Lee Speaks About Music… #87

Rites At Dawn – Wobbler

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Introduction…

With the release of their 2nd album Afterglow back in April of 2009 doing quite well and the departure of their singer Tony Johannessen. There was no time to stop and a month later the 4 remaining members of the band started work on what was to be the bands 3rd album Rites At Dawn on the 17th May 2009.

Much of this year was spent slowly piecing together the music side of things by the bands 4 members, and it was not until around January 2010 that the bands new vocalist Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo was brought in to work on some vocal melodies.

I have no idea if it was a band member who originally brought in Prestmo or if the band auditioned for a new singer. Prior to joining Wobbler in 2010 since 1994 Prestmo had been part of the outfit The Chronicles of Father Robin, which coexisted within the same prog scene as Wobbler in the late 90’s-early 2000’s. He had also played Liverpool Music Week, Eurosonic, Popkomm and several other festivals for the music industry with the band Lukas Kasha. He had toured Norway many time and other parts of Europe to some extent, and released a couple of albums.

There is no doubt that each album Wobbler have produced sounds entirely different to one another. There is also no doubt the band work out their own melodies and do not copy anything. But they are without a doubt influenced by the likes of many of those prog rock giants from the 70’s enough to make their sound like them to some extent.

For example their previous album does sound like they was more focused on sounding like the band Gryphon. Oddly enough on this album they have one major ingredient that they never had on the last album, that is more associated with that band. And that is the Bassoon. Yet this album sounds more like Yes than that band.

But there is a reason why it does, and I will go further into it all later on in my review. But first let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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Just like the album Hinterland the CD comes in the same sort of 2 panel gatefold Digipak that is very well constructed and has a pocket to store the booklet. The 10 page booklet contains all the song lyrics and linear production notes but comes with no informative information about the making of the album. Overall it’s a well made package and presents the album very well.

The Artwork.

The albums gatefold artwork cover came from a photograph that was taken by Janne Rugland. Once again Trine + Kim Design Studio had the job of doing albums layout and by the looks of the photo they obviously noodled about with it. It does not look that interesting to be honest, but there is more to it than meets the eye so to speak, and you can find out more about it in my review of the 2nd track on the album “La Bealtaine” in the album tracks section of my review.

CD & Vinyl Releases…

The Rites At Dawn was released on CD only back in 2011 on Termo Records. The album was remastered a couple of years later in 2013 and it got it’s first vinyl release and was released on Pancromatic Records on black vinyl and also a limed edition of 100 copies were pressed on green vinyl.

The CD also got a remaster and my version is the 2013 remaster to which I got for £15.00 brand new from a seller on Ebay who go by First Rhythm Records. To be honest I could of got it from Germany for £11.49 with free post & package but this seller was the only one on Ebay advertising it has a Digipak, and I wanted to be sure I got that and not one that came in a jewel case.

It did take over a week to arrive. 8 days to be precise and it did come sealed. But the fact that First Rhythm Records stated they was based in London I would of expected it to arrive in half that time. No doubt this seller is advertising goods that he does not have in stock himself hence the reason for the delay. But I suppose things could of been worse and overall I was happy enough with the service even if it may have been a bit dubious.

Musicians & Credits…

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Produced Wobbler & Lars Fredrik Frøislie. Recorded at LFF Studios in Oslo and Hønefoss between May 17th 2009 and February 9th 2011. Cembalo recorded at Roth Händle Studios in Stockholm. Engineered by Lars Fredrik Frøislie. Mastered by Tinfoil Audio. Cover Design & layout by Trine + Kim Design Studio. Gatefold Photo by Janne Rugland. All songs arranged by Wobbler.

Musicians:
Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo: Lead Vocals.
Morten Eriksen: Electric & Acoustic Guitars.
Kristian Hultgren: Bass Guitars/Saxophone & Glockenspiel.
Lars Fredrik Frøislie: Keyboards & Vocals.
Martin Nordrum Kneppen: Drums & Percussion.

Additional Musicians:
Hanne Rekdal: Bassoon.
Ketil Vestrum Einarsen: Flutes.

The Album In Review…

The Rites At Dawn by Wobbler was released on Termo Records on the 18th November 2011. The album contains 7 tracks mostly vocal tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 45 minutes, 54 seconds. Unlike the 2 previous albums which the writing credits were credited to the band, the band members have been given individual writing credits on this album. The overall production is very good and the new remastered version sounds really great.

