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(44:56, Termo Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Lucid 1:40 2. La Bealtaine 7:51 3. In Orbit 12:30 4. This Past Presence 6:14 5. A Faerie's Play 5:19 6. The River 10:05 7. Lucid Dreams 2:19 LINEUP: Lars Fredrik Froislie – keyboards; backing vocals Kristian Karl Hultgren – basses; saxophone Morten Andreas Eriksen – el. & ac. guitars Martin Nordrum Kneppen – drums Andreas Wettergreen – vocals With: Ketil Vestrum Einarsen – flute Hanne Rekdal – bassoon
Prolusion. Formed at the very down of the new century, Norway's WOBBLER is led by keyboardist and songwriter Lars Fredrik Froislie (who is also a member of White Willow and In Lingua Mortua). “Rites at Dawn” is the band’s third studio recording, made up of eight tracks. The reviews of its other albums, "Hinterland" and "Afterglow", can be read here and here respectively.
Analysis. That being said, the most striking thought that came to my mind when I listened to this release was “Tut! The number of clone musical creations has once again grown, but why the hell has Wobbler decided to become a wannabe?” As before, there are plenty of intricate instrumental arrangements here, and the musicianship level remains high, but where’s the originality that typifies either of the band’s previous albums? “Rites at Dawn” sounds like a missed mid-‘70s Yes creation – well, almost so, as not everything went off swimmingly in the cloning department, so to speak. I have no idea whether Tony Johannessen (original singer) left Wobbler on his own wish or was fired. However, I know for sure that Andreas Wettergreen, who replaced Tony, isn’t on a par with him as a vocalist, first of all because his delivery lacks distinctiveness, to say the least. He merely imitates John Anderson’s singing, doing it thoroughly, yet with not enough feeling to be fully believable (unlike, for instance, Citizen Cain’s Cyrus Scott, whose vocals are 100% comparable with Peter Gabriel’s). And that’s really most of the problem I have with the album, as the instrumentalists are much more effective when imitating the Yes musicians’ playing, even though they’re somewhat inferior to those in technique. Appearing as a crossover between Don’t Kill the Whales, Wondrous Stories and Open Your Eyes, the second track (the first full-fledged composition on the album) La Bealtaine depicts this to an extreme. The vocal-based moves aren’t too spectacular, besides which they’re done in Yes’s late ‘90s style, but everything, say, settles into shape as soon as the band starts on its all-instrumental flight. A Faerie's Play and This Past Presence are also representative in that respect, but to a lesser degree. In both cases, instrumental sections alternate with vocal ones not as strictly as those on the above song, sometimes revealing a full-out ensemble playing in the best traditions of vintage symphonic Art-Rock. The only time I was reminded of someone else besides Yes was within the first movement of the former piece. Featuring acoustic guitar, Mellotron, piano and flute, it instantly brings to mind Genesis, albeit the vocals are still Anderson-esque. The winners are the two longer tracks, In Orbit and The River (12:30 and 10:05 respectively). Both of them are very intricate and elaborate compositions, almost totally on a par with those that form Side B of the “Close to the Edge” LP. The music is truly sophisticated, going through a series of time and key changes, and the effect is indeed almost like classic ‘70s Yes. You’ll hear the Rickenbacker-sounding bass and good/old-style Gibson guitar (which are played very much in the manner of misters Squire and Howe respectively), Hammond organ and Mellotron. Strangely absent from the vintage instrument leads are only bright, distinctive – read Wakeman-esque – synthesizer ones, whereas the music evokes the classic Rick-‘era’ Yes exclusively. Anyhow, almost everything is borrowed from the band’s newly-found (born-again actually) benefactor, some of the moves by these newly-converted Yessers sounding not unlike the originals, such as the bass and organ-driven theme from the latter piece, which replicates the opening move of Heart of the Sunrise. Even the most originally-sounding compositions, Lucid and Lucid Dreams (the first and the last track on the album respectively) may evoke Yes. Both of them only feature keyboard instruments and are fairly simple musically, no matter that, besides the linear synthesizer passages, there are also swirling as well as reversed organ solos.
Conclusion. Clones, clowns, strange etudes… The only clone album I do like, absolutely, is “Somewhere but Yesterday” by the above Citizen Cain. Wobbler’s “Rites at Dawn” is by no means a clown creation, but neither is it a full-fledged clone one. If the band would have taken “Close to the Edge” in its entirety, managing to reproduce not only the style, but also the spirit of that album, on all levels, their latest release would have certainly left a better impression. As it is, I only can rate it as a merely good effort at best. Please get back to your roots, men. Your first two albums made you a cult band, and you have a lot of fans all over the world. Don’t let them down anymore, please.
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