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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 Chronicles of Father Robin

Symphonic Prog

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4 stars Norway Rocks Again!

i've been anticipating this album since the beggining, mainly because lars fredrik is in it, and i absolutely love his work And lars fredrik here made an absolutely fantastic work with keyboards, as aways, mainly on "Eleision Forest" which is by the way the track that was released to tease the album, this album is a strong candidate to the best album of this year!

A Fantastic work very remniscent of 70's prog just like wobbler and lars fredrik works, specially yes (which is an awesome thing)

i cannot wait to see the other two albums that are going to be released (or books, like the band calls them)

Strongly recommend, specially if you're a fan of the good old 70's prog just like me!

Report this review (#2951279)
Posted Friday, September 15, 2023 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is apparently the culmination of the machinations of a bunch of high school chums in Norway. The individuals, however, took 30 years of side roads on their way to the realization of their Chronicles of Father Robin plans.

1. "Prologue" (1:06) recorded noises from a seaside park--with cars going by on the highway behind and gentle seashore wave sounds, finishing off with close-up sounds of feet shuffling through beach stone before entering a cabin and shutting the door and, thus, the outside sounds.

2. "The Tale of Father Robin" (1:16) a little poetic folk intro that sounds like something that would come from a group of itenerant minstrels at the beginning of one of their ad hoc street performances. (4.333/5)

3. "Eleision Forest" (11:57) Very pleasant, broad folk-rock soundscape with unusually delicate upper register male vocals coming from the lead story teller. The heavier Uriah Heep-like spacer-motif is not as pleasant or fitting, but I love all of the elf- and fairy-like incidental voices and instrumental inputs coming from all sides of the broad soundstage. A chorus of vocalise backed by standard four-chord rock music begins at 4:50--also facilitating a nice synth solo over the myriad other instruments filling the field. The music--especially that coming from the rhythm section--is surprisingly simple and straightforward (as was somewhat common in the early era of progressive rock). The lead vocalist begins to sound more WOBBLER-like before the heavier rock motif supports a wild flute and other folkie instrumental free-for-all. The ninth minute again uses fairly simple, almost Led Zeppelin and/or Neil Young song structures to support a very loose jam of multiple instruments. Piano and organ with delicately strummed and picked acoustic guitar are featured with multiple sprite-like folk voices over the next bucolic passage until 10:20 when another "old rock" jam passage ensues (feeling/sounding like very early YES). Howe-like lead guitar with Wakeman-like organ play take us to the end--which is as slow fade. A song that captures the bohemian spirit of the late 1960s and early 1970s but is a little too wild and loose for me. (22/25)

4. "The Death of the Fair Maiden" (8:03) a CAMEL opening turns into a spacious Pink FLOYDIAN style over which myriad loosely-associated vocalists sing their medi'val-sounding folk-hippy lyrics. This sounds so much like those very first Wobbler albums: Hinterland and Afterglow, while the drums sound more like Rites at Dawn. The big difference between this music and Wobbler's is the (intentional, I think) looseness of both the playing and engineering: it's much more jam oriented than Wobbler's very precisely contrived musics--not unlike CAMEL. I also hear some of the old Stephen Stills-like frenzied guitar soloing in Andreas' soloing as I used to in the Rites at Dawn album. A nice song that really breings little new or exciting to the table other than the unusual (and wonderful) "loose" vocal array. (13.33333/15)

5. "Twilight Fields" (15:24) in this very WOBBLER-sounding song (I guess it's unavoidable with Wobbler's principle vocalist, Andreas Wettergreen Str'mman Prestmo, performing the lead vocals) I hear a lot of the NEKTAR sound and psychedelia with a bit more King CRIMSON dissonance and angularity. It's as if we're observing from the woods around an open glade in which some Pagan wizard is throwing together spell over a midnight cauldron. The stuff that folklore is made of (or the folklore that prog is made of). A song that evokes some very interesting imagery but ultimately fails to satisfy or bring me back for more. (26.25/30)

6. "Unicorn" (8:29) again we are definitely conjuring up a Nature scene with this slack-paced music. From the start it feels as if a group of friends are sitting around a fire pit in the gentle September night air, each picking up an instrument and then picking or tinkering away: sometimes synchronized and attuned, even entrained, but mostly playing from within their own private universes. Then the seventh minute arrives and, with it, the musicians become quite serious--as if the coherence of their collective jam holds some kind of protective or energetic power to ward off intruders/ill-wishers. This motif plays out to the song's finish and leaves me feeling very agitated and abandoned--as if the song and album are not properly completed. I really enjoyed and feel peacefully transported by the first six minutes, but the abrasive music of the final 2:40 leaves me cold and disquieted. Too bad. (17.75/20)

Total Time 46:15

Music that to my ears sound like a version of Wobbler that is even more intrenched in and imitative of the prog masters of the 1970s. Overall, I LOVE the primeval, pre-Industrial feel to the music and its subject matter; the songs feel as if they are created and performed out-of-doors in communal cooperation or for community entertainment and escapism--as in the harsh and fragile day-to-days of the untamed Middle Ages.