However having watched all 21 videos of the band recording the album, I am totally amazed how well it all came out in the end. Especially with everything being recorded onto a Laptop and the squalid place they recorded most of the instruments. No doubt the band are using quality equipment including Neumann Mics to record with, but this is a million miles from some of the squalid rehearsal studios I have used in the past, never mind Abbey Road :))))).

I am so glad the band documented or rather rockumented the making of this album with the 21 videos that can be found on the keyboard players Youtube channel, and it’s quite funny too. But more than anything it’s also very interesting seeing all the vintage keyboards Lars owns and how he looks after and maintains them all. These things are hard work and have to be tuned, cleaned and maintained all the time.

I have decided to post a couple of the videos and this is the very first one of them setting up the drums for recording at the farm house in Hønefoss Norway. I like how they give you a short guided tour and even show you the room where their last album Afterglow was recorded, which is now totally crammed up with junk :))))). The guitar, bass and some of the keyboards was also recorded here too.

This next video shows Lars recording the hammond and the piano again at the farm house in Hønefoss and he has many keyboards some of which are stored here. He also has an array of synths at his own studio in Oslo that you get to see briefly towards the end of this video too.

Through the series of videos you will even see him take delivery of both the Chamberlin M1 which is another mellotron he uses on the album besides the M400. And also the over 100 year old Marxophone that is also used on the album. Plus all the session players recording their parts for the album and them mixing in various effects for the final mix. It really is all very interesting including the humour of it all.

There is no doubt that the band had very little to say both lyrically and vocally on their last 2 albums. However now all of a sudden the band get a new singer and it appears that they have a lot more to say on this album for him. I have to confess that I felt sorry for their last vocalist Tony Johannessen because the band gave him very little to do.

Now all of a sudden they have a new singer and it appears that they are more impressed with his voice to give him a lot more to do. Or maybe it’s a case that the band had already lost one vocalist and felt they needed to make a few changes to make sure that it never happened again.

Like I mentioned in my reviews of Hinterland and Afterglow I felt that Johannessen was the best singer the band had. My reasons for thinking this way is very much down to what Andreas Prestmo had brought to the table with his voice on this particular album the Rites At Dawn and not the album that followed it.

I have to confess that upon first hearing the album the Rites At Dawn I was very much put off by the Yes like vocals and for some reason the vocals sounded out of place to the music. Something was not quite right here and the vocals did not seem to gel or fit.

At first I felt the band had somehow lost the plot, because this was very strange and I have to confess I had to give this album at least 7 spins and more to get to really appreciate it, and I think it took at least that many spins just to get over the Yes like vocals and harmonies.

Not that I do not like Yes at all that is. But I just felt it was taking away some of the originality this band had by doing such a thing, and I could not work out why on earth they would even want to do such a thing in the first place.

There is no doubt that if you listen to Wobblers 4th album From Silence To Somewhere you will get to hear Andreas Prestmo’s more natural voice. And there is no doubt in my mind that Prestimo is also a very good singer.

I would also guess that the band were looking for Jon Anderson like harmonies for this particular album Rites At Dawn and regarding this album having some sort of a Yes vibe about it. There is also no doubt it was intentional with the vision the band had mapped out for this album. However judging by the subject matter of the lyrics we have on this album. One would think that the band would of been looking for a singer like Ian Anderson and not Jon :))))))).

So before I go any further let’s take a look at the albums tracks to delve deeper into just what this whole Yes vibe is all about.

The Album Tracks In Review…

To be honest I could perhaps see a lot of people being put off by this particular album upon first hearing it, especially those who had heard the bands 2 previous albums. The Rites At Dawn is definitely an album that needs more spins to not only get to appreciate it more, but also to decipher just what the bands intentions are here.

It appears to me that for the band the Wobbler to work so effortlessly in trying to recapture the sound of the 70’s, that they have to take certain things from that decade to do so. No doubt their last album Afterglow sounded like Gryphon in parts from that decade by using some of the same instrumentation that band used.

On this album for some reason they decided they wanted something from Yes and I have to confess it took me perhaps 20 spins or more to work out just what the band were up to here, and I have to say it’s very clever what they have done.

Track 1. Lucid.

Well no surprise regarding the opening track being a short instrumental piece, and this is something the band also done to kick off their 2 previous albums. This short opening piece is more of a lucid and lurid soundscape that perhaps reflects the break of dawn that is portrayed on the albums cover.

