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Wobbler - Hinterland CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.82 | 362 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars WOBBLER got its start in 1999 in the frosty northern lands near Hønefass, Norway in the midst of the Scandinavian black metal scene's height of popularity but somehow found itself catching the prog rock bug instead. The band not only decidedly took the route of the musical complexities delivered by the highest expressions of rock music but found the most inspiration in the classic era with particular stylistic input from the bigwigs of the era such as King Crimson, Yes, Museo Rosenbach, PFM, ELP and many more. Instead of rushing into creating an album that would come off as amateurish, the band took its sweet time to carefully craft its reverie of musical style into something that would respectfully emulate the retro prog of the golden era and opted for several years of touring before finally taking the plunge of releasing an album.

Also during this time keyboardist Lars Fredrik Frøislie amassed an impressive collection of vintage keys which included the much needed mellotron, a hammond organ, minimoog, rhodes clarinet, ARP, a real piano and of course a harpsichord. By 2005 the band had crafted enough original material and began to play certain snippets at prog festivals and local gigs with the debut album HINTERLAND following soon after. This band set out to create retro prog and didn't leave any classic stones unturned when seeking an authentic retro sound on HINTERLAND which included ONLY vintage instrumentation around in the 1969-75 timeline. The result was one of the most authentically sounding retro prog bands to have emerged since the prog revival exploded onto the scene in the 90s.

WOBBLER didn't settle for second best crossover prog with cute cuddly melodies with a few prog accouterments. This band went for the jugular by amassing an hour's worth of 70s prog pomp basically spread out into 3 lengthy tracks leaving only a short less than a minute opener providing a fourth track. HINTERLAND delivered the lengthy intricate complexities of classic Yes and Genesis symphonic prog strewn out into long meandering tracks but also along for the ride were Keith Emerson keyboard virtuosic workouts, touches of quirky playfulness in the vein of Gentle Giant and a Scandinavian infusion of prog folk courtesy of flutes, recorders and Baroque guitar. Add to that some jittery angularities and hefty guitar workouts right out of the King Crimson playbook and a bit of jazzy fusion touches and WOBBLER delivered one heckuva debut album.

The blip of an intro "Serenade For 1652" lasts only 41 seconds but provides the proper tone to set for the album's running time as it displays a diverse mix of Baroque classical, folk and Renaissance styled sounds. Next up the behemoth of a title track is the album's highlight with a near 28 minute running time. This track wends and winds through a series of disparate moods as it changes tempos and emphasis on different styles with an underpinning of a melodic development that creates a wide range of variations as the track tackles ELP styled symphonic prog, heavy rock, Baroque guitar passages and more pastoral segments. It also debuts the band's weakest link at this point and that would be vocalist Tony Johannsessen whose vox box isn't exactly detrimental to the duties at hand but also don't really have that over the top extra gusto to pull off a mind blowing performance like Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo would on future albums. Luckily most of this track and the entire album for that matter is dedicated to instrumental workouts.

The other two tracks "Rubato Industry" and "Clair Obscur" are thematically similar to the title track and simply offer new melodic developments and an infinite variety of tempo changes, time signature workouts and intricate instrumental interplay that somehow summarizes the entire classic 70s prog scene without actually sounding like any of the bigwigs that provided the inspiration behind this prog gumbo. "Rubato Industry" tends to focus more on extreme time signature rich prog workouts throughout its near 13 minute run whereas "Clair Obscur" tones things down a bit and goes for a more melancholic pastoral feel with orchestrated atmospheric backdrops that includes some of the most prevalent use of mellotrons on the album. As it heats up it also includes some of the best Steve Howe-esque guitar solos and provides some more ELP keyboard workouts.

WOBBLER may not have quite hit the home run that they did with the critically acclaimed perfection of "From Silence To Somewhere" but they did prove without a doubt on HINTERLAND that these guys clearly had done their homework in the prog university of sound and more than had the chops to pull it off. While it would take a few more albums and a more talented vocalist to achieve the distinct honor of true modern day prog deity status, HINTERLAND is nevertheless a beautifully constructed album that is faithful to the retro timeline without sounding as if the band is actually from that era. This album provides a wonderful array of distinctly classic sounds only displayed in a highly fertile and creative manner that exudes an overly enthusiastic attention paid to every detail and then taken a few notches further. In some ways, this album sounds like an otherworldly collaboration of all the greats of the past. Imagination ELP, Yes, Gentle Giant, Museo Rosenbach, King Crimson, Jethro Tull and Genesis all morphing into a single cohesive unit for a mere hour and that is pretty much what you can expect. This debut is not to be missed!

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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