Review – Marco Glühmann – A Fragile Present

Leaving the comfort zone of your own band to embark on new musical paths requires courage. Marco Glühmann, the singer of one of the most successful German Artrock bands Sylvan, should not lack this, as he is used to being in the spotlight. It is a testament to his enormous creativity that he used an extended break from his main band to try something new without the necessary compromises, guidelines and restrictions of his fellow musicians. The result is a fantastic album, full of energy and esprit, which moves somewhere between rock, artrock and sophisticated pop music. 

‘A Fragile Present’ includes a contribution from Steve Rothery, one of Marco’s musical heroes, on the first single released, My Eyes Are Wide Open as well as a ‘who’s who’ of the artrock and progressive scene, Billy Sherwood from Yes also makes a guest appearance: he contributed the choirs on Hear Our Voice in the very best Yes style. RPWL guitarist Kalle Wallner plays most of the guitars on the album and was not only involved as co-producer but also as arranger.  Sylvan guitarist Johnny Beck also contributed many parts and the rhythm section consists of drummer Tommy Eberhardt and bassist Markus Grützner (RPWL). All of this was recorded, mixed and produced by RPWL mastermind Yogi Lang at Farm Studios, who also played some keyboards.

Marco on the album title: “‘A Fragile Present’ reflects the fragility of the ‘gift of life’ or the ‘transient present’, whether in a personal or global context. It’s not a concept album, but the songs are nevertheless connected in terms of content, as this fragility and fear of loss accompanied me in the creative process.”

Being a big fan of Kalle Wallner’s gentle art of music label, I will always check out any release that I get sent and, once again, the label haven’t let me down. ‘A Fragile Present’ is a glorious and uplifting celebration of life in music form, artrock, symphonic rock, progressive rock, they are all thrown into the mix to create one of the most impressive rock oriented albums I have heard this year. Marco Glühmann has a wonderfully expressive voice, highly emotive and passionate and his use of vocal harmonies on this album is a work of genius.

Marco composed most of the songs in a very short period, although a couple of them, Reach Out and Black The Shade Out, have their roots in original songwriting sessions from 2010. What you get is a powerfully stirring release with memorable melodies and many hooks and a fierce energy that just leaves you returning for more. The album opens in fine style with a trio of superb tracks, the widescreen symphonic rock of the wonderful Hear Our Voice, a powerfully intimate piece of music which uses Marco’s lush vocals to perfect effect. The crunchingly powerful chords of Wallner’s guitar are perfect counterpoint and the choirs make the harmonies even more impressive. Edgy and hard rock oriented, Never Say Goodbye is a pulsating track that keeps you on the edge of your seat and the beautiful, wistful notes of Reach Out, with its soaring chorus showcasing Marco’s elegant voice, is simply divine.

Faceless is granite hard with a primeval, chugging riff driving things along and Marco’s vocals having a much fiercer edge to them, it’s like a cross between prime Scorpions and something a lot more industrial (Rammstein perhaps?) and I really like it. Look At Me has a more introspective and nostalgic air and, with its progressive leanings, it’s almost like a pause for breath and a reset after the exhilaration of what’s gone before, Yogi Lang adding a refined feel with his keyboards. I adore the pared back, restrained beauty of the sublime At Home, where Marco’s voice is the centrepiece and For A While is a finely constructed piece of pop music with a fragility at its core and superb harmonies that would have been at home in the charts of the late 1980’s. A tense build up then thunders into the rocking thrill ride of Black The Shade Out, a proper cut of powerful and exhilarating music that grabs hold and just wont let go. A more muted vocal this time lets the music do the majority of the talking and there’s an almost wild, unhinged feel to the track in places, a proper, earthy, rocker proving less can always be more.

There’s also a tense, edgy atmosphere to One Last Hope, a staccato rhythm and coruscating guitar dominate before the sumptuous chorus gives another angle, a song of ying and yang and another fine piece of music. Life Is Much Too Short has a refined acoustic guitar backing Marco’s halting, yearning vocal on this melancholic track. There’s a rarefied, mournful, grace to the music and Kalle’s soaring solo is perfectly judged. The penultimate song on the album is the darkly moody Running Out Of Time, another track that has some stylish pop sensibilities to it. The rhythm section has a funky feel to it and the whole track just ebbs and flows superbly, Marco’s vocal used a foil to the clever music rather than the cutting edge. The album closes with the electronic grandeur of My Eyes Are Wide Open, the first single from the album and a song in which Marco sees himself and his son, “The lyric ‘Lay your head on me, oh my little boy’ still gives me goosebumps, because I imagine myself and my son here and feel the love, the shortness of the moment, but also the responsibility of ‘sending’ him into this world”. The keyboard sound is very cinematic and Marco delivers yet another sublime vocal performance, his voice, this time, the definite centrepiece of another stunning piece of music although Steve Rothery’s ever so elegant solo needs to be noted too.

A Fragile Present’ is an utter joy to listen to from beginning to end. The superb musicians and absorbing songwriting give us an album of utterly captivating songs and one where the memorable, engaging voice of Marco Glühmann is given free rein to take centre stage and deliver one of the best vocal performances of the year so far.

Released 14th June, 2024.

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