Lee Speaks About Music… #85

Afterglow – Wobbler

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Introduction…

Well it’s time for another review of this amazing prog rock band from Norway who go by the name of Wobbler. Like I mentioned in my previous review of the bands debut album Hinterland the band have made 4 studio albums to date, and they all tend to be quite different with how the band have crafted out the material that was written for them. The bands second album Afterglow is very much different in the way that the band have combined medieval folk music with other styles that make up really great progressive rock music.

From the biggest majority of reviews I have read about this particular album. It’s been likened to what the Italian band PFM were doing back in the 70’s. I can see some resemblances from that particular Italian band, but nowhere near enough in relation to the 70’s band who not only created this fusion of medieval prog rock, but were the original masters of it back in the 70’s. That band was the English medieval prog rock band Gryphon.

Gryphon were perhaps one of the most underrated and unheard of bands that got to grace my ears back in the 70’s. Having reformed once again in 2009 (the very same year this album was released) they are still gracing my ears today. Now I have no idea at this point if this Norwegian band Wobbler have even heard of Gryphon.

But somehow they have more or less created an album more or less just like the music Gryphon would of presented you with back in the early 70’s. Even down to the use of instruments that date back centuries, such as the Crumhorn for example. The only instrument that is perhaps missing here is the Bassoon.

But despite all the likeness with the instrumentation and the way the music has been arranged with some superb acoustic intervals and passages. Once again Wobbler have not copied a thing regarding the written material, and once again they have so skilfully crafted and carved out something that is 100% their own, no matter where the influence of the instrumentation came from.

So before I go any deeper into this magnificent album, let’s first take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD comes in a matt finished cardboard Gatefold DigiSleeve that gives quite a very good presentation of a vinyl album, only on a much more smaller scale. Although the cardboard is adequate that’s been used to make the package, because it’s made out of thin cardboard they do tend not close up so well, as you can see in the picture below.

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But this will not present much of a problem when storing it with your others CD’s stacked up against one another on the shelf. The CD also comes in a reusable polythene bag that is resealable. So there is no need to get a Swiss Knife to open it up otherwise you will damage it, and it will be unusable if you plan on using it again that is.

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The picture above shows the CD back in it’s polythene bag after I originally had opened it up, took it out and put it back in again. These type of polythene bags can be purchased in quantities, and are cheap enough to buy and are useful for keeping these type of cardboard DigiSleeves and Digipak’s clean.

It’s a shame that nobody yet as thought about making a mini version of those more quality gatefold polythene sleeves that you could buy for your vinyl albums years ago. Especially in this day and age where more and more CD’s are being released in Digipaks and Digi Sleeves. I am sure somebody would make a small fortune if they did.

Because this is a DigiSleeve and not a Digipak the one thing you do not get is a booklet. But all the production credits and linear notes have been printed at the bottom of both sides on the inside of the gatefold sleeve. The one thing they did not include was the lyrics. But to be honest there is very little of them. But they could of made more use of the back of the DigiSleeve by printing them on their perhaps.

The Artwork.

The albums artwork cover is of a painting done by the bands keyboard player Lars Fredrik Frøislie. It looks like the Wobbler’s are in Wobble Land having some fun. The one with the beard may even be throwing a Wobbler :))))). The layout was done by Trine + Kim at Design Studio, and additional photographs were provided by the band.

CD & Vinyl Releases…

The CD version of the album Afterglow was released on the keyboard players own record label Termo Records to which is jointly owned by him and Jacob Holm-Lupo. By now Lars had broken away from the American record label Lasers Edge to which their debut album was originally released on, and they were releasing their albums from their own country in Norway.

Oddly enough though when ordering any of their albums from Termo Records they still charge you in American dollars rather than their own currency.

As with most countries other than your own, you tend to pay more money for imports. But in all honesty I have brought quite a few albums from America and other European countries such as Germany in the past that cost me a damn site cheaper than what they cost here in the UK.

Now I got lucky with the bands 1st album Hinterland and got it from Amazon UK for £12.67. That is about the top price any CD should be priced at. Most CD’s are even less than that to buy here in the UK and the biggest majority are only £10.

