Norway - Full Moon 111 - 10/17/05
The Laser's Edge
I think Julian Cope once said something like a reviewer needs to listen at least 150 times to an album before finishing the review, to do the artist and the album justice. I don't fully agree with St. Julian, but he has a point. If there is one album I've listened to recently that needs lots and lots of spins before judgement day, it surely is Hinterland.
The disc only consists of three tracks plus a short and sorrowful mellotron intro, still it lasts almost an hour. Wobbler is firmly planted in the progressive rock tradition. Real firm. Most of their equipment dates from 1975 or earlier, even the drumsticks... The band is without any doubt influenced by a host of bands from that era (Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Gentle Giant and King Crimson to name but a few) or younger bands inspired by bands from the early 70s (not least Swedish Änglagård and