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WOBBLER

Symphonic Prog • Norway


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WOBBLER is a Norwegian symphonic prog band that was formed in 1999 in Honefoss, Norway. The line-up consists of Lars Fredrik Froislie (of WHITE WILLOW)on keyboards, Kristian Karl Hultgren on bass guitar, Martin Nordrum Kneppen on drums, Morten Andreas Eriksen on electric and acoustic guitars and mandolin and Tony Johannessen on vocals. This group is strongly evocative of KING CRIMSON, GENESIS, GENTLE GIANT along with newer symphonic prog bands like ANGLAGARD and ANEKDOTEN with a dash of Scandinavian folk and classical influences thrown into the mix.

Their debut cd WOBBLER "Hinterland" contains long and complex tracks featuring lush, vintage keyboard sounds, making extensive use of Mellotron, Mini-Moog, Hammond C-3 and harpsichord, along with beautiful electric and acoustic guitar playing, a complex rhythm section along with flutes, recorder, saxophones, mandolins and various other instruments providing a very full, symphonic sound.

Highly recommended for fans of the early progressive greats and symphonic prog music.

: : : TheProgtologist, USA : : :

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AfterglowAfterglow
Termo Records 2009
Audio CD$12.03
$9.98 (used)
Rites at DawnRites at Dawn
Termo Records 2011
Audio CD$10.96
$8.05 (used)
HinterlandHinterland
Alliance 2005
Audio CD$16.79
$13.13 (used)
Rites at Dawn by Belle AntiqueRites at Dawn by Belle Antique
Belle Antique
Audio CD$53.19
Rites At Dawn by WobblerRites At Dawn by Wobbler
Termo Records
Audio CD$35.39
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WOBBLER discography


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WOBBLER top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.79 | 256 ratings
Hinterland
2005
3.82 | 202 ratings
Afterglow
2009
3.96 | 357 ratings
Rites At Dawn
2011

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WOBBLER Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Hinterland by WOBBLER album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.79 | 256 ratings

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Hinterland
Wobbler Symphonic Prog

Review by Wicket
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Something seems to have gone wrong somewhere in my life. Or at least, that's what I find myself saying for the past 3 years ever since I decided to be a contemporary percussionist majoring in Music Management. But I'm certain there's a bit of truth in it, especially after listening (and playing) music of many different genres, only after coming back to the world of symphonic prog and the world of the "epics", the gigantic 30+ minute goliaths that get all the praise in reviews such as this, I had come to a very startling conclusion; the credibility of these mega-songs, the very reason I was attracted to prog in the first place, has left me in doubt.

I'm just not a fan of them anymore.

Then again, my opinion has been altered slightly after playing gigantic minimalist pieces such as Fredrick Rzewski's "Coming Together", "In C" by Terry Riley, and soon enough, Steve Reich's "Music for Mallet Instruments Voices And Organ" (Briefly for those who don't know, these are contemporary pieces designed around minimalism, the idea of creating modern and beautiful music while not necessarily using as few pitches as possible, but by prolonging dramatic chord changes, usually by repeating the same section many times over before moving on to the next one).

Predictably, listening and playing pieces like this over and over again has skewed my opinion of larger pieces and songs, and frankly I think I have a point. I'm going to use "Hinterland" by Wobbler here as a good example. See, in my opinion, if the sky's the limit in terms of song length, than the song should be of massive, epic proportions (see Dream Theater's "Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence", BTBAM's "Colors" or even any Gustav Mahler symphony). And even if it isn't a colossal, symphonic experience, if appears to flow through a minimalist perspective (like a post-rock group), or even if the band itself tends to be sporadic with quick changes (a la Mars Volta), that's perfectly fine. I listen to all of those examples, which brings me to, what I think, is the fatal flaw not only of this album, but most songs and bands like this.

There just isn't anything in this piece that interests me.

