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The Chronicles of Father Robin - The Songs & Tales of Airoea Book I: The Tale of Father Robin (State of Nature) CD (album) cover

THE SONGS & TALES OF AIROEA BOOK I: THE TALE OF FATHER ROBIN (STATE OF NATURE)

The Chronicles of Father Robin

 

Symphonic Prog

4.30 | 134 ratings

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TheEliteExtremophile
4 stars The Chronicles of Father Robin are a band that dates back to the inception of Scandinavia's modern prog scene. (The Nordic countries also put out some good material in the 1970s, but bands like Kaipa, Friendship Time, and Haikara don't have much of a direct connection to the modern scene.) Originally formed in 1993, they made plans for a sprawling triple album built around one unifying story thread. Nothing came of it at the time, and the band members went on to be in major acts, like Wobbler, Tusmørke, and Jordsjø, among others. Now, nearly 30 years later, the band has reunited.

The Songs & Chronicles of Airoea - Book 1 is the first part of this planned three-part album arc. Multi-album story arcs are nothing new to me, not that I ever give much mind to lyrics. I am curious to hear just how musically cohesive this project winds up being across subsequent releases. I'm hoping it'll be something a bit more interesting than just the same album three times over, but only time will tell.

Book 1 is a little slow to get going. It opens with a pair of introductory tracks that barely crack a minute. "Prologue" is a completely unnecessary 66 seconds of the ambient sounds of someone walking through the woods, and "The Tale of Father Robin" is hokey Dungeons & Dragons-sounding expository barding. 

"Eleison Forest", the first real song, makes up for that hokum in its opening seconds. A flurry of organ and flute resolves into an anxious passage driven along with tight bass and eerie Mellotron textures. As the song progresses, the band maintains tension, and I like their contrasts of folky elements like acoustic guitar and flute with swirling organ and interstellar synth licks. I need to praise their guitarist for his electric passages on this song, which are ragged and biting and aggressive; he calls to mind Steve Howe's best work without blatantly aping him.

As this cut plunges forward, there are some majestic wordless vocals supported by rich, Wakeman-esque synthesizers. There are some powerful, surprisingly heavy passages that I was happy to hear, and it all ends on an excellent revisitation of the opening organ line.

"The Death of the Fair Maiden" opens with an unexpectedly bouncy, danceable groove paired with a folky guitar line. The eventual verse is much quieter and more sedate. This cut focuses on the gradual building of tension, and it's mostly effective (It does drag a bit at moments, but it's hardly unforgivable.) The final two minutes see the band burst into something more fiery, and it reminds me a lot of the sudden explosion at the end of Camel's "Lady Fantasy".

The 15-minute "Twilight Fields" follows. It first begins as a slow, plodding piece with some creepy undertones. Flute and an increasing tempo build the tension, and it all leads to a gentle verse with delicate vocals. The occasional swell of guitar and keys keeps this otherwise-deliberate song interesting, and multilayered vocals are deployed well at points too. 

Around this cut's midpoint, it shifts from primarily acoustic to electric, and dense walls of organ play wonderfully against some coarse guitar chords. The second half features a lot of musical ideas, ranging from lurching to peppy to eerie. There are a lot of cool riffs and themes, but it can come across as more disjointed and random, rather than purposefully-sprawling.

This album ends with "Unicorn". It's got another folky opening, built around acoustic guitar and flute. This folkiness continues into the verse, but there are also some neat, wobbly synth embellishments that I like a lot. This song ends strong. Its final 90 seconds are a chaotic storm of crushing guitars and dramatic vocals, but it took its sweet time getting to the climax. I'd like this song a lot more if it were about two minutes shorter.

Before this summer, I'd never heard of this abortive supergroup, so it's not like I'd been dying to hear something from this collective for decades. That said, knowing the musicians' backgrounds, I definitely went into this with certain expectations. The sound is most akin to that of Wobbler, and that's what I figured this would be. This release is better than Wobbler's last couple albums, due to the relative internal diversity, and it feels much more inspired by classic prog, rather than being a knock-off. That said, there's still some noticeable bloat here, which drags things down. It's also not worth the 14 Euros the band wants for this?no digital album of this length is, in my eyes.

Review originally posted here: theeliteextremophile.com/2023/10/09/album-review-the-chronicles-of-father-robin-the-songs-tales-of-airoea-book-1/

TheEliteExtremophile | 4/5 |

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