A sort of dense mystic fog also springs to mind here with the reversed phasing effects they have used to create this piece with, and the word “Dawn” will certainly reveal and shed more light regarding the Yes influence on the next track. This opening piece has nothing to do with “Close To The Edge” either, even if the albums cover could suggest that it is regarding the intro of that song. But you may get a seasoned witch on the next one :)))))).

Track 2. La Bealtaine.

The title we have here goes back centuries and is derived from the Gaelic language and originally came from Ireland. It’s very much a Celtic festival that used to be held in May to celebrate May Day. It basically stends from Irish Mythology and all sorts of rituals and sacrifices were held at these festivals contrary to belief of course.

Later on it spread to Scotland and even later Germany and other parts of Europe. These countries also had their own myths, rituals, beliefs and different ways of celebrating it. Basically it’s all a form of paganism and even today there is even more modern versions of it. And I guess by 2011 it had spread to Norway and the band Wobbler lit a couple of fires to celebrate it in the Norwegian Woods :)))))))).

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Neopagan Wheel Of The Year

The neopagan wheel of the year shows the seasons of the year and “La Bealtaine” falls on the 1st May. The albums artwork also reflects this with its circle so to speak and the Celtic Knot work on the corners.

This particular song opens up with great pace and the band go about their normal meandering great style weaving their way along on their instruments. The interesting thing here is that it only takes 47 seconds for the vocals to come into play, unlike like waiting for an eternity like they did on their previous albums :)))))))).

There is also a nice come down section half way through here that allows some great bass lines to come into play from Kristian Hultgren. You do get a couple of vocal harmony Ah’s or chants before it comes down in the bass section too, and just before the main vocals. 3 seconds before the vocals come in you get this familiar change with the keyboards which does sound very Yes like to allow the vocals to come in and play their part. Which are also sang like Yes harmonies.

Straight away you are getting this whole Yes vibe about it all, even though musically it’s nothing like that band, but the vocals do give you that impression. Even some of the lyrics they have wrote would also give you that impression as well. For example “shapeshifters, coloured fish in my dream” the same type of bizarre lyrics Jon Anderson would write. But as much as these harmonies are like that of Yes the harmonies handled by both Prestmo and Frøislie are not all quite like Jon Anderson at all, and very much have a folky feel about them too.

There is no doubt that the band Wobbler have been very clever at recapturing the 70’s in presenting you with something that sounds like Yes but it’s entirely something of their own and not something that band did. However to make what we have here they very much have worked their way around something that Yes did back in 1973. And that was the album Tales From The Topographic Oceans.

They may have even thrown in a bit of the album Close To The Edge as well regarding some of the lyrical content we have here. But the lyrics are based around an entirely different subject matter that also has seasons, witches, rituals and even the dance of the dawn. Dawn also happens to be in the title of this album.

Speaking of the dance of the dawn which is the first track on Tales From The Topographic Oceans entitled “The Revealing Science Of God“. There is a sentence in that Yes song that may very well answer what the bands intentions were here on this album. Just like I mentioned earlier I felt that the vocals never married up with the music, and this was indeed done intentionally by the band, and is very clever.

The sentence that may of sparked all this off that can be found in “The Revealing Science Of God” is “disjointed but with purpose”. This of course is only my own theory, but having heard this album countless times over and over I can very much see the resemblance of it all. What amazes me is that they have actually managed to pull it all off.

There is no doubt that many who have heard this album for the first time may have not been impressed or liking it at all. Some may even say it’s a bit like plagiarism with them trying to sound like Yes. Some may even be put off by the vocals being disconnected with the music. But all of those things it is not!!! and you need to give it a lot more spins and dig down really deep to see what a remarkable achievement this actually is to even think about doing such a thing.

The music for this song was written by Morten Eriksen & Lars Frøislie. The lyrics were written by Andreas Prestmo.

La Bealtaine” is a really great song that perhaps seems more busy in relation to the material from the bands first 2 albums, and that really is down to band having less space in between the vocal sections to which there was not a lot of vocal parts on them in the first place.

Because we have more vocals here, the rest of the band have to work that much harder to get there instruments across. But they do it with ease and there is still some smaller sections in between the vocals for them to work on some interplay with one another on their instruments to which they do so well.

Track 3. In Orbit.

Listening to the lovely intro on this song will have you thinking that you was going to be getting another one of those great Gryphon sounding pieces the band did so well on their 2nd album Afterglow. This gorgeous intro lasts all of about 53 seconds and you get to hear Morten Eriksen strumming away nicely on the acoustic guitar to which is so beautifully accompanied by the guest musician Hanne Rekdal on the bassoon. Kristian Hultgren also works his bass around it very well too, and you get to hear a couple Ah’s nicely chanting away from guys too, I think one of them is also yawning with his deep voice :)))))))).