The title track sets the tone in the first 6 minutes or so with the main theme and verses, so once that's out of the way, you'd expect the bad to develop them, explore beyond them and create wonderful pictures, textures and colors on top of them. But they don't. Instead, the song wallows around for a good 5 minutes restating the same chords and themes in a triplet meter, before removing the drums once again and returning to a baroque-style complete with acoustic guitar and occasional flute. And really, this whole process occurs over and over again till the song ends. In short, it's a song that should've been 8 minutes long, rather than 28 minutes long.

At least "Rubato Industry" salvages a bit of this album's honor. It seems more polished, more put together. There's a better sense of where the beat is, that its structured more musically than "Hinterland". Although roughly 5 minutes in, the solo verse spot almost foreshadows doom and despair like in the title song, but luckily the band returns quickly enough to re-energize the song. Except roughly 2 minutes later, it dissolves into another wallowy jam with no real purpose or desire. I mean, I know the band's called Wobbler, but I didn't expect these guys to name their band after the kind of music they're making.

It's the same story with "Clair Obscur". Brilliant opening, absolutely beautiful. Except it shouldn't really take 3 and a half minutes. And then when the band does come in, it's just a long sequence of abrupt stops and fills, just languildy flopping around like a huge fish on a Tempur-Pedic mattress. It just doesn't go anywhere, and when it does, it just doesn't flow, as if it were one singular composition changing and telling a story. It just sounds like several different songs stitched together into one lifeless, droning piece of mediocrity.

Then again, this was their first album, and after listening a bit to "Afterglow" and "Rites At Dawn", which are much better and much more compelling albums, by the way, I'm willing to give these guys more of a pass, which is why this isn't a 1 star rating.

Normally, I wouldn't have written a review of this album, but this to me is a perfect example that bigger isn't necessarily better. Telling a compelling, interesting story could warrant the need for a 30 minute song rather than just write a 30 minute song for the hell of it. When it comes to progressive music, you're targeting a small and limited, but a very intelligent audience, so in general, it's a good idea to not write bland music that puts everyone to sleep (for any genre of music).

Prog Rock Composition 101.

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 Afterglow by WOBBLER album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.82 | 202 ratings

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Afterglow
Wobbler Symphonic Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Wobbler's second album contains music from their early days at the turn of the millennium. Their debut in 2005 was recent material and they revisited their older works for the sophomore release. Unlike their fabulous third album, "Rites at Dawn", this album only includes one song with lyrics and they are quite short at that. Instead, Wobbler show off two sides of their proficiency with three short tracks in a very medieval flavour and two longer ones that challenge Anglagard for complexity.

The album is quite short but sounds better than their debut, "Hinterland". The production is cleaner which helps the music a lot. "The Haywain", "Interlude" and "Armoury" are short instrumentals that will conjure up images of ladies in long dresses in pointy hats on castle towers and village folk walking behind carts pulled by cattle. Only "Armoury" changes period by morphing into a Moog and church organ piece for the finale.

"Imperial Winter White" (with lyrics) and "In Taberna" are the real guts of Wobbler. For the most part, they are multi- musically-faceted compositions that might be described as a rock band doing a medley of a European movie soundtrack in 12 or 13 minutes. The band continues to pull rabbits out of hats over and over, rarely adhering to a single musical theme for more than 30 seconds or 16 bars. Unlike Anglagard though, Wobbler lean more toward the heavy guitars of the 70's, and it should come as no surprise that I found the band mentioned as avant guard metal on a Russian heavy metal site!

"In Taberna" became my favourite track for this album because of some heavenly 70's rock passages with rock guitar and Moog synthesizer, as well as some heavier parts and an interesting blend of Renaissance music. While preparing this review I found that "Imperial Winter White" also features some excellent parts, and I noted that one section where the beat actually maintains a 4/4 rhythm for a stretch permits the music motif to establish itself and roll along smoothly before a new motif takes over.

