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4 stars This is for me definitely a four-star release, though I shouldn't exactly call it 'an excellent addition to any prog rock collection', as the legenda states. But if you are a Fruitcake-fan, you will surely adore this one. Though all Fruitcake-cd's are alike, Room For Surprise has - next to singer/drummer Pal Sovik, the excellent Siri Seeland singing the two tracks 'A Whisper' and 'Keep The Light', both highlights. Best track though is probably openingtrack 'Time To Go', a hauntingly beautiful and very slow and tension-building track.
Report this review (#2749)
Posted Sunday, November 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have to admit that I love the band/album, But you can equally love it if you listen to it at least 3 times. Yes, it is a difficult band to get into and maybe a little repetitive among the different albums they have, but once you get into it you get trapped by all "Fruitcake" albums. The first thing to consider is the emotion they have, this emotion is transformed into beauty, few prog bands achieve this. We also have female vocals in some songs to strengthen this beauty. All musicians are excellent, above all, the rhythm section (drums and bass).

The first band that comes to mind is "Genesis" but with a more modern sound (also "Camel"). "Room for surprise" is their first masterpiece in my opinion. Really well produced band with a unique sound (this is the difficult thing to achieve among the many "neoprog bands"), sometimes dark, sometimes sad, always beautiful.

Report this review (#58948)
Posted Friday, December 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars The amazing cover art is actually a painting titled "Fishermen at Sea" from 1796. The lyrics often seem to be from the view point of a soldier. The music is clearly from the neo camp and is mostly slow to mid paced with the keys / synths / piano dominating the sound. I did think of GENESIS and PINK FLOYD but these guys really have their own unique sound. The music seems so simple and straightforward as it often plods along, but it has a hold of me big time. It's cool that the keyboard player is a female(Siri) she also sings lead on a couple of tracks.The leader of the band is the drummer / vocalist Pal Sovik who wrote all the lyrics and helped to compose all the music.

"Time To Go" is a slow moving track with lots of synths and light drums. Crying synths to open and later at 4 1/2 minutes. Vocals are almost spoken by Pal. Lightning cracks after 5 1/2 minutes. Very cool song. "Tall n Dark" is a more energetic track with lots of keys. It's quite catchy, a toe tapper. Vocals a minute in. Waves of synths and steady drumming throughout. Nice guitar melody 3 minutes in. "Keep The Light" features Siri on vocals as synths pulse. Pal helps out with backup vocals. A fuller sound a minute in, and it sounds fantastic. This contrast continues. This is fairly slow paced. A tasteful guitar solo 3 minutes in. "Room For Surprise" opens with the sound of running water and drums. Vocals and keys come in. It becomes a catchy little mid-paced tune. The guitar provides some rawness to the soundscape. "Touch The Sky" opens with mournful synths. Drums come in as the tempo picks up a notch. Vocals are next. A more powerful soundscape briefly 2 minutes in. Guitar and keys shine. It settles down 4 minutes in as synths wash and a killer guitar solo plays over top. Back to the mid-paced melody before 6 minutes. More waves of sound 7 1/2 minutes in and later to end it. The best song on here in my opinion.

"Hunting Old Ladies" like the band's name tends to make me cringe. Haha. They have a sense of humour anyway. This is the only instrumental on here. Banks-like pulsating synths with drums early. A beautiful sound 2 minutes in as synths wash and piano comes in. Pulsating synths are back. Some nice fat bass 3 1/2 minutes in. "Golden Age" features vocals, drums and waves of synths. The guitar 2 1/2 minutes in to the end is outstanding. "The Famous Hill" is another favourite of mine. This one is brighter with guitar and keys standing out. Vocals after 2 1/2 minutes when melody stops and waves of synths wash in. It kicks back in a minute later. Another calm 5 1/2 minutes in as vocals, synths and piano take over. I'm reminded of FLOYD when the guitar comes soaring in with synths in the background. A "Whisper" opens with piano and background synths.Soft female vocals come in. Drums and a fuller sound 1 1/2 minutes in. The contrast continues.I like the guitar after 3 1/2 minutes. A synth solo followed by bass after 5 minutes. The guitar is very well done again as the vocals return 7 minutes in.

This is one of those recordings that defy explanation as to why i like it so much. Simply put, I love their sound.

Report this review (#168031)
Posted Saturday, April 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars ''How to Make It'' was followed by the depature of Tore Bo, despite the warm critics regarding the album.Still Cyclops was reallysatisfied with Fruitcake and Mr. Sovik and company entered the studios for the recordings of the new album with only Siri Seland from the previous line-up.New additions were Jens Sverdrup on guitars and Gunnar Bergersen on bass.''Room for Surprise'' was released in spring 96', after one new track by Fruitcake was included in ''The Second Cyclops Sampler'' in 1995.