After this lovely intro it quickly changes and goes off in another direction, well many directions to be precise. “In Orbit” is the longest track on the album and weighs in at 12 and half minutes. The extra length of it all allows the musicians more space for lengthier instrumental breaks in between the vocals sections, more so than the previous track. I have to say it works out superbly too for them.

Once again you get this folky and Yes vibe going on with the vocals and the one thing I have noticed in particular about the Yes side of the vocals on this album, is that they sound more like the softer side of Jon Anderson’s voice that he used on the first 2 albums Yes made before they had Steve Howe. The music may also reflects that too.

The other folky kind of vocals could be perhaps associated with the likes of Peter, Paul and Mary. The Seekers. Crosby Stills & Nash. Creedence Clearwater Revival and other types of folkies from the 60’s and early 70’s. They add a nice touch to the more melancholy sections you get here too.

Musically there is bags of goodness in here that range from Steve Howe like sounding guitar lines from Morten Eriksen. Totally awesome bass lines as ever from Kristian Hultgren. You do not need Chris Squire this guy is just as good :)))))). He also plays saxophone on this track too and you get a King Crimson & Gong feel in the sections were he plays it. You also get some totally superb moog solos from Lars Frøislie. You sort of get a cross between Rick Wakeman and Peter Bardens with his keyboard work on this track.

You’re not gonna really hear Bill Bruford with how Martin Kneppen plays the drums, but he does a good enough job in holding it all together and keeping the band tight. I quite like this chap too, cause he’s into Gryphon :)))))). Ketil Vestrum Einarsen also plays some flute on this track too, and there is nice little section that is quite Steve Hackett like from his Voyage Of The Acolyte album.

Regarding the lyrics they are the thing that make this album a sort of concept album in that all the songs are based around the same subject matter of the seasons of the neopagan wheel and all the rituals and beliefs that went along with their celebrations and festivities. Some Neopagans celebrate it at the astronomical midpoint between the spring equinox and summer solstice.

In Orbit” is a really great track that once again has great diversity and progression along it’s path, to some it may very well be their favourite track on the album, and I rather think all the songs on this album are contenders for the top spot on the album. But this one for me is my personal favourite and merits the top spot award, though I will say  it was very hard to choose a favourite. Once again Andreas Prestmo wrote the lyrics, and the bands magic bass player Kristian Hultgren wrote the music.

Track 4. This Past Presence.

The band tone it down more acoustically on “This Past Presence” and it does not have so much of Yes thing about it with the vocals either. It features some lovely guitar work from Morten Eriksen and it even features some fine work by Lars Frøislie on the piano. You also get some fine mellotron work from him as well.

I like how this track also breaks out into more powerful lead break sections which allows the other members of the band to do their thing on it as well. Both the instrumentation and vocals are excellent and this is another really great track on the album. Both this and the track that follows it were written by Frøislie & Prestmo.

Track 5. A Faerie’s Play.

This one is the shortest of the 5 songs on the album, but boy do the band put a lot into it. You get lashings of gorgeous mellotron on this one, along with some superb interplay between the musicians and the band just totally kick ass on the whole thing.

It starts off acoustically and you even get to hear the over 100 year old Marxophone on the short intro. Then it takes off at great pace with power and dynamics and is another excellent track on the album.

It’s very hard to pick a favourite, simply because all the material on this album is very strong and very well written. I also like how the band are pulling away from the Yes like vocals on this track too and it seems less influenced. Although they may have had a “Passion” for Jethro Tull that may have influenced the title we have here :)))))).

Track 6. The River. 

Where back to the Yes vibe of things for the last song on the album and this is the 2nd longest track on the album and is another excellent track that has great diversity and progression. The band kick it off in great style with a rather fast intro that goes on for around a minute and 20 seconds, before it settles down to more of an acoustic vibe to allow the vocals to come into play.

During this quite tasty intro you get a bit more sax playing from Hultgren and some more Steve Howe style electric guitar from Eriksen. It really is a great build up and the band are flying along superbly.

After it all settles down Eriksen brings in a lovely melody on the rhythm guitar and Frøislie’s job on the mellotron adds that touch of melancholy to allow Prestmo to come in beautifully with the first verse. At this stage it’s perhaps sounding like a cross between Genesis and Uriah Heep sort of thing, but whatever it is, it’s wonderful.

