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Gargamel Descending album cover
3.85 | 98 ratings | 11 reviews | 21% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2009

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Descending (9:55)
2. Prevail (13:59)
3. Trap (5:31)
4. Labyrinth (17:40)

Total Time 47:08

Line-up / Musicians

- Tom Uglebakken / guitars (acoustic, electric, baritone), sax, flute, vocals, composer
- Bjørn Viggo Andersen / synths (MiniMoog, Korg MS20, Moog Prodigy)
- Arne Tøn / Hammond, Rhodes, Wurlitzer, piano, Mellotron, clavinet, Yamaha YC45D synth, clarinet
- Stig Jøran Rygg / bass
- Morten Tornes / drums, percussion, glockenspiel, Korg MS20 synth, Theremin, whistle, vocals

- Leif Erlend Hjelmen / cello (2)
- Aslak Tøn / trombone (2)
- Jøns Sjøgren / trumpet (2)

Releases information

Artwork: Morten Tornes

CD Transubstans Records ‎- TRANS042 (2009, Sweden)

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GARGAMEL Descending ratings distribution

(98 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(21%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(45%)
Good, but non-essential (30%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

GARGAMEL Descending reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Still a young band, Norwegian band Gargamel has abundantly proved with this sophomore effort that it is still full of vitality, freshness and creativity. "Descending" builds upon the sort of retro-prog sound elaborated in the debut release "Watch for the Umbles" and gives it a powerful twist toward the rougher edges of its essential core sound. With a reduced permanent quartet formation that includes new names in the bass and keyboard departments, Gargamel state a denser approach to its typically Scandinavian vibe. The title track fills the first 10- minutes of the album, focusing on somewhat caustic moods, something like a softened Areknamés mixed with touches of later years Anekdoten and Metrognome's spacey trends. The instrumental expansions are properly featured among the sung passages are not excessively complex, but they manage to build a neurotic architecture quite proficiently: they sound pretty influenced by 75-76 VDGG plus elements of stoner and space-rock. With the second piece, the album begins to reach its peculiar highlights - 'Prevail' brings a specific kind of sophistication that the opener had only left alluded to. Starting with a psychedelic whirlwind, pretty soon the ensemble indulges in a terrific display of robust sonorities that stand somewhere between the angry and the creepy (Ian McDonald-era KC-meets-Gnidrolog, quite retro!!). At one moment, during the song's development, these grayish atmospheres shift toward a less explicit darkness, turning mysterious, even a bit surreal: this feels particularly true for the magnificent procession accompanied by soft flute flourishes. Once the whole energy returns in the shape of a jazz-rock interlude, comes a cacophonic bridge whose intensity paves the way for the amazing climax, a prog-blues motif washed with epic overtones. The inclusion of a horn solo brings extra colorfulness to the fold, although the main ambiences are definitely provided by the oppressive keyboard layers that dominate the place. 'Trap' is the shortest piece in the album: getting started with a tribal cadence on a 15/8 tempo, the middle section goes ceremoniously slow, and then, the sung section alternates psychedelic beat and languid atmospheres. The album's final 17 ¾ minutes are occupied by 'Labyrinth', the definitive zenith for "Descending". The vibrating mellotron and theremin orchestrations state a familiar progressive basis to the integral instrumentation, while the syncopated development brings a heavily spacey vibe to this great overture. The first sung portion reveals Tom Uglebakken quite close to Bowie and Lou Reed. At the 5 minute mark, the band expands on its psychedelic endeavors, resuscitating the random experimentations of 68-70 Pink Floyd and the cosmic drive of old school krautrock. The sax solo that emerges from minute 9 gradually opens the road toward the most violent instrumental passages in the album. These ones bring an exciting mixture of space-rock, avant-garde jazz and heavy prog: picture a polymorphic marriage of KC, Hawkwind and East of Eden. This intensive orgy of sound has a framework efficiently sustained by Tornes's busy percussive work and Ton's incendiary Hammond efforts (both chords and solos). The sung epilogue brings back the slow motion under a pompous guise, which carries on the previous psychedelic delirium and turns it into a majestic wall of sound. That lovely mellotron is priceless concerning the tremendous climax that ends the song and the "Descending" album in a magnificent manner. This band has grown very muscular, and the last two minutes of 'Labyrinth' state an undisputed example of it - Gargamel might as well have brought one of the finest prog albums for this year 2009.
Review by Epignosis
3 stars Here is a band that uses vintage-sounding instrumentation with a modern approach and sound. The overall tenor of the album is decidedly dark- I'm not sure there's a single major chord in the entire thing. This band does have close relationships musically with Van der Graaf Generator, Pink Floyd, early Genesis, and Jethro Tull, though these comparisons can't be readily made throughout the whole album.

