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Wobbler - Dwellers of the Deep CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.43 | 190 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars It was only a mere four years ago that the Norwegian band WOBBLER really stepped things up and usurped the throne as kings of retro prog with its fourth album "From Silence To Somewhere," an album so authentically steeped in vintage everything that you could really capture the zeitgeist of 1972 with Vietnam War protest fatigue, the Munich Olympics terrorist attacks, Watergate scandals and Coca Cola preaching how they'd like to teach the world to sing. The album was carefully planned and dripping with classic prog-isms that made you wish you could go back and time and trip out at a Yes concert. The world was stunned since the band's previous three efforts were decent but paled in comparison to the mighty roar of the sounds of "Silence."

When a band rockets into superstardom, even in underground musical terms, many things can happen. A given band can repeat the formula ad nauseam and milk it for all its worth, a given band can totally go off the rail and unleash their unrestrained avant-garde fantasies and alienate the fanbase or a given band can gracefully move on but not deviating too far from the album that put them on the map and eschew the temptation of making a carbon copy. The latter is exactly how WOBBLER has decided to proceed with its newfound glory in the prog spotlight and three years later makes a triumphant return with its eagerly anticipated followup and fifth album DWELLERS OF THE DEEP.

Once agin WOBBLER goes for the 70s retro jugular with the quintet of Andreas Wettergreen StrÝmman Prestmo (vocals, guitars), Marius Halleland (guitars, backing vocals), Lars Fredrik FrÝislie (keyboards), Kristian Karl Hultgren (bass) and Martin Nordrum Kneppen (drums) forging that perfect middle ground somewhere in a parallel universe where classic bands like Yes, Genesis, Camel and a dash of Gentle Giant were all fused together for a moment and cranked out a bunch of albums. While some whippersnappers call this stuff vintage dad rock, others are called to evoke the sacred spirit of classic prog and remember how the wizards of yore constructed some of the most grandiose constructs tucked in the paradigm of rock music and celebrate its timelessness.

Graced with gorgeous eye-catching cover art, it's immediately apparent before even pushing play that DWELLERS OF THE DEEP finds WOBBLER staunchly positioned with its hand on the pulse of the retro prog loving public and fears are set aside of a botched comeback attempt once the wobbling keyboards, Christ Squire inspired bass lines and vocal nods to Jon Anderson come roaring through as the opening track "By The Banks" wends and winds through its proggy soundscape for a whopping playing time of nearly 14 minutes. WOBBLER is back and all fears are extinguished as this album of four tracks continues the magnanimity of its predecessor without skipping a beat! The album's four songs are divided into two lengthy prog behemoths, "By The Banks" at 13:49 and the album's highlight, the closing 19 minute sprawler "Merry Macabre" with two shorter tracks "Five Rooms" and "Naiad Dreams" tucked in between.

Like many prog albums, DWELLERS OF THE DEEP attempts to craft a nebulous concept about the roller coaster of human emotions crafted in a matrix of sonic tapestries that are designed to unite the present and the past. "By The Banks" bursts into your consciousness by breaking out the big guns of prog, namely gnarled keyboard attacks, time signature freedom and even a bit of nostalgic venturing into classic rock tracks like Boston's "Foreplay / Long Time" for a wee little moment which is WOBBLER's signature star power namely the ability to evoke many moments of the past without actually copying them! If retro prog is your calling then you've come to the right prog album here as the carefully designed constructs instantly transport you to the rickety basement studio where a bunch of hippies with greater musical ambitions spend their days mining riffs and polishing notes until they all shine with a sensual sheen!

Once the established mood is set on the 14 minute opener designed to pacify any lingering doubts that WOBBLER would "de-prog," the yellow brick road of "By The Banks" finds the band in good form as they traverse the 70s soundscapes effortlessly with one melodic groove transmogrifying into another existing somewhere between the hard rocking world of Yes' early 70s albums like "Close To The Edge" to medieval folk splendor in the form of band like Gryphon and early Genesis and if you hadn't picked up on the Yes-isms yet, the thundering roar of "Five Rooms" will leave you no way of denying it. This "short" track of only 8 1/2 minutes will evoke a taste of "Roundabout," "Close To The Edge" and other rhythmic complexities a la Squire, Howe, Bruford and Wakeman and like the Yes album title, skirts too close for comfort at times but never stays too close to the sun lest it burst into flames. No way, WOBBLER is too clever in how they flirt with greatness but then take the seas of rhythmic and melody into their own.

"Naiad Dreams," a track of only 4 1/2 minutes begins with a nice classical guitar intro and maintains a nice chilled Renaissance fair vibe that serves as a nice intermission before the album's best and most daring track "Merry Macabre" prances on for exactly 19 minutes with a series of classic prog gymnastics that finds a merry-go-round of prog workouts and psychedelic meanderings that culminate in a climactic conclusion of one of the most anticipated prog albums of the year. In conclusion, WOBBLER have hit another home run for sure with DWELLERS OF THE DEEP however the wow factor seems to be missing from this one. Something about "From Somewhere To Silence" had that touched by God feel whereas this one doesn't quite measure up to the perfection of its predecessor.

Despite what i deem as a slightly inferior album as a whole to "Silence," make no doubt about it - WOBBLER is back and back with a bang. Had this album really emerged in 1972 it would have indeed become one of the classics of the era but in reality there is only so much retro prog i'm willing to engage in on a profound level and unless it reaches the height of perfection as did "Silence," then i can only get excitied at the level of declaring this an EXCELLENT album and not whipping out the masterpiece designation. For those more enthralled with this style of prog then they will not be disappointed one little bit. Commence the dwelling! The deep beckons!

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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