I enjoy this album much more than "Hinterland" but not as much as "Rites at Dawn" which is one of my favourite albums. It's not a proper album in that three short instrumentals and two long pieces fill up 35 minutes. But for the adventurous this album has its rewards.

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 Afterglow by WOBBLER album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.82 | 202 ratings

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Afterglow
Wobbler Symphonic Prog

Review by Atavachron
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars This is a band. A real one. A group of guys so good, who play together so well, they just don't care anymore. It's better to just relax and let them do what they do - e.g. laying down the primaries together in the same room with very few takes or overdubs - than to attempt to perceive them in the normal way one does five musicians & friends. The material was conceived and written in '99 which means by the time these trollkarlars started recording, the pieces had been well-gestated, were more than ready for birth and have an immediacy rarely heard in modern prog albums. Late is almost always better than premature anyway.

When one considers Wobbler's debut was in 2005, the cuts here could be seen as supplemental to, or even predating, the work on Hinterland. If that's the case, it makes Afterglow that much more interesting (and explains the title). A preamble Elizabethan is quickly discarded for the robust and ever-changing 'The Haywain' and though the past is always present in Wobbler's music, they are unique in their brutal authenticity; an animal of uncompromising natures and ancient, earthly powers. These men of the mountains have secrets and they're not going to share them anytime soon. You have to listen and figure it out yourself. At fifteen minutes, 'The Haywain' is simply a joy of compositional alchemy and is as good as anything on their first.

'Interlude', an engaging conversation between Hultgren's basses and Eng's cello, opens 'In Taberna', bookending the album with its second epic full of tight playing, solid charting, and brief peeks of ELP circa 1971, things ending with pseudo-Baroque 'Armoury' and a nod to maestro Wakeman.

I understand why the consensus deems this one the poorest of the three releases so far, and that is probably an accurate judgment. The thing is, with a band this special, it doesn't matter. It's a winner no matter how you slice it.

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 Rites At Dawn by WOBBLER album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.96 | 357 ratings

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Rites At Dawn
Wobbler Symphonic Prog

Review by fuxi
Prog Reviewer

3 stars After all the existing reviews (which were mostly enthusiastic) I'd just like to add my two cents.

First of all: this doesn't sound a bit like FRAGILE or CLOSE TO THE EDGE; the first thirty minutes or so kept reminding me (for some reason) of "Beyond and Before", the opening track of Yes's first album!

Secondly: are these guys for real? I know some of them are musicologists who love vintage keyboards and play krumhorns in their spare time, but... When they write songs about rabbits, fawns and faeries; when they pose for an inner-sleeve photograph with a stuffed owl, a stuffed fox and a load of (apparently) plastic food on the table, what are they trying to tell us?

What I mean is that most of Wobbler's MUSIC can't be faulted ("La Bealtaine", the first extended piece here, verges on the tuneless - but let that pass). The bass, the drums, the guitars, the keyboards and everything else is carefully thought through. You can listen to this music again and again but you'll always find new things, and that's just the way it should be. When you finally reach "The River", the last extended piece on the album, it's... it's probably the best Yes-type composition to emerge from anywhere since Yes themselves came up with DRAMA!

But is it earth-shattering music? I tend to think NOT. I can't help comparing RITES AT DAWN with Big Big Train's ENGLISH ELECTRIC (part one) which sounded oh so passionate and earnest, and I must conclude something's missing: Wobbler never move me. What a shame.

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 Hinterland by WOBBLER album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.79 | 256 ratings

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Hinterland
Wobbler Symphonic Prog

Review by R-A-N-M-A

4 stars In my apparent quest to judge every album by its cover, I was recently overcome with delight at the apparent coinciding of a tasteful and adroit album cover and equally precise opus ensconced within. The superlatively praised album in question is Wobbler's third album, Rites at Dawn. Being insufficiently sated by a single helping, I have naturally returned to the source for fulfillment. And, for lack of any better motivation, I've decided to begin at the beginning with Hinterland.