B/four stars; an excellent album of retro-folk rock that will please and feed many prog lovers.

Report this review (#2953059)
Posted Wednesday, September 20, 2023 | Review Permalink
5 stars Originally released as a three LP box set, Karisma is releasing each disc separately, starting with this one, Book I: The Tales of Father Robin. Karisma realized the box set can be a bit spendy for some. This review is for the first part, obviously as this was all I got to hear from buying the LP and downloading it on Bandcamp. Turns out I was able to save up for the box set, Karisma has a few unsold copies and I bought it. Hearing all the raving like from Scot Lade from Prog Corner on Youtube, I had to check it out. For one thing, members of Wobbler, Tusmørke, and Jordsjø are on this project, as well as members of Samuel Jackson Five, which I'm not familiar with but the other three I am very familiar with as I have most of the albums they've done. Now being familiar with the whole set, it's clear this is by far the heaviest, most aggressive of the three, not to mention most keyboard-dominated as Lars Fredrik Frøislie has his presence felt and he appears to be absent on the other two. To be fair the main nucleus of The Chronicles of Father Robin is Andreas Wettergreen Strømmen Prestmo, Jon Andre Nilsen, and Henrik Harmer, with other members coming and going, since this did take 30 years to make. This first installment is so incredibly mindblowing that I'm in disbelief. This could very well be the greatest retro prog album to come out of Norway (and I'm hoping the next two installments are just as great). "Prologue" is basically the sound of wind and rain, and some slight background music. "The Tale of Father Robin" is a nice but very brief folk-influenced number, which will hardly prepare you with what comes next: full on lengthy and complex symphonic prog of the first order. "Eleison Forest" is simply incredible and intense, I really dig that organ part that starts the album and hear periodically throughout. There are reminders of Wobbler, hardly surprising that Lars Fredrik Frøislie provides keyboards and Andreas Wettergreen Strømmen Prestmo provides vocals. The music is simply packed with great analog keyboards including the Mellotron and Hammond organ. "Twilight Fields" is the lengthiest piece on the album and the King Crimson influence shows up as some of guitar riffs reminds me of "Larks Tongues in Aspic Part II". There are plenty of Wobbler-ish moves as well. "Unicorn" is perhaps the closest to the Rites at Dawn-era Wobbler sound as I get that similar mood. I am not too surprised about the Wobbler similarities any more than Lars Fredrik Frøislie's solo venture Fire Fortellinger. I also notice the occasional Yes, Gentle Giant and Jethro Tull moves on this album. Also, what really blew me away was these guys remembered why there is "rock" in "prog rock" as it actually rocks, with plenty of heavy guitar riffs that make me think of those heavier Italian prog bands (but without sounding like them) such as Semiramis, Osanna, Museo Rosenbach, J.e.t., Biglietto per L'Inferno and the likes. This three-disc project was apparently 30 years in the making, and when it was finally completed, it was crowdfunded and it was released. But realizing the box set was a bit spendy for many, Karisma is releasing these separately, as mentioned already. I really not only think this is the best prog I've heard post- 1978, this is just as great as anything from the classic era. This should bound to be a classic, as far as I'm concerned. While it's not recommended to throw five stars at everything, this deserves it!
Report this review (#2953115)
Posted Wednesday, September 20, 2023 | Review Permalink
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:

Report this review (#2959754)
Posted Tuesday, October 10, 2023 | Review Permalink
5 stars The most hyped album of the year! And there are two more albums on the way from this supergroup consisting of members from the bands Wobbler, Tusmørke, Jordsjø, and The Samuel Jackson Five? So much prog!!

I really enjoyed this musical adventure. I see many influences here, of course that Norwegian prog style like Wobbler is there (especially the two last songs) but also a mix of other styles, even some Gentle Giant vibes.

Great album, it's like a storytelling-prog-rock, really enjoyable. My favorite tracks: Eleision Forest (eclectic, different sections, Zeppelin vibes too!), Death of the Fairy Maiden (tremendous!! from a dance intro to a slow song that grows to a great climax). Check it out, I'm sure you're gonna like it.

Report this review (#2972768)
Posted Saturday, December 9, 2023 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars 4.5 stars. So here it is the first full length studio album from THE CHRONICLES OF FATHER ROBIN an idea that was conceived almost 30 years ago by a young trio called FANGORN out of Norway in the mid 90's featuring singer and multi-instrumentalist Andreas Wettergreen Stromman Prestmo the current WOBBLER vocalist along with Jon Andre Nilsen on bass and Henrik Harmer on drums and they are the core of this six piece band called THE CHRONICLES OF FATHER ROBIN. It is overwhelming the number of instruments in play here. We also get two guest keyboardists from WOBBLER and JORDSJO respectively, yes Froislie and Oftung!

So yes a concept album, a book if you will and really it's those first two tracks a whole 2 minutes that gets this off to a disappointing start but they more than make up for it with the four monster tracks that follow. I'm glad they included "Twilight Fields" from their 2013 EP this one is a minute shorter but faithful to the original overall. Does anyone else think it's kind of amusing that Froislie who has been a part of this project since that 2013 EP released his own album also based on stories but with Norwegian lyrics. He beat them to the punch and released the better album in my opinion.