Granted that most of those CD’s sold at £10 are from more well known artists who can afford to mass produce their albums to sell them at a lower price. But in all honesty I think anybody is a fool to try and sell their CD’s at a much higher price in this day and age when hardly anybody wants to buy a physical product any more.

Now the cheapest price on Amazon UK for Afterglow on CD at the time was £21.80. No way was I paying that and you would have to be a complete mug to do so as well.

So I ended up going to the bands website to buy the CD which directed me to Termo Records to which it was priced at 16 American dollars, which works out at £12.27 here in the UK. Now that is a reasonable enough price. But what is not reasonable is the fact that they are charging you another 7 dollars to send it to you, which is another £5.26 on top here in the UK.

I personally do not think it costs that to send a CD in a Jiffy bag by recorded delivery no matter what part of the world you live in. In the end through Paypal I ended up paying £17.80 for this CD. Which is way over the odds any CD should cost you.

I could understand if it was a DVD or a Blu Ray because they are more expensive discs to buy in the first place, and the quality you can put on those is lot higher than what you will find on any CD. But sometimes it can be cheaper using the bands website, and £17.80 was cheaper than paying the ridiculous price of £21.80 on Amazon.

The good thing was though, is that it did arrive in less than a week. But I dare say if I was willing to wait up to 2 to 3 weeks to get it. I could of got it from America a lot cheaper.

Just to make matters worse the day after the CD arrived I noticed some seller from Germany on ebay had only just put it up for sale brand new, and had 10 of them at £11.49 each with free postage and package. Bloody typical LOL..

The album was also released on both black and blue vinyl at the same time in 2009 and in 2017 it was remixed and remastered and released on clear vinyl. So to was the CD remastered and it sounds great…

Musicians & Credits…

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Produced, mixed and recorded by Lars Fredrik Frøislie. Recorded between June 2007 – October 2008 at various home studios. Mastered by Jens Petter Nilsen. Cover Design & layout by Trine + Kim Design Studio. Front cover painting by Lars Fredrik Frøislie. Gatefold Photo by Trond Bråthen. Additional photos by Wobbler. Remixed & Remastered by Lars Fredrik Frøislie at Lars Studio 2015 – 2016.

Musicians:
Tony Johannessen: Lead Vocals.
Morten Eriksen: Electric & Martin Acoustic Guitars/Voice.
Kristian Hultgren: Bass Guitar/Acoustic & Double Bass.
Lars Fredrik Frøislie: Keyboards & Vocals.
Martin Nordrum Kneppen: Drums/Percussion/Recorders & Crumhorn.

Additional Musicians:
Aage Moltke Schou: Vibraphone/Glockenspiel & Percussion (On Imperial Winter White & In Taberna)
Ketil Vestrum Einarsen: Flutes & Vocals (On Imperial Winter White & In Taberna)
Sigrun Eng: Cello (On In Taberna)

The Album In Review…

Wobbler’s 2nd studio album Afterglow was released on the 5th of April 2009. The album contains 5 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 34 minutes, 39 seconds. It’s the shortest album they have produced so far and is more familiar with the old 60’s and 70’s time slot, and is perhaps more known as mini album today.

The material that made up the album Afterglow was originally written back in 1999. 2 of the tracks were actual demo’s and the other 3 tracks were more or less complete. But they decided to record all 5 tracks again between 2007 and 2008. One of the tracks they even played at the Near-Fest festival in USA in 2005, and part of it can be seen in the live video I posted of excerpts from that concert in my previous review of Hinterland.

Most of the recordings for the album were done at the keyboard player Lars place at Hønefoss and Oslo. Lars Fredrik Frøislie is the bands producer and recording engineer.

Additional recordings took place at one of the session players house who is the bands percussionist Aage Moltke Schou. Both he and the the other session player Ketil Vestrum Einarsen who is the bands main flute player, also featured on the bands debut album Hinterland. They also play at a lot at the bands live shows too. Other recordings took place at Jens Petter Nilsen’s studio. He is the guy who does the final mastering for the bands albums.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Afterglow maybe a short album but it’s quite a Gem of an album. It also happens to be my favourite album of theirs too and no doubt this is an album that certainly sounds like it came out of the 70’s. It also reminds me a lot of the band Gryphon and judging from what I have now read up on of the band, I guess we have the bands drummer Martin Nordrum Kneppen to thank for the Gryphon influence here. Martin is also the bands Crumhorn player pictured here.

