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Wobbler - 2020 - "Dwellers of the Deep"

(45:40; Karisma Records)


TRACK LIST:                  

1. By the Banks 13:49
2. Five Rooms 8:27
3. Naiad Dreams 4:24
4. Merry Macabre 19:00


Lars Fredrik Froislie - keyboards, vocals
Kristian Karl Hultgren - bass, clarinet, recorder
Martin Nordrum Kneppen - drums, percussion, recorder
Andreas Wettergreen Stromman Prestmo - vocals, guitars, glockenspiel, percussion
Geir Marius Bergom Halleland - guitars, vocals

Prolusion. Norwegian band WOBBLER has a history that goes back to the tail end of the 1990's, and have established themselves as one of those bands that appear to be unable to create and release an album that isn't noteworthy. A quality band on all levels, always delivering high quality material. "Dwellers of the Deep" is their fifth studio album, and is set for a late October release through Norwegian label Karisma Records.

Analysis. Those who are already aware of Wobbler and familiar with any of their four previous studio albums will pretty know what to expect: Well made, challenging and engaging progressive rock with a strong retro-oriented feel and with a firm placement inside the realm of symphonic progressive rock. This is what the band deliver also on this fifth studio album of theirs, and any existing fans can safely venture forth and place their pre-orders for this production. As an album experience, this is very much an album consisting of two sides. The differences between them aren't dramatic, but for me at least the somewhat subtle differences I thought I heard gave this album a strong A side and B side feel and experience. The opening two songs all share certain characteristics. The arrangements are fairly sparse and open, with air and room and space for all the elements used to breathe. The drums are tight, the bass hard and booming, while the guitar and keyboards have more of a free role spirit and touch base with the delicate landscapes as well as the more dramatic. In general I'd say both of the songs have something of a beefed up Gentle Giant orientation in overall sound, spirit and approach, with an arguably light flavor of Camel thrown into the mix. In addition there were both passages in general and some organ details in particular that reminded me ever so slightly of the Mark I era of Deep Purple. I guess this is more of an accidental thing though, as many bands in that era explored similar sounding landscapes. Still, it was an interesting association, even if I'm perhaps the only person that has it when listening through this CD. What I'd describe as the second side of this album opens in a more calm, serene and mystical manner with the tranquil and romantic 'Naiad Dreams', instilling some calm before the storm that is named 'Merry Macabre'. This concluding 19 minutes long epic is a beast of song, twisting and turning here and there throughout it's run with (possible) nods in the direction of just about all the great progressive rock bands from the early 70's, and with something of a focus on somewhat darker moods and atmospheres. The Gentle Giant touches are present, and I'd guesstimate that fans of Van der Graaf Generator and King Crimson will find plenty of familiar sounding movements as well. There was even a moment or two here that made me think of Magma, although more in spirit than the mode and style of delivery. Still, 'Merry Macabre' is a song that contains just about everything someone with a passionate taste for classic era progressive rock might desire, and of course the flute, the Mellotron and the harpsichord are all used on this song too. In case anyone wondered. A very strong contender for the epic length composition of the year, if there is a competition at hand regarding such matters. Otherwise I note that the mix and production are excellent, that we get some stellar lead vocal and vocal harmonies provided throughout, and arrangements that range from the dramatic and bombastic to the tender, delicate and subtle. Something for just about everyone, compiled in an extremely appealing and retro-oriented manner.

Conclusion. Wobbler continue their tradition of creating high quality songs on high quality albums. A certain taste for classic era progressive rock is needed to enjoy this album of course, but among those who do enjoy this specific type of music I'd wager a bet that the majority will place this album very high on their top 5 list of albums released in 2020. A production all fans of progressive rock should inspect, and one I suspect the greater majority will find really enjoyable too.

Progmessor: September 2020
The Rating Room

Related Links:

Wobbler Karisma Records


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