a widow, and other adventures by a vampirate. And now in early July, the trilogy will be complete with ‘The Regal B*stard.’ Continuing the style of 70’s progressive rock (most notably Genesis) with the music vibes, and themes of the 17th century, Sylvan cements his reputation, that when it comes to doing prog in this style, there are few who do it better.
Like his previous albums, Sylvan once again brings in an all-star cast of musicians to bring his vision a reality. Steve Hackett, for whom Nad sings for in Hackett’s Genesis Revisited unsurprisingly makes an appearance for the 3rd consecutive time, Guthrie Govan returns for more of his fiery guitar solos, and bass legend Tony Levin makes his return to the fold. And the cement of his band is once again Jonas Reingold on bass, and Nick D’Virgilio on drums. Sylvan besides his lead vocals, handles the lion’s share of the piano, keyboard, and guitar duties, which he handles with great gusto, precision, and flair.
The album kicks off with “I Am The Sea,” which is also the first single, and seems to find the vampirate back on his ship, sailing out to sea, presumably after the “the bride said no,” at the end of the previous album. The song starts out slowly until the drums kick in, and the vintage keyboard sound that is so familiar to his earlier work is heard, and at that moment we’re brought back to 1973. And I don’t say that in a negative, nor dismissal way. A lot of “retro-prog” is “older band” worship. Sylvan manages to avoid that on this album, and his others. In large part that is due to a more modern guitar style used for the most part. And on this song, the above mentioned Guthrie Govan lays a searing solo, that elevates everything around it.
This is followed by the more key-heavy “Oahu.” I have no idea what the word means, but I presume it to be a woman, and the song features some heavier guitars juxtaposed against a harpsichord, adding a more aggressive sound, to what is otherwise a 17th century sound, and vibe. The track is also dominated by Sylvan’s vocal delivery. Much has been made of his vocals over the years, and I would say that he sounds more like Phil, and Peter during the classic era of Genesis than either of them sound like today. This is of course why Hackett hired him in the first place, but some people will hold it against him when he’s doing his own thing, which is silly. There’s certainly a Genesis vibe, but he very much does his own thing.
I don’t care much for reviews that go song by song, but for this album avoiding that will be a bit hard, it’s surprisingly short, only seven songs (plus two unrelated bonus tracks) so the album proper is only about 40 minutes in length, and one of the songs is a bit over 12 minutes. I will then skip a song, and get to the funky, and jaunty “Meet Your Maker.” This is one of the more fun tracks and is owned by the guest bass of Tony Levin. He brings certain swing, and funk beats to the prog around him which really stands out. Then there are the guest vocals provided by Tania Doko (a returning vocalist from earlier albums) and she adds further character and depth to the tracks. And the video released for it is quite a bit of fun as well.
We, at last, come to the 12-minute title track, where if I’m following the story correctly, our vampire/pirate encounters the regal b*stard son of the king, which he seems to bear an uncanny resemblance to, and may well be the brother of. The track is the longest on the album, and is supplemented by strings, which swells the scope of the song, and makes it feel a bit more like an epic. The drums, and bass work especially well, and the most exciting key work is saved for the latter half of the song, and the whole thing builds, and grows in a most satisfying manner. Sylvan also shows off his guitar chops, which are not to be taken lightly.
The final two songs “Leave Me On These Waters,” and “Honey I’m Home” complete the album proper, and a trilogy of albums. They flow into each other, so I might as well take them together. Our vampirate is back on his ship, and reflecting back on his fortunes, (mis and otherwise). The first song begins rather quietly, but builds in energy, and features another solo by Govan, though this is a jazzier and more soulful one, and done as only he can. And this leads directly into the final track, which other than wordless choral vocals is instrumental. The always formidable Steve Hackett appears on this track, giving it a classic Genesis feel, rather reminiscent of “Los Endos.” It also brings the story full circle, the first track of the first part of the trilogy was “Carry Me Home,” so given the joyous nature of the music, I can only conclude that he has finally made it home to where he belongs and has found happiness.
The album ends with two bonus tracks. “Diva Time,” and “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.” The first is very musically similar to the main album, and could easily be confused as part of the story if you weren’t aware that it had no connection. “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” is a quiet ballad, more folk-based than anything else on the album, and is really a delightful, and unexpected way to end the album.
Nad Sylvan may not be well known outside of fan of classic prog, or ‘Genesis Revisited,’ but hopefully with ‘The Regal B*stard’ his solo material, will reach a wider audience of fans of more modern prog. While firmly rooted in classic influences, and vintage instruments, Sylvan has nonetheless created an original, and vibrant example of modern progressive rock, and provided us with an enjoyable story as well. This is perhaps the strongest musically of the trilogy, and one, his fans will sure to love, and if given the chance, should bring in a few new ones as well.