The several come's and go's seems finally to have a serious impact on the warm and atmospheric sound of Fruitcake.The song structures seem to have been simplified, including some long, repetitive and slow grooves of low music quality next to some very good instrumental ideas and grandiose synth passages.Sovik's voice still remains among the negative issues: Hypnotic, monotonic and with no particular color.The musicianship implies some heavy PINK FLOYD inspirations, some delicate GENESIS passages and good melodies in the style of PENDRAGON and IQ.But the certain fact is that it never takes off.Low-tempo steady rhythm with repetitve drumming, a very hypnotic mood and the lack of some trully great music parts is not what the listener expected from Fruitcake's next step.The talent of the band is there, the decent amount of memorable material is here to proove it, but ''Room for Surprise'' sounds more as a forced album than a well-crafted work.

Not a bad album by any mean, but this Fruitcake works seems to lack orentation and full focus.I should advice the prog listener to approach this album with caution...2.5 stars.

Report this review (#172691)
Posted Saturday, May 31, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Fruitcake from Norway is progressive rock's favorite slug. With a sound that slow, plump and stiff, the band still manages to carry its own house across numerous moments of fine moody progressive rock. Drummer, leads-singer and composer Pål Søvik has been the bands only remaining member throughout several line-up changes since the early nineties. The band has this typic organ-sound the most will recognize from Genesis' 'Watcher of the Skies'. The vocals by Pål Søvik are quite dopey and sound untrained, yet his performance can be quite charming and unique during slower, less demanding songs. Fruitcake can find some truly original or grasping melodies, simply because other bands haven't even started thinking of creating such simple beautiful lines. Furthermore, the Nordic and slightly isolated / lonesome / 'living somewhere out there' sound of the band makes it instantly recognizable. Yet I wouldn't have place them under neo-prog, more like minimalist symphonic prog.

On 'Room for Suprises' the Fruitcake formula works best for me. The band focuses on their slow-paced, minimalist and melancholy song-writing in which I think they are most effective. The opening song 'Time to Go' with its haunting organ-sound and tragic synth lead is one of my all-time favorite moody songs and it couldn't get less optimistic than this post-war reflection ('we sometimes win / but always loose / welcome to this game'). 'Keep The Light', a balled written and sung (dopey in her own way) by female keyboardist Siri M Seland is another slow-paced melancholy highlight. The title song 'Room for Suprises' opens with this very minimalist bass-guitar and organ interplay and some slow vocals by Pål Søvik. Yet Fruitcake manages to launch this very urgent and exciting middle section that somehow really benefits from the minimalist treatment of the rest of the song.

Jens G. Sverdrup is perhaps the least exciting guitar-player that Fruitcake ever had, but his timid playing and fine solo's fits the unique Fruitcake-atmosphere best in my opinion ? it allows for complete focus on the moving organ/synth parts. After this record the band would make two pumped-up albums with a masterful new guitar-player, whilst shaking off some of the melancholy charm that made this album such a hit for me.

I had originally written a three star review for this album, but since I've been returning to it (before missing it all of the sudden) for years now with much pleasure I'm going to give it a full score ? apparently this melancholy album is essential to me.

Report this review (#177110)
Posted Thursday, July 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars So far I was only familiar with Fruitcake thanks to a song on a Cyclops sampler more than 10 years ago. Already then I noticed the melodic content was high and this band could be a lot in my style of neo prog.

Lately I ran into this one and can't say I'm disappointed at all. First song is immediately a very nice example of the melodic style I was talking about. Time to go is a slow, dark song of considerable length with dominant keyboard sounding intruiging and interesting (3,5*). Next is Tall 'n Dark, a song in a higher tempo with a funny keyboard tune in the beginning, later on followed by a good instrumental phase (3,5*). Third up is Keep the Light, first song with vocals by Siri Seland, the female singer, obviously a woman with a somewhat dark voice making the song more gloomy than it already sounds on itself. Nice guitar in this one. Also here some good keyboard, I like the way Siri handles this through the songs, the melodies are significant in all of them and certainly in this one (3,5*). 4th is the title track and third in a row of shorter length. Somehow Fruitcake manages makes these seem longer than they last which means the songs are compact and I like that. Room for Surprise is nevertheless the least of the first four I have to say, probably because of lack of great melody like in the first three (3*) (sorry to keep mentioning the melodic aspect but along with composition structure melody happens to be my main objective in prog music and music in general by the way). Touch the Sky is by far the longest on the album and is almost of epical length clocking nearly 10 minutes and then I usually expect quite a bit more from such songs. Pal Sovik is the vocalist in this one and he is very present in the first few minutes after which a pretty long instrumantal part follows with both keyboards and guitar alternatingly present. Even though the composition is how I like them this song doesn't really stand out as much as I hoped for, yet the best so far (3,75*). After this the two shortest songs of this release, Hunting old ladies is the only instrumental of the album and in fact one of my favourites (3,75*) and Golden age, a very short average song for Fruitcake standard until a bit of nice guitar saves it somewhat (3,25*). Last two are fairly long again, around the 8 minute mark. First is The famous hill is one of those typical Fruitcake tracks with recognazible keyboardtunes frequently reappering. Here we are back in the vein of the first song, at first pretty slow but half way down getting more up tempo, the song is very acceptable in the end (3,5*). A whisper is the closing act of the album. Here Siri is the vocalist again singing much clearer than in Keep the Light. This is the second longest of the album but somehow it doesn't really matter how long the songs are with this band because other than in most cases with me I don't detect much quality difference between the shorter and longer songs. This last song is also somewhere around 3,75 stars making it hard for my overall judgement.

