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Wobbler - Afterglow CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.81 | 260 ratings

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Special Collaborator
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars As those familiar with the band's 2005 album, "Hinterland", will know, Wobbler take their dedication to vintage prog very seriously. In particular, mainman Lars Fredrik Froislie is an enthusiastic collector of vintage keyboards, which he employs to great effect on this album. Like the great Swedish prog bands of the Nineties, Anglagard and Anekdoten above all, Wobbler blend the symphonic component with medieval, Renaissance and folk influences, evoking that intriguingly melancholy mood so typical of Northern European music. They also make ample use of intricate counterpoint patterns in the style of Gentle Giant, supported by an astoundingly rich instrumentation. Even the album cover, a quirky painting by Froislie himself with more than one nod at Hieronymus Bosch's unique style, seems to follow the time-honoured Seventies' tradition for distinctive artwork.

A mostly instrumental effort only 35 minutes long, "Afterglow" is built around two epics, the 15-minute-plus "Imperial Winter White" and the slightly shorter "In Taberna". In spite of their apparently patchy structure, they possess an inner consistency that unfolds after a few listens. Though their level of complexity could have made either composition almost intolerably pretentious, Wobbler succeed in creating the sonic equivalent of richly detailed tapestries, whose different colours, instead of clashing, merge together smoothly to delight the eye (or, in this case, the ear). In spite of the frequent shifts and changes in tempo, alternating hard-edged riffs with lushly orchestrated sections and delicate, acoustic passages, the compositions do not come across as fractured or meandering - though they obviously demand a lot from the listener.

Opener "The Haywain" immediately sets the mood for the album with its pastoral, medieval-inspired atmosphere, punctuated by the distinctive sound of the krumhorn. The other two shorter tracks, "Interlude" and "Armoury", share the same subdued, melancholy tone - the former based on the interaction between double bass and acoustic bass, the latter starting much like "The Haywain", and ending with a duel between the majestic strains of a church organ and the whistling sound of a Moog. Their strategic placement also provides a welcome break from the no-holds-barred nature of the two epics.

"Imperial Winter White" starts and ends with a barrage of guitar and organ riffs reminiscent of Anekdoten's grittier moments (or even of Deep Purple at their best), and develops into an awesome cavalcade punctuated by rumbling Rickenbacker bass, unleashed keyboards, flute and cello.. In my view, the brief vocal sections are the weakest feature of the track, as they seem to interrupt the flow of the music without really adding much. "In Taberna", though similar in conception, sounds somewhat heavier on the whole, even veering towards prog-metal territory in the final part, though the central section features some rarefied moments, and even a brief, jaunty organ solo with clear jazz overtones.

If "Afterglow" had contained another extra ten minutes of music of the same quality, it would have effortlessly got a 5-star rating. This is an extraordinarily accomplished album, and a true listening pleasure - which proves that, when there is genuine talent involved, producing great music does necessarily involve reinventing the wheel. 4.5 stars for an album that, while unabashedly 'retro', will appeal to fans of every prog subgenre.

Raff | 4/5 |


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