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Just like Wobbler’s debut album Hinterland the album Afterglow offered very little for the bands singer Tony Johannessen to do. As a matter of fact he had less to do on this album in relation to the bands debut album, and only got to feature on 1 of the tracks out of the 5. Afterglow is much more of an instrumental album.

Sadly Afterglow was to be Tony Johannessen’s last album he appeared on to which he left the band afterwards. It perhaps comes as no surprise because the band in reality gave him very little to do. Although I personally do not know his reason for leaving and like many of the other band members, they was also working in other bands besides Wobbler. Johannessen was the singer and keyboard player in the metal band Thunderbolt. Although I know nothing of that band and only found that out through my research for this review.

So now let’s take a look a deeper look at how the album Afterglow turned out over it’s 5 individual tracks.

Track 1. The Haywain.

The inspiration for the songs title came from their trip to London to see the medieval prog rock band Gryphon who was playing live at the Union Chapel back in 2009. It was whilst they was over there they popped into the National Art Gallery in London and they must of seen John Constable’s painting of the Haywain and thought it would make a good title for this short instrumental piece.

This was also the very year that Gryphon had finally got back together since they split up in 1977. It was also a concert I missed myself, but I have seen the band play live twice at the Robin 2 in Wolverhampton since, and I am also going to see them again this year twice. First at the Union Chapel in London and then back at the Robin 2 again.

There is no doubt that the band Wobbler are very much inspired by Gryphon’s music on this particular album and it reflects that well here on this opening instrumental piece. That much that I think that if you was to hear it on the radio without the DJ announcing who it was by. You would most certainly think it was Gryphon. Though once again they have created their very own melody lines, and it’s only the instruments that have the familiarity about the band.

The “The Haywain” is a really great little ditty and it appears that the band have a fetish for starting their albums with short intros that lead up to the main featured song on their albums.

Track 2. Imperial Winter White.

Well the band had a masterpiece on their debut album with the self titled album track Hinterland, and they have certainly come up with another one here. When the band originally wrote this epic back in 1999 it was titled “Imperial Winter White Dwarf” and they used to play it quite a lot at their live gigs way before this album came out.

The track bursts into action immediately and this particular track is some 15 minutes long and it takes precisely 7 minutes and 17 seconds for the vocals to come into play. But during this lengthy intro the band are certainly cooking on gas, and you’re going to hear lots of gorgeous keyboards including mellotron, flying bass and guitar lines driven along with force with the drums at great pace.

There is bags of diversity and progression with many transitional changes along this stretch and you are also going to hear some lovely intervals in between where they come down for a bit to let the flute, acoustic guitar play some most gorgeous melodies. There is even some nice glistening vibes that come into play and not only are the band members doing the business here, but the couple of session players are also playing an integral part.

Imperial Winter White” is unlike the opening first track and the last track on the album that do sound more like the band Gryphon. But it does have some resemblance to that band with the gorgeous acoustic guitar section you will hear between 4:00 – 4:46. In some respects you would even think it was Graeme Taylor of Gryphon playing it with how it sounds.

Wobbler do spend a lot of time and careful attention to how things were recorded and sounded back then and can spend hours, days and weeks trying to get every detail right in the studio.

Even though this is the only track that contains vocals on the whole album there is very little of them in here to be honest. There are only two small sections allocated for the vocal parts and the first section from 7:17 – 7:49 is the shortest section that gives Tony Johannessen all of 32 seconds to sing the first verse.

This first verse is also a more subtle part and Johannessen does great justice with his voice to it. They could of quite of easily of slotted in another verse along this section too, but chose not to, and the rest of the musicians get back on with it and meander and weave more magic into it with all interplay between the instruments and superb progression and changes.

Johannessen’s final part on the vocals comes back into play across the section between 11:18 – 12:28 and he does another terrific job. It brings out more aggression from his voice (Iron Maiden like) and the music allows him to express it all with how it all builds up. The rest of the guys play it out with more power to it reaches its climax and frizzles it way out with the mellotron to end it all off.