"Descending" "Descending" is a dark track with cutting vocals, a sinister chord progression, and a shadowy sound. A thin, early 1960s organ holds out the chords before taking over as the lead instrument. The vocals are similar to those of Peter Hammill (though not nearly as dramatic), while the instrumental segment that kicks off the second half of the piece relies on guitar to a greater degree. In the last several minutes, I am extremely reminded of Pink Floyd, particularly "Sheep" from Pink Floyd.

"Prevail" Monstrous sounds and a frozen atmosphere give way to a cacophony of heavy guitar and saxophone, reminiscent of the raucousness of early King Crimson. The Pink Floyd and Van der Graaf Generator similarities are in force here, mixed with other clear but subtle influences. Strings and acoustic guitar show up in one short breather, but the doomed air is maintained. Flute and organ have a field day in a bouncy section in the middle, which reminds me of A Passion Play by Jethro Tull. Suddenly, the music becomes loud and maddening, as a spiraling section of unrest ensues.

"Trap" While the music is certainly good, the vocals ruin this shorter piece for me. They tend to drag lazily over the music like a blood-stained corpse through the woods in a B-horror movie.

"Labyrinth" The epic of the album initially takes a dark interpretation of a cliché "oldies" rhythm, then begins to sound a lot like Van der Graaf Generator, even vocally. Abruptly the music becomes very atmospheric and what almost sounds to be improvisation, full of spooky tones and strange sounds- really not my thing at all, to say the least. In that respect, this is the worst track on the album, since it gets very sleepy toward the middle. Even when the heavy riff picks back up in the second half, I find my eyes are glazed over and I'm not really paying attention. Additionally, the ending seems to be lackluster to me, but perhaps that only because of the aforementioned loss of interest.

Review by Prog-jester
4 stars Three years ago a young Norwegian outfit showed that not all Scandinavian Prog bands are keen on KING CRIMSON. Some of them are deeply into VDGG)

Now GARGAMEL strikes again. Nothing changed for these three years, their music is the same way dark, brooding, psychedelic and atmospheric. Sometimes claustrophobic and frightening, sometimes melancholic and frail, this album is a musical vertigo, a journey through Norwegian Death Valley with Gonzo and his lawyer. Hardly anyone's favourite, it can become your hidden treasure from a pile of 2009' releases. Someone may call them too depressive or monotonous, but these guys do have a strange sense of humour, and besides they're too jazzy to be monotonous. Get their debut too and be proud of becoming a Norwegian Prog Specialist ;) Highly recommended!

Review by ZowieZiggy
4 stars This band released an excellent debut in 2006, and I was quite looking forward to listen to their new album.

Their dark and powerful music is still there, and when one listens to the title track, there is only one reference that comes to mind: the huge Van Der Graaf of course. Mighty, complex, yet charming for those who are deeply marked (I am one of them) with this rather special band. There is also some good old psychedelia added to this number, which even adds some more nostalgia.

This is an excellent opener.

The long "Prevail" has the same flavour: dark and heavy although some beautiful flute play does add some light touch to this rather powerful song. Again, the atmosphere of the great Graaf is fully present. Either this can be felt as irritating or welcome. I belong to the latter category. Another great song IMHHO.