As a first album, Hinterlands is a statement about Wobbler. They clearly possess an acute talent and sophistication to match, but have not yet found their intent entirely. The album is constituted by three fairly unstructured epic length pieces which showcase the band's abilities as well as their influences. Rites at Dawn was a clear homage to Yes, but here the inspiration is from more diverse sources like Gentle Giant, King Crimson (especially on Rubato Industry), ELP, Hawkwind and at times bears noticable resemblance to their space rocking American contemporaries Astra (Whose debut this album precedes by 4 years, I'll note.). As with Rites at Dawn, the influences are evident, but not overriding. Wobbler possesses its own brand restrained intensity embellished with European folk, classical and a hint of earthy Norse myth.

Hinterland is an excellent introduction to the band, and is an excellent progressive and symphonic rock album in general. I think the band's talents only continue to develop with time and are ultimately better applied later on, but I'd be completely remiss if I urged you to take a pass on Hinterland. It is quite pleasing for its own reasons. Four out of five.

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 Hinterland by WOBBLER album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.79 | 256 ratings

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Hinterland
Wobbler Symphonic Prog

Review by Dark Nazgul

2 stars Museo Rosenbach "Zarathustra", Norwegian version?

First of all, a little digression: I do not think it's fair to review an album in a negative way, citing the fact that it is derivative. I mean, it's obvious that a lot of contemporary progressive music is inspired by the sounds of the classic bands of the '70s. I honestly do not see anything wrong with that. Although many bands of the 70s were in turn inspired by other bands of the 60s. Just think about the importance of the Beatles "Sgt. Pepper", Nice "Ars Longa Vita Brevis" and the early works by Procol Harum, for bands such as Genesis, King Crimson, ELP and many others. Provided that some albums are landmarks in the history of rock ("Sgt. Pepper" is definitely one of these, others may be "In The Court Of The Crimson King", "Are You Experience", "Ziggy Stardust" or "Tommy") the truth is that no one has truly invented nothing and all were inspired by others. Therefore, I believe that the only parameter for reviewing an album should be the quality of the music and certainly not the fact that it is derivative or not.

But...there is a limit to everyting!

Is certainly legitimate to be inspired by the sounds of other bands, not slavishly copy their style: and unfortunately, this is exactly what Wobbler does with this album.

For example, the long epic Hinterland seems a kind of homage to the Gods of 70s prog. The epic is the second track of the album, but it is the first truly significant: the first one, Serenade For 1652, is a mellotron brief composition that adds nothing to the album. The instrumental intro of Hinterland is clearly inspired by the first section of ELP "Tarkus" called "Eruption". Then, please notice the mellotron crescendo; the question arises: am I listening to King Crimson's "Epitaph"?. After about 8.30 minutes, Gentle Giant seems to be in action: what is this, "Octopus"? Then, there is a perfect reproduction of PFM style with the use of harpsichord and flute. In the middle of the long epic, the apotheosis! If you have read this far, I ask you to be patient and forgive me if I suggest a little game. This game is called: find the song below. It's not easy if you are unfamiliar with Italian language.

"Volto di luce, mi hanno parlato di te, la tua storia Ŕ nell'eco dei monti, troppo in alto per scendere in noi [...] Chiara essenza divina giÓ si nasconde in chi sta vivendo il gioco del tempo nell'attesa di un'alba diversa."

You are Italian? Then, maybe you got it! The answer is "Zarathustra", a long epic by Museo Rosenbach. This is the first section called "L'Ultimo Uomo". After 13 minutes from the start of Hinterland there is an amazing piece of music. First a beautiful guitar/flute/harpsichord part in PFM style, then the voice singing a gentle melody and finally an amazing mellotron crescendo. Nothing to say about the beauty of this part, but too bad is virtually identical to "L'Ultimo Uomo"!