There is no doubt that “Imperial Winter White” could of went on much longer just like “Hinterland” did on their previous album. More vocal sections could of been easily put in and it still would of worked. But even as it is, there is no doubt that is still works superbly and is without a doubt another masterpiece the band have come up with. It’s very much my favourite track on the album and merits the top spot award.

Track 3. Interlude.

A short acoustic piece that puts a bridge between the previous track and the track that is going to follow it. It mainly features Morten Eriksen on acoustic guitar and Kristian Hultgren on double bass. It also sounds like there is a Cello in here too. But according to the musician credits Sigrun Eng only plays Cello on the next track and not this one.

So either they have made a printing error or Kristian Hultgren is also using a bow on his double bass. The only alternative is that Lars Fredrik Frøislie is playing it on the mellotron. It’s another fine piece and serves its purpose as an interlude very well.

Track 4. In Taberna.

Well we do have a very strange title here I will say, and if this so called “Taberna” is what I think it is, all I can say is that the band are certainly in a hurry to grab a bite to eat :)))))). The only reference I can find about the word “Taberna” is that it’s a single room shop covered by a barrel vault within great indoor markets of ancient Rome. If this is the sort of thing the title is derived from, I can honestly say that their musical presentation of it is perhaps a billion miles off the mark :))))).

Despite the rather unfitting title which certainly could of been better, this instrumental piece is quite another GEM. From the moment it kicks off it’s on fire and you are going to hear Keith Emerson like keyboards, lashing of gorgeous mellotron, superb cello and flutes that create superb melody lines to which some of them do actually give it that Roman feel. You even get a super little medieval section of it with the flutes too. The whole band is weaving out magic all the way on the piece, and the diversity and progression is quite staggering.

I guess “In Taberna” has to be another contender for the top spot on the album with all respects and it really is a fine work of art and brilliant track.

Track 5. Armoury.

The albums ends off with another medieval piece done in great Gryphon style, and once again you would think it was them with the use of the Crumhorn, flutes and percussion.  It’s another super piece that winds up the album superbly and it even has some great synths and quite a cathedral ending with the organ, and you get a magical madrigal 3 minutes here.

Summary…

To sum up Afterglow by Wobbler I personally think it’s one of the best albums since I heard the band Gryphon back in the 70’s. To be honest it will be interesting to see what Gryphon’s new album turns out like this year. There is no doubt the band can still play their old material and are immaculate musicians, but as to if they still have that magic with composition and arrangements about them today, I will be amazed if they can beat this album to be honest.

I find that many bands who had that brilliant way of composing and structuring music years ago, no longer have that magic at all I am afraid. But what Wobbler have done in every sense of the word, is in all honesty recapture that precise magic from the 70’s and like I have said before, there is not a lot out there today who honestly can achieve this.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Afterglow by Wobbler I would certainly say that it’s the best album I have brought out of everything I have brought so far this year. The album maybe short but it’s 100% solid with every track on the album. It’s purely a Golden Gem of an album and master-class piece of work in the way it’s all been so immaculately structured and composed. I just wished there was more bands out there like this today.

No doubt both the longer tracks “Imperial Winter White” and “In Taberna” are my personal highlights from the album, but the whole album is a real treat from start to finish.

Since the departure of Tony Johannessen there is no doubt the band have yet again gone in another direction with their new singer on their next album Rites At Dawn. And I shall be reviewing that album and their latest album From Silence To Somewhere sometime this month. But up next for review will be the reissue of the 4 CD Clamshell Box Set of Gentle Giant entitled I Lost My Head (The Chrysalis Years 1975 – 1980).

Besides buying the physical CD’s of Wobbler you can of course buy them in a digital download format as well at most places. The best of those would be perhaps Bandcamp because at least they give you a choice of higher quality audio formats such as flac and wave besides MP3. And they are very reasonably priced too at £4.50 which is around  5.13 Euro.

You can also listen to the album too on Bandcamp and here is the link to this superb album should you wish to give it a listen. https://wobbler.bandcamp.com/album/afterglow

The Faces Of Creatures Are Lying Alone In The Dark…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. The Haywain. 0:54.
02. Imperial Winter White. 15:01.
03. Interlude. 2:35.
04. In Taberna. 13:09.
05. Armoury. 3:00.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 08/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 6/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.

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