The short (according "Gargamel" standards) "Trap" also holds its bunch of complexity, wildness and fantasy. All this combined makes it a quite enjoyable song as well. So far, this album is certainly on par with their debut and is quite a good confirmation of their talent.

If ever you are willing to listen to some "Watcher Of The Skies" riff, please do join for "Labyrinth". Maybe too much this time. Some more personality might have been welcome. The next couple of bands featured here are (in chronological order): VDGG (would you believe!) and Floyd (for a disjointed instrumental part à la "Saucerful Of Secrets").

If a band like "Araknamés" does appeal to you, there are lots of chances that you will be quite receptive to the dark music of "Gargamel". You'll have to be in for some "regressive" moments; but when the music is performed with so much skills (maybe not the vocals unfortunately), one can only applaud. I guess that this album will end up in the top ten of 2009.

It is only a pity that they almost don't tour. I would really like to go and see them live. Four stars for "Descending".

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars If you like VDGG and those vintage seventies sounds chances are you'll love this album. I'm pleased to see that this record is getting some praise on this site just like their debut "Watch For The Umbles" did. I was trying to decide which one I like better between the two, and honesty for me it's a toss up right now. If anything this one sounds even more like VDGG than the debut. In fact GARGAMEL sound more like VDGG than VDGG does lately (last two albums), and better as well. Mellotron, sax, flute, Hammond, Rhodes, clarinet and some guest trumpet, cello and trombone are all added into this dark mix with fantastic results.

"Descending" is dark with bass as reserved vocals join in. It kicks in around a minute and Hammill-like vocals follow. It settles again before 4 minutes and I like the relaxed guitar that follows. It's starting to build. Vocals are back before 7 minutes then it settles again. Building once again. Amazing track ! Gotta love the Hammond in this one. "Prevail The Sea" opens with blowing winds before a full and heavy sound arrives before a minute. It settles with sax and vocals. Trombone I think with flute after 5 minutes. The tempo picks up before 7 1/2 minutes and Hammill-like vocals come in a minute later as flute continues. I'm reminded of the band RITUAL before 9 1/2 minutes with those spoken words. The mellotron after 10 1/2 minutes kills. Powerful organ late then a trumpet solo after 12 minutes.

"Trap" opens with bass,drums and organ as the vocals join in. It picks up around 2 1/2 minutes. Nice guitar 4 minutes in before the tempo picks up once again. "Labyrinth" is the over 18 minute closer. It kicks in before a minute with a great sound. Vocals 3 minutes in. A calm 6 minutes in with some atmosphere. It turns experimental. Horns after 9 minutes as melolotron joins in. It kicks back in after 11 minutes. Piano too. Guitar a minute later then some incredible organ before 14 minutes as drums pound. Vocals are back after 15 1/2 minutes.

I hope this band gets lots of votes in the "Best of 2009" poll. This Norwegian band really deserves it. It's like a taste of seventies VDGG in 2009.

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars Interesting, but not so interesting at the same moment. When I hear this completely and by this I mean when I get myself to hear this at all, I'm pleased a lot. But their dark sound can be quite annoying for starters (and for others too, I'm not starter with Gargamel's music [hello Smurfs], but repeated listens aren't easy for me). But when you get used to it (will I ever?), it's great, dimly lit symphony like music made from long orchestratic passages. But OK, this music is quite recognizable.

4(+), as even their music is faithful continuing of 70's (favourite trend in modern prog, I don't have much prejudice against it), and presents us "their" sound, it can be boring a little bit. Repeating some motifs.

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars Second album from this Norwegian group and FWIW, second gem of ac retro-prog album. As much as I am careful with the initial enthusiasm that most retro-prog album evokes in me, I usually come down from my cloud fairly quick, but with Gargamel, I must say that the excitement lasts on quite a bit longer, mostly due to different influence or models taken. And just like the debut album, the group seems intent of playing up VdGG's aisles, with a twist of Crimson

Indeed, some of the most obvious VdGG moments come from Uglebakken's vocals, strongly inspired by Hammill's gutsy delivery, but the songwriting sometimes dares also a few Graaf- esque The group's vintage instruments is the standard one, including a guest cellist and two horn player, since Uglebakken also play sax and flutes. Just four tracks on this second album but two lengthy epics including the excellent and moody Prevail The Sea with the guests doing their bits to make it truly interesting: when the trumpet comes in, the drama is at its utmost; but the awe starts right from the opening power lines: you'd swear you're onto ITCOCK's lost track.

