(All Album Reviews by ffroyd)
Ok, now that the dust has settled, it’s probably time to examine this release a little more carefully. Wobbler’s debut Hinterland has been one of the most publicized albums of the year in the prog community; it’s also been one of the most criticized. There has been lots praise for the band as being the next big thing. The statement “Has the torch been passed?” may be forever immortalized in reference to Wobbler. There have also been many rave reviews of the CD. On the other hand, several folks have been very critical of the band and the premature decision to have them play Nearfest even before the completion of their first proper album. All of this commotion has given Wobbler probably the most exposure of any band in 2005 and without even hearing a note of it, Hinterland can be heralded as the debut of the year just on hype alone.
The band makes no excuses that the main attraction here is White Willow keyboardist Lars Fredrik Frøislie. His instrument list dwarfs every other member of the band and his presence in the music is clearly identifiable. There is an overabundance of mellotron on the album and he plays fantastically on all of the keyboards, especially the Hammond and minimoog. Other members include Martin Nordrum Kneppen on drums and percussion, Kristian Karl Hultgren on bass and saxophones, Morten Andreas Eriksen on guitars and Tony Johannessen on lead vocals. There are also several guest musicians making appearances including fellow White Willow member Ketil Vestrum Einarsen who adds quite a bit of flute to the album, enough to make me wonder why he’s not included as an official member.
There are only 4 tracks on the CD and the first, “Serenade For 1652” is only a few seconds of quiet mellotron. This gives way to the title track, a grandiose over-indulgent progressive rock epic, just the way we like it! There are many spots in the tune where they borrow a mood from a prog legend, most notably ELP, Genesis or Änglagård, but for the most part this is a very original work. There are lots of shifting dynamics and Lars’ keyboard work is just incredible. The vocals aren’t the strong point and there’s a section in the song where the band takes on Gentle Giant-like harmonizing, thankfully that doesn’t last too long. Tony Johannessen does a fairly decent job on his lead parts; his deep voice gives an excellent contrast to the mellow keyboards. At nearly 28 minutes, this track probably could have been edited down to about half that and still been effective. That would have probably cut out some of my favorite parts like the minimoog solo about halfway through the song though. I guess it’s fine as it is.
Next is “Rubato Industry”, a very interesting track with lyrics about a singing book. Another very vibrant tune with, again, lots of great keyboards, there’s a section towards the end that reminds me slightly of cross between Anekdoten and The Flower Kings. The final track is the instrumental “Clair Obscur”. It starts out with mellotron and that gives way to a beautiful solo piano that is soon accompanied by flute. This is probably the most original sounding section on the album but it’s quickly interrupted by some very heavy Änglagård-influenced moments. There’s a nice Hammond/synth section towards the end that is very cool.
There’s a whole lot more to the album that I haven’t described but you’ll just have to check it out for yourself. Before I end this review, I must say that I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this album despite the fact that it’s really nothing all that original. I had heard the demos that this band was doing and they frankly bored me. The finished album however, has much more structure and flows very nicely. I’m now kicking myself because I missed their appearance at Nearfest. Hopefully, they’ll be able to make it over here again sometime.
Wobbler is from Norway. Isn’t it amazing how many brilliant Scandinavian bands the last couple of years has brought us? This fine outfit is clearly inspired by the past, by way of such big names as: Gentle Giant, King Crimson, ELP and Genesis; and they are not ashamed to show it. The music flows brilliantly and with such a fine sense of detail, excellent musicianship, that I actually had to grab the cover a few times, just to reassure myself that this music was in fact recorded in 2004/2005.
So, what you get here is some absolutely brilliant prog music in the vein of the above mentioned groups. Plenty of vintage sounds like Hammond B3, mellotron, harpsichord, mini-moog, etc. There are enough breaks, time changes & wonderful themes to make any prog freak happy; the title track ”Hinterland” alone clocks in at some fabulous 28 min. WOW!
What a debut album this is. These five guys are just filled to the brim with good ideas and musicianship to prove it! Vocal arrangements, compositions, and production are top notch. Special mention to keyboard whiz: Lars Fredrik Frøislie, who has an amazing battery of instruments to “play” with and brilliantly he uses every one of them.
I cannot even begin to imagine what their next album will be like. Meanwhile, I do not hesitate to recommend this fine debut to anyone who likes his prog music “old school”, but delivered with today’s fine possibilities in addition to great talent.
So there you have it, an excellent debut, with an excellent band. So, if you nodded happily along the way in this review, YOU MUST OWN THIS FINE ALBUM! I, for one, am very happy with my copy!
Oh, may I add thanks to Danish Distribution Company TARGET, by way of Thomas, thanx mate.