The title-track epic continues in this way. While listening, classic songs of ELP and Crimson comes immediately to my mind (for example "The Gnome" or "Pictures Of A City"). Again and again. There is also space for something contemporary, with part that reminds the Anglagard style, and then, after 28 minutes, the end.

The third track is in my opinion much better. Rubato Industry is the most beautiful song of the album. The intro is a bit insipid, but the rest of the song is very powerful and there is an amazing mellotron part in the central section. Then, harder passages with a lot of rhythmic variations and a convincing great end.

Clair Obscure, the last instrumental song, is probably the worst song. It is clearly inspired by the sounds of Anglagard, especially the "Epilog" album, but not reach those standards. The first part is very calm, with mellotron and piano, guitar and flute. In my opinion, this intro is a little boring. The rest of the song is more aggressive, but it lacks the tension that characterizes the best things of Anglagard and there is too much confusion. However some moments are not bad, especially the part that goes from minute 6 to 8, and the final section (with an effective reprise of the introduction theme).

In conclusion? Musically, I think Hinterland is an album with many ups and downs. There are some great moments especially in Rubato Industry and in the title-track long epic, where unfortunately the references to other popular songs of progressive rock are too obvious. In addition, many instrumental sections appear too elaborate and complicated: the result is a very cold and distant approach to music, surely technical but with little heart, I think. The vocals are also extremely disappointing.

I can rate this album with two or three stars at best. Ultsimately I decide for 2 stars and a final rating of 4/10. Only for hardcore symphonic prog fans, who love complex instrumental music.

Best song: Rubato Industry

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 Rites At Dawn by WOBBLER album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.96 | 357 ratings

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Rites At Dawn
Wobbler Symphonic Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

5 stars There are times when I buy a CD and I know very soon that I am going to love it. Since discovering this site and that I really enjoy this music, I have been going Prog wild, you could say. I've been checking out the early classics, the neo stuff, the 90s, and the greatest of the latest. There have been winners and losers and in-betweeners in any period, but always there is the excitement of finding something to treasure in my ears and between them.

Wobbler showed up one day while cruising Amazon and the cover attracted me. I sampled the album and decided it might just be good enough. Great choice!

A lot of people here have been pointing out the similarities to Yes, and certainly there are many similarities: electric guitar distorted and clean, acoustic guitar, all flavours of keyboards, cool bass guitar, choral-style singing, odd time signatures, and everything you could want in symphonic Prog, including flute! However, I don't think the vocals sound as Jon Anderson-like as some have written and the music sounds quite distinct to my ears. To say Wobbler sound like Yes is like saying Uriah Heep sound like Deep Purple. There are similarities but still enough differences.

The album opens with a short peaceful instrumental and then goes straight into the totally retro symphonic Prog of 'La Bealtaine'. We are off to a good start.

But it's the thrilling musical ride of 'Into Orbit' that is the first real treat off the album. Rocking with distorted guitar and some ripping organ and Moog solos, quick temp and time signature changes, slow moods and rollicking quick sections, this song has become one of my recent favourites. There's even a short vocal part that sounds like the Moody Blues.

'This Past Presence' opens with gentle acoustic guitar, flute and piano, accompanied by the vocals and a bit of mellotron. But about 1:40 into the song, the pace suddenly changes and there's a wild guitar solo followed by some fast fingers on the ivory before the pace slows again. The group chooses to stick with the melody and pretty music rather than jump around all over the place. There are some hurried steps and then a powerfully symphonic segment led by mellotron before shifting back to the rocking piano which supports a short flute solo. A cascade of piano notes brings the song to a close.

'A Faerie's Play' is the shortest song on the album, aside from the bookend instrumentals. It begins peacefully but quickly drops a Moody Blues-ish burst of drama, followed by a quick jazzy Yes segment, which then rolls of into something more like Glass Hammer. There's a marching snare drum, more mellotron, Moog, and just overall wonderfully crafted music. I find the vocals, though good enough, don't stand out as particularly skillful at times. Wobbler do a great job of placing just enough vocals into the music so that it works without ever becoming tiresome.