The short trap presents almost a burlesque face with its extremely bizarre time sig and presents a slight Gong/circus atmosphere with a Hackettian guitar and a closing Banks- ian 'tron line to die for. The other epic is the 18-minsLabyrinth, a much calmer and spacier track, but unfortunately its intro is marred by a Watcher Of The Sky sequence (double infamy it is repeated another time), but once the intro dealt, the track settles into a space void where the Theremin induces scary voids and Floydian guitars (circa Saucerful Echoes) evoke time warps, than a rising saxophone is paving the way for a wild instrumental feast where the organ is blasting its power, urging the guitars to spit out the venomous chords, until the whle thing drifts into chaos and then into oblivion

Gargamel's second album confirms their debut's success and the group is now solidly in the Scandinavian circle of great retro-prog bands and can look up Anglagard and Anekdoten from eyr-tu-eye.

Review by Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Competent workout from Norwegian act Gargamel on this sophomore effort of theirs.

Those who fancy a slice of art rock with it's feet firmly placed in the early 70's should feel right at home with this effort. From the opening number and title track's Crimsonian touches on vintage symphonic space rock from the Eloy/Floydian school of compositions to the dramatic vocals Peter Hammil style, the references to the great acts of yesteryear are plentiful.

First and foremost to Van der Graaf Generator it seems, but also to the artists already mentioned, while the guitar and flute solo instrumental piece in the middle of second track Prevail the Sea should feel familiar to fans of Jethro Tull.

Vintage in sound and dark in mood, with an eclectic take on retro prog, this disc offers much to those who can't get enough of early 70's inspired ventures. Personally I felt that the tracks didn't quite manage to grasp me though, and the two long epics in particular felt too drawn out. This is a matter of personal taste though, and for others this album should be a true joy from start to finish.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Gargamel is a Norwegian modern Prog act with a vintage 1975 VDGG sound, complete with Hammill-alike vocals. There is not much saxophone on it, but flutes, organs and mellotron more then make up for that.

They remind me of Sinkadus and Wobbler as well. Having the same combination of forceful vintage rocking Prog with that dreamy melancholic mood. In case of Gargamel the vocals are also not the greatest asset (too much of a Hammill copy, I prefer the real thing). On the other hand the vocals have largely improved compared to the band's debut, where the vocalist could hardly keep his pitch. There's plenty of room for instrumental passages, such as the spacey second half of "Descending". It's at those moments where the band really shines for me. "Prevail" has better vocals, followed by a long proggy instrumental middle section. It all builds up to a great finale. The stronghold is the 17 minute long "Labyrinth".

I wouldn't say Gargamel is as good as Wobbler, Sinkadus or Anglagard, but they get close on occasion and they are certainly talented. If you're a fan of named bands and also dig Hammill's vocals then you should definitely check out this album.

Latest members reviews

3 stars Norwegian prog band Gargamel their debut album entitled Watch For The Umbles was released on Swedish Transubstans records in February 2006 and received great reviews in the international progrock press. Since 2002 Gargamel has gone through some changes of members. Gargamel has played at both Osl ... (read more)

Report this review (#2036945) | Posted by TenYearsAfter | Thursday, September 20, 2018 | Review Permanlink

4 stars My first experience with the band GARGAMEL, impressive as it got assimilated content, which did not happen with my favorite prog bands. The sound here is full of retro prog: KING CRIMSON and VdGG, fully exploiting the most nostalgic sounds of his vintage synthesizers. In times of TFK, THE TANG ... (read more)

Report this review (#278485) | Posted by nandprogger | Sunday, April 18, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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