Numerous are the modern progressive rock bands who emulate the classic sounds of the revered 70s era. Each one has their own spin, however, from Magenta to RPWL to Anglagard to The Flower Kings. When it comes to Wobbler, they weave a lush web which dwells on the organic textures of earthen prog, drenched in swirls of organs, stabbing bass lines and mythological lyrics. Formed in Norway just over two decades ago, their stature has been rising with each subsequent album even as there still remains a mystique about the band. Despite a change in lead singer and lead guitarist about halfway through their career, each album builds on the previous one with fifth entry “Dwellers of the Deep” being the most focused and satisfying yet.
While the sound of Wobbler will instantly catch the ear of the devoted prog fan, imbued as it is with vintage instruments and skillful musicianship, the compositions take a certain degree of dedication to crack before they fully reveal themselves to the listener. While Yes comparisons are often made, Wobbler doesn’t command the same melodic approach as those Andersonian stylings. Just say the words, “On a sailing ship to nowhere leaving anyplace,” or “In and around the lake, mountains come out of the sky and they stand there,” and the melody instantly falls off the tongue. Not so with Wobbler, whose technique is perhaps more nuanced and demanding, closer in the vein of Gentle Giant or Crimson. But once the effort is made and the curtain is pulled back, delights await as Wobbler takes hold of the listener’s consciousness.
As its title implies, “Dwellers of the Deep” thematically revolves around feelings and something breaking out from the deep; perfect subject matter for isolated times as these. The material is offered through two lengthy tracks bookending the album and two shorter pieces in the middle. “By the Banks” wastes no time jumping right into the proceedings with a jolt, moving from section to section with grace and power. The intoxicating nature of the band is immediately present. Wobbler’s mastery of dynamics is one of their key strengths, fully showcased on this opening epic. Initial single “Five Rooms” follows, a powerhouse of a song, deftly encapsulating Wobbler’s strengths in one eight minute onslaught which is a perfect gateway for new listeners and a very satisfying romp for the faithful. So powerful is the opening entrance of organ and vocals before the rhythm section relentlessly kicks in that this could have been the ultimate lead-off track for the album. By the time we reach the dramatic ending (capped off with a final rhythmic burst a la “Heart of the Sunrise”) the listener’s breath is undoubtedly taken away. A short ode to water nymphs everywhere, “Naiad Dreams” is a lovely pastorale pause in between the longer pieces, filled with acoustic guitars, flutes and supporting guest vocals from violinist Åsa. The final 19-minute epic “Merry Macabre” is something else altogether and yet one more highlight in an unending chain of delights. Delving into the darker hues of of the depths, this is a grower of a track that relishes in its hypnotic passages. The extended middle psychedelic section is simply…to die for.
Keyboardist and producer Lars Fredrik Frøislie masterfully layers mellotron, hammond organ and various other inventions such as the Marxophone on top of piano to create rich tapestries throughout each piece, undeniably being a key architect of the Wobbler sound. He utilized the Chamberlin M-1 a good deal on this album including the flute sections, as the virus made recording usual flautist Ketil Einarsen difficult. The rhythm section is phenomenal: Martin Nordrum Kneppen’s drums recalling the approach of early Crimson players, while Kristian Karl Hultgren’s punchy bass boasts the power of Squire while still supporting the song appropriately. Guitarist Geir Marius Bergom Halleland delivers potent lead lines throughout, driving various sections through his runs and range of stylings from tender in “Naiad Dreams” to ferocious in “Five Rooms” to inventive in “By the Banks”. But an indispensable element in Wobbler’s sound is the richly layered vocal delivery. Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo’s entreaties to Persephone, Artemis and Dionysus fit perfectly with the mood of the band, but equally important – if more subtle – are the backing harmony vocals that surround Prestmo’s lead. Although Wobbler’s command of their instrumental prowess is evident, it is their vocal impact which seals the deal.
In summary, “Dwellers of the Deep” is a thrilling ride into the depths of classic progressive rock sounds. Its warm and engaging production allows the vintage keyboards to shine at their best. Wobbler’s intoxicating sonic environment and relentlessly musical arrangements grab the listener and don’t let up for a solid 46 minutes, leaving the listener well-satiated while still wanting more. One of the year’s best.
Released by: Karisma Records
Released on: October 23rd, 2020
Genre: Progressive Rock
- Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo / lead vocals, guitars, bass, recorder
- Marius Halleland /6 & 12 string electric guitars & backing vocals
- Kristian Karl Hultgrenb / bass guitars
- Lars Fredrik Frøislie / keyboards & backing vocals
- Martin Kneppen / drums & percussion
“Dwellers of the Deep” track-listing:
- By the Banks
- Five Rooms
- Naiad Dreams
- Merry Macabre
Wobbler return with a sumptuous 46 minutes that will engage and delight their fanbase. While acclaimed “From Silence to Somewhere” re-established their legacy in 2017 after a long pause, “Dwellers of the Deep” prove that the band are only getting stronger, more focused and creative. For fans of early 70s prog like Gentle Giant, Crimson and Yes, this is a band not to be missed.