On July 11th, 2016, the prog community received bitter news regarding the separation of the now-legendary prog band Beardfish. Since its dissolution, the multi-instrumentalist madman known as Rikard Sjöblom has not stopped at all. He has continued to release brilliant and celebrated records aboard the mighty Big Big Train or with his own project, Rikard Sjöblom’s Gungfly, making these years highly productive.
However, it is Rikard Sjöblom’s Gungfly (RSG) which has been used as the outlet for his inexhaustible ability to compose personal and evocative music where his impressive vocal range, along with his distinctive keyboard tunes and mesmerizing guitar craftsmanship, are brilliantly displayed. For the release of their new record titled “Alone Together,” RSG performed as a trio, in which previous collaborators and brothers Petter and Rasmus Diamant, respectively, played drums and bass, while Rikard took care of every other instrument.
Thematically “Alone Together” is primarily focused on relationships. It acknowledges that every one of them is complex, with their own background and circumstances, and how suddenly they can drastically change for better or worse. Once again, Rikard portrays real-life situations, with delight and sorrow to be found in a raw, sincere, and emotional way.
Musically, Gungfly opted for a progressive rock approach, with rock being the focal point. Such approach is evident on tracks like “Somewhere in Between” and “Traveler,” which finds the trio hitting stronger than ever before. Despite the mentioned rock focus, “Alone Together” still has the intricate, unexpected, experimental but still catchy melodies that Rikard is well known for delivering.
“Traveler” opens the album with progressive style, being a 13-minutes epic that quickly introduce the listener to the ambivalent nature of a traveler that hates to leave. Just as the traveler should come back to the place where he once put down roots, this track returns to its main motif after the several sonic journeys it took. On some occasions, these journeys feature frenetic atmospheres created through urgent guitar riffs layered with intense keys. Also, they present cathartic experiences derived from the subtle Hammond organ phrases, thunderous bass lines and hypnotic drum beats.
Rikard keeps exploring human interactions with “Happy Somewhere in Between.” Such a song portrays the harsh reality about the relationships that tend to become dysfunctional when people involved are unwilling to make concessions. Despite the significant subject, the music takes an upbeat road creating an amusing vibe with snarky lyrics, melodic hooks, entangled structure, and a catchy chorus. The contribution of the Diamant brothers in such piece is crucial, especially at the closing instrumental section, where their brilliant rhythm base elevates the quirkiness of Sjöblom‘s guitar and keys extravaganza to sky-high levels.
The most mellow and soft facet of RSG is represented on “Cleans as a Whistle.” However, don’t be surprised when such track becomes proggier while Rikard gradually adds a bunch of keys to the initially acoustic, folky and melodic tune. From a vocal perspective, this song showcases the gentler side of Sjoblom‘s vocal spectrum, including the use of tuneful falsettos that collide with what the next piece delivers.
“Alone Together” is the central piece of this new album and one of their best songs yet. Get your guts ready to be shaken by this experimental, crazy, massive, visceral, and anxious sonic coup. It starts and finishes calmly, but in the middle there is a lot of room for Rikard to set free a grimly subject towards the desperation of parents with mentally ill sons and the heartbreaking choice to leave them at a mental facility. It also marks the first occasion since the Beardfish days that Sjoblöm gets to growl. The exceptional combination of multiple vocal ranges, as well as the blend of musical approaches which are at times serene and subtle and others brutal and harsh, which make perfect sense when derived from the song´s troubling subject.
The next track “From Afar” is the shortest song from “Alone Together” and the only one with a singer-songwriter vibe. Through Rikard‘s voice and acoustic guitar, RSG keeps exploring how different circumstances affect relationships. It focuses on how we could sell a false image of ourselves to those millions of strange eyes that can see us through nowadays technological facilities.
“On the Shoulder of Giants” presents Rikard‘s sonic testimony of his musical journey as a musician that aims to write and sing music that really means something. It is also an opportunity for Rikard to honestly point out his experiences and thoughts about the prog scene in general. It also allows him to include one of his main influences, meaning Frank Zappa, and the inclusion of the title of the music-legend second album “Absolutely Free” into the lyrics. Through its almost 15 minute runtime RSG travel through a wide-ranging musical passages that go from reflexive and contemplative atmospheres to vibrant riffs and omnipresent keyboard tunes, where the grand finale is reserved to Sjoblöm‘s spectacular and emotional closing guitar solo.
“Alone Together” is an introspective and evoking album, which masterfully presents an emotive musical landscape exploring the twists and turns of the foundation of our human nature. Some of our relationships may be dysfunctional, and others might be as reliable as the pillars to which we can hold whenever we feel we are falling. We must seek them, work on them, and make them grow while we can because they are our most precious gift and the key to our existence.
Released by: Inside Out Music
Released Date: September 4th, 2020
Genre: Progressive Rock
- Rikard Sjöblom / Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
- Petter Diamant / Drums
- Rasmus Diamant / Bass
“Alone Together” track-listing:
- Happy Somewhere in Between
- Clean as a Whistle
- Alone Together
- From Afar
- On the Shoulders of Giants
- Grove Thoughts
- Shoulder Variations
Rikard Sjöblom's Gungfly remains at the top of their game with an impressive streak of evoking and remarkable albums. With human relationships as its central theme, “Alone Together” displays meaningful and heartfelt songs with mesmerizing, intricate, creative, and innovative musicianship.