The band then have a nice little interplay section from around 3:10 – 3:33 before the vocals come back into play, and a transitional change has come into play to enable the vocals to lift up and go in a different style and direction and we are getting back the Yes vibe at this point too, with the Howe like guitar and vocals.

As this vocal section makes its way along it then changes into even more of a Yes vibe at the 4:17 mark. I actually call this the “Parallels” section because I do feel the vocal line has been constructed around the melody line of a part of the vocal line from that Yes song from their Going For The One album. Prestmo is going “up stream, down stream” with them :))))) while Anderson was going more along the parallel lines of “When we are winning we can stop and shout. Making love towards perfection”.

From 5:42 – 7:56 the band embark on a lengthy lead break and we get to hear quite a lot of instruments thrown into the pot here such as brass, mandolins and I am pretty sure Hanne Rekdal contributes a bit of bassoon in this section too, although it’s not very effective like it was on the intro of “In Orbit“. The band then fall back into the “Parallels” vocal section to round it all off.

The River” is another excellent track on the album and perhaps the strongest contender for the top spot on the album. The music was written by Kristian Hultgren & Morten Eriksen. Eriksen also contributed to the lyrics with Andreas Prestmo.

Track 7. Lucid Dreams.

The album ends off with a different take of the opening track and rather than the phased reversed effects that was used on the opening track to make up the melody, on this slightly longer version. We get glistening vibes from the Glockenspiel played by Kristian Hultgren that reflects a bit more light through the density of the fog and the rising of dawn. It puts and end to a really great album.

Though in reality there is no doubt that it’s the songs in between the intro and outro of the album that contain the real magic and both “Lucid” and “Lucid Dreams” are perhaps more or less album fillers and were not really needed. Though they are also quite harmless and short enough not to spoil the enjoyment of playing the album from start to finish so to speak.

Summary…

The Rites Of Dawn by the Norwegian band Wobbler is yet another very good album the band have come up with. The material is very strong and very well written and there is nothing not to like here either. They premièred the albums release at the Terra Incognita Festival in Quebec, Canada. The album did very well worldwide and it brought in more fans and even more invitations for them to play at more festivals in Europe.

The album also brought in some mixed reviews from the critics and I would of expected that some of Yes vibes about this album would of contributed to those critical reviews. There is no doubt that this particular album does need that more attention paid to it by giving it a lot more further spins to see what really lies deep beneath it’s surface, and once you have done that you will get to reap the real rewards and pleasures from this album.

There is also no doubt that how the band have gone about putting this album together is extremely clever and there is a lot more to the whole Yes vibe than meets the eye as I pointed out earlier in this review. Just like all the bands albums each one is different and this one is certainly not so instrumental like the first two albums they made. My personal highlights from the album are “In Orbit“. “The River“. “This Past Presence“. and “A Faerie’s Play“.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Wobbler’s 3rd album Rites At Dawn I would say it’s quite a solid album and with the strength of the material we have here, I would even say this album is more of a solid album than the bands debut album. But I personally do not think there is anything on this album that will match up to “Hinterland” from their debut album. Or even “Imperial Winter White” from their 2nd album for that matter. But the material we have on this album works very well as an whole and makes up for those classics.

What we have here is still a very strong album that certainly does not disappoint and the band no doubt have found their feet a bit more to now work on more vocal songs with their new singer Andreas Prestmo. He also done a real great job on the lyrics on this album too, and nearly all of them were written by him.

Sadly though just as the band got a new singer, they also lost a guitarist and Morten Andreas Eriksen decided to leave the band not long after making the album. I have no idea as to why he left, but I would of thought that it may have been putting a strain on his family life and his family were more important than the band.

It’s never easy finding a replacement and no doubt that Eriksen was an integral part of the band between 2009 – 2011 and all 3 albums the band had made at this point of their career stand as a very good testimony to the role he played in the band.

The Rites At Dawn was the quickest album the band Wobbler had written and produced. It’s said that the band had found a faster way of composing songs by making them more chord structure based. It was an album that only took 2 years before it hit the shelves since the release of Afterglow in 2009. Yet it took 6 years for their next album to surface, and you can find out more about that in my next review of this great band.

Euclidean Space Inside The Observer Orbiting.…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Lucid. 1:40.
02. La Bealtaine. 7:51.
03. In Orbit. 12:29.
04. This Past Presence. 6:13.
05. A Faerie’s Play. 5:19.
06. The River. 10:04.
07. Lucid Dreams. 2:18.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 08/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

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