Next up, 'The River', and my favourite track off the album. A mini epic in composition, the song starts with an instrumental introduction in a rock out style with some sax that reminds me of King Crimson. Introduction over, a gentle and haunting clean electric guitar sweeps us to the first lyrics. Here I find the vocals sound a bit weak, but the building music keeps interest high. Mellotron. Flute. And then a very Yes-like shift, a softer segment, and an eruption of symphonic prog rock. I'm in heaven when the chorus comes in, three voices at least, singing a beautiful melody and one of the vocal highlights of the album.

The song pauses and enters a very classical-influenced instrumental passage where all musicians and many instruments contribute to one amazing piece of music. If someone asked me what progressive rock sounded like in a single-song summary, I'd have this song ready for their ears.

If I have anything to say negatively about this album it's that the vocals usually lack a little in skill. The opening and closing instrumentals might not be necessary but they give the effect of entering a special sonic place where this remarkable retro sound exists. Then we awaken and the CD ends. It's not a bad thing at all.

Finally, the length of this album is just right. I have listened to some albums that sound great at first but seem to overstay their welcome after 50 or 60 minutes.

I would love to give this album 5 stars. I was thinking to give it 4 and say 4.5 but as I listened to it again I found I liked it even more. A strike against it might be its retro approach or its somewhat weak vocals but I think it's a really well-crafted piece of work. Others have said Wobbler have really improved since their first two albums. If that's so then they have reached that high place. So I will give it 5 stars and recommend it highly. If you disagree with the 5-star rating you might still likely give it 4.

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 Rites At Dawn by WOBBLER album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.96 | 357 ratings

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Rites At Dawn
Wobbler Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Whereas Wobbler's earlier albums had impressed me with the sheer range of different prog bands of the past they drew inspiration from, on Rites at Dawn they seem much more focused on paying tribute to Yes, with a few other bands only getting occasional look-ins (such as in the fairly Gentle Giantish vocal harmonies - but even then, golden-age Yes wasn't averse to playing around with vocal harmony a bit either themselves). I'd be disappointed if this proves to be their new direction for the long term, but for the space of one album I think I can just about forgive it - they do a really very good impersonation and update of Yes at their best, after all. I just hope the band don't get caught up in a Yes-worshipping rut.

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 Afterglow by WOBBLER album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.82 | 202 ratings

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Afterglow
Wobbler Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Wobbler's Afterglow is a short but sweet album, the band clearly feeling that quality outweighs quantity. In this case, I'm inclined to agree with them. In an era when all too many symphonic prog bands are relying on the same old influences - Yes, Genesis, a bit of King Crimson and add ELP to taste - Wobbler draw on a much more diverse field, with sections on this album reminding me of classic-era Gryphon, the darker moments of Anglagard, and the best aspects of Fruupp. This is clearly symphonic prog composed by a band with a nigh-encyclopedic command of the genre and who aren't afraid to take the path less followed, and as such is more than a worthy followup to Hinterland.

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 Hinterland by WOBBLER album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.79 | 256 ratings

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Hinterland
Wobbler Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Wobbler's impressive debut album Hinterland is a great example of what can be achieved by a band who is able both to suss out the compositional and recording approaches of the classic 1970s symphonic prog bands on the one hand, whilst on the other hand showing the good sense not to turn their nose up at the textures and sounds offered by modern advances in genres such as post-rock. Not that there's a great deal of post-rock to be heard on the album, mind - there's not much room for it between the nods to Yes, King Crimson, pastoral-era Genesis and Gentle Giant - but at least a few of the extended instrumental passages seem to benefit from the sort of fragile recording processes some post-rock albums enjoy. A good example of symphonic prog brought into the modern era without going the typical retro-prog route.

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