I let the consistency do the job here and this is a very equable album so that means no songs to skip which is important to me and therefore I give 4 stars though 3,5 is more the reality. It's hard to compare this band to another but if I have to name one it would be Thieves Kitchen although Fruitcake is obviously much more accessible.

Report this review (#193899)
Posted Tuesday, December 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album is not too bad an effort even if it is not transporting me to heaven while listening to it. Still, it is the best of what the band has recorded so far.

But their weaknesses are still the same. Weak vocals (to say the least): emotionless and monochord. Their very much keyboards oriented music is pleasant though. Especially during the long ''Touch The Sky''.

I guess that this album has just to be considered for what it is: a non adventurous neo-prog offering. At times melodic (''The Famous Hill'') and quite derivative of course. But it is partially the essence of the genre. And this band fully falls into the category of followers by all means.

At the end of the day, it is not unpleasant music displayed here. Three stars.

Report this review (#215226)
Posted Tuesday, May 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The time has come for some dessert so why not some Fruitcake. No, not the tasty pastry but rather the Norwegian band that has a sizeable catalogue of languorous prog , a heavier version of Pink Floyd with some added classic touches that cannot fail to please. Led by drummer Pal Sovik , a rock solid thumper, and the unabashed use of bass-pedals (so fans beware!) ,the band has a definite style of their own as they combine heady doses of legendary Northern cool to the deal. I choose to start with their second release (and my favorite) "Room for Surprise" and its simply breathtaking artwork, no less than a 1796 J.W. Turner original, among the best cover art anywhere. "Time to Go" is a smart case in point, a brooding bass (Taurus and string) slithers along slyly, the rest of the players laying down shining coats of progressive colors, all kinds of sound effects (gulls, crashing or rolling thunder), almost space rock because of the groove. A tremendous opener. "Tall and Dark" is more playful and breezy, nice biting guitar flashing the way and a solid chorus that is most pleasant to the ear, Jens Sverdrup's axe displaying all kinds of inventiveness and élan. The weaving "Keep the Light" has a childlike feel , the sweeping and weeping synthesizers brooming the path delicately courtesy of Siri Seland , the drums dropping sonic buoys thus keeping things narrow and tight, an interesting style to say the least , especially when the lead guitar pops in for a cameo ride! Nothing too complex but very enjoyable. The title cut is another quirky whopper, almost as if inspired by Manzanera/801 or Split Enz, yet the recurring synth pattern is totally savvy and buzzing, giving this a shiny appeal. Gunnar Bergersen's bass rumbling fittingly, open things wide for some cool guitar and synth interplay. "Touch the Sky" is the 10 minute epic ride and it lives up to rest and then some. Organ, guitar and synths combine to set down a rich sonic sandbox, inviting all in to play and "touch the sky". All four players get to stretch out and flex their ideas into more concrete terms, highlighted by Sverdrup unleashing a series of solos with many phosphoric licks. The occasional vocals are relatively weak but do not deter in any which way mainly due to those massive walls of bass-pedals that litter the whole album. A first rate singer like future Fruitcake and Guardian's Office lead singer Tony Johannessen would have made this a superlative effort. Better late than never. Two shorter pieces ensue: "Hunting Old Ladies" is a strange title but saved by a glorious bass pummel that rolls along unmolested, butterflied synths scouring the airspace ahead, organ aiding and abetting the sonic crime and judicious guitar flexing unexpected muscles. The arrival of some voluptuous piano adds such a fascinating sparkle to the arrangement, here a lot closer to mid-period Genesis than anything else, a great tune. The frosty "Golden Age" sounds amazing but Sovik's pale vocals are unconvincing, another song saved by elegant phrasings by the usual suspects. Sverdrup again comes in nicely with a spirited yet mournful solo. "The Famous Hill" is a medium length adventure, loaded with loopy recurrent chords hence toyed by all the members into a somber ruffle that develops slowly but surely into an agreeable piece. The piano reverts anew into the fray, giving it even more credentials as it fades into a soporific haze. "A Whisper" is a delightful finale, the keyboardist Seland orchestrates some romantic piano lead while singing as well briefly, giving this a welcome feminine slant, a rewarding journey in so many ways. Not necessarily a must, some who may find this too maudlin just don't get their style (not me, I have all the albums except the last one), Fruitcake deserve at least the recognition of a fairly long yet unknown career. The opening track remains a killer. 4 candied cherry fjords
Report this review (#251457)
Posted Wednesday, November 18, 2009 | Review Permalink

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