I just browsed these age-old progressive rock pieces. You know, all those bands from back in the ’70s that didn’t quite know what to do with their talent.
Because their fare refused to fit the woozy woo-woo of the day, nor would it mix with the disco nerds. And let’s just forget about the harsher realms of an emerging Hard Rock and early metal scene.
Now, I kinda nursed the idea to scrutinize the old prog rock masters some more and finally get some of ’em on the blog. But this project didn’t quite materialize yet, and boy do I wish it had.
Because little did I know that Wobbler with Dwellers of the Deep would cross my hawse literally a day later. If ever there’s a continuation straight from that early era, then this record is it. Lush arrangements that harken back to that glorious past where experimentation wasn’t yet governed by djents, but by real music and musicians with new and often brilliant ideas. And that’s – sadly – not something to be said from modern times and its contemporary brethren.
The moment I stepped into Wobbler‘s world, the scent of Yes in all its splendor was all around my nostrils. Hints to Jethro Tull and Strawbs follow in rapid succession. Ideas of what Genesis1) could have done better come to mind, too. You know, that time when Phil Collins had not yet cast off into the blue yonder and Peter Gabriel still had traction.
Now, Dwellers of the Deep doesn’t waste a moment visiting that far-away past. By the Banks – the first track – contains no bizarre intro, but just lets Lars Fredrik Frøislie‘s good ol’ Hammond sound rip. And off goes that Progressive Rock thing that would sit well with present-day Haken as well. If you take the metal away, of course. Because this dwellers thing here has no metallic tinge to it whatsoever.
And once Andreas W.S. Prestmo took off with his crystal clear wail, we were sold. Truly a voice from the past, one that feels like some déjà-vu. But it’s also what other prog artists tried in modern times, and not always to their advantage.
And you know why this all sounds so comfortable? Because Wobbler fully embrace that typical medley of keys, elaborate riff patterns, and ever-changing ditties, themes, and melodies. And – boy – they throw everything that this era’s instrumentation had to offer into the fray. But artfully so, and with gusto. A tasty riot of sounds that sometimes can seem slightly overwhelming to the casual listener.
However, not on Dwellers of the Deep. The band truly took whatever prog produced 50 years ago, refined it, and spit it out with our modern means. The whole record is full of that old-time wizardry with a truly tasty reenactment of long-gone sound patterns. If you would find an old vinyl somewhere in a dusty cupboard today and it would turn out to be this one, you’d not even notice that it actually released in the terrible year of 2020.
The RMR deck crew truly gorged on that feast of exquisitely crafted melodies, patterns, hooks, and licks. This is a band with truly stellar songwriting chops. And not one to lose any member. Boy, even the bass turns out beautifully in this medley of utmost complexity. And that is a feat not many bands really master.
And it needs to be said. Packing a mind-boggling, highly intense block of Progressive Rock into a relatively short 45 minutes or so, AND making it look easy, is quite a feat. That they somewhat casually slam all that jazz onto four tracks only and don’t lose themselves in the fray is just the icing on that cake.
And you get it all. The straight-in-your-face prog fest on By the Banks packs that necessary tension to glue the audience to the vinyl. The thoughtful Five Rooms truly fits in like yet another perfect piece of the puzzle. I love the organ pipes at the beginning, just before things take off like a crazed Genesis of long-gone times.
Naiad Dreams feels like that band-aid to soothe the heat of the first two scorchers. A lighter and playful air that was more than welcome after all that action. You truly feel like being out there by the pool in the wild, as the lyrics suggest.
The only slight issue I have with Dwellers of the Deep is their last 19-minute epic Merry Macabre. It is largely as brilliant as the three former tracks. Yet, at times it feels strained and – in a way – too focused on straight rock than on robust prog patterns.
But in the end, Wobbler released a piece that leaves little room for complaints. A record with a grasp on the ’70s era prog that I haven’t quite seen to date. Dwellers of the Deep truly is a dream-come-true for the prog lover. And this crew here for one could not get enough of it.
Ed’s note: The record made it onto the 2020 Top 10 Records. Congrats!
|1.||Newly reunited and ready for action in 2020. And then Covid-19 happened.|