Part of my issue with this record was just how overhyped it was. Its been a while since I've heard a buzz like the one over this project. I really feel I'll be giving this the full 5 stars down the road despite that disappointing start. I'm sure it will be a minor annoyance even though I believe the start of an album is important. But man "Eleision Forest" more than makes up for it and at 12 minutes this is a ride. Surprisingly powerful early on and it will settle with flute and I should say the flute is a big part of the sound on this record. Organ is also right there as far as being prominent throughout. Love the wordless melodies before 5 minutes. Repeated themes and contrasts are here in spades.

"The Death Of The Fair Maiden" at 8 minutes is a mournful tale with old english like the KJV. I really like this one. Kind of folky at times but lots of energy at times too. "Twilight Fields" at 15 1/2 minutes has some haunting moments but also powerful ones. "Unicorn" is a great closer with that melancholic start then it brightens after 3 minutes, vocals too. It gets heavy later with a strong finish.

This will be part of my Symphonic "best of" list, there's so much to feast on with this recording, and a top ten for 2023.

Report this review (#2986333)
Posted Saturday, January 27, 2024 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars Primarily the long lost remnants of a band called Fangorn that never really went anywhere in the early 1990s, THE CHRONICLES OF FATHER ROBIN is a Norwegian supergroup that has salvaged the musical ideas and themes of Fangorn and resurrected for the modern retro prog scene of the 2020s. Basically a work in progress for three entire decades and initially inspired by not only 70s prog bands but the Swedish revivalists such as Anglagard, Anekdoten, White Willow and Lanberk, the ambitious three album set THE SONGS & TALES OF AIOREA chronicles the tales of the band's namesake, FATHER ROBIN and delivers a stunning mythological journey into an alternate universe that is enshrouded in the classic retro sounds of the 70s and 90s prog scenes.

THE SONGS & TALES OF AIROEA - BOOK 1 was the first to emerge in 2023 followed by the second and just recently in 2024 the third. With members from Wobbler, That Samuel Jackson Five, Tusmørke and Jordsjø adding their signature sounds to the mix, THE CHRONICLES OF FATHER ROBIN is a vibrant and exuberant example of modern prog implanting the traditions of the past while cross-pollinating more modern developments. Mixing aspects of symphonic prog and folk with moments of heavy rock and other progressive attributes, AIROEA delivers a veritable blend of the various prog elements that each member delivers from his retrospective band origins all the while engendering a mystical lyrical procession through a classic fantasy world which emulates the golden age of prog.

AIROEA - BOOK 1 is like a veritable time capsule of classic prog with pastoral folky passages reminiscent of 70s Genesis, stellar keyboard-oriented prog rock workouts from the classic Yes as well as the modern Wobbler playbook, extended jams bringing some of the newer bands like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizzard to mind and of course aspects from all the bands from which the individual musicians came from. Starting off somewhat clumsy with a noise and instrumental introduction, the album springs into action on "Eleision Forest" and then doesn't let up for the entire album's 46 minute run. Alternating between folk and heavy symphonic prog with flutes accompanying both contrasting styles, the band showcases a mature songwriting style that challenges the listener with prog complexities without sacrificing the melodic folk inspired melodies that prevail throughout the album's run. BOOK 1 covers the landscapes of AIROEA whereas "Book 2" covers the watery realms of the world. "Book 3" the air and ascension.

True that Andreas Pretmo's vocals make the album feel more like a Wobbler spinoff than anything especially since much of the music also could easily fit into the Wobbler playbook but something about THE CHRONICLES OF FATHER ROBIN that keeps it from straying to far into the "Hinterland" and the discipline focus keeps the album sounding rather distinct from any of the bands that the members are associated with. The album delivers an excellent set of cleverly crafted compositions that nurture ideas to their fruition and then make the necessary changes to keep things from becoming stale. Nice prog workouts are strewn about to keep things from becoming too much in the lullaby realms with extra kudos toward the near 16-minute "Twilight Fields" which features the band's most demanding workouts as well as running the gamut of the diversity of styles exercised on AIOREA - BOOK 1.

Overall this is a brilliant set of six tracks that once it hits you doesn't let up until the very end. This is the kind of prog that will appeal to everyone. It's ridiculously melodic but in a sophisticated way that allows classical, jazz and folk to play together in harmony, it has stellar prog technicalities to wow fans of demanding workouts and it has an excellent thematic delivery that is not only believable but not so alienating that the entire thing comes off as convoluted. Norway has been the hotbed for creative modern prog in the last decade or so and it seems unlike with bands like THE CHRONICLES OF FATHER ROBIN popping up that its' in any danger of losing its wellspring of creativity. A very well crafted album in the traditional prog styles of an era gone by but done ridiculously well to keep it all relevant in the present.

Report this review (#3025931)
Posted Tuesday, February 27, 2024 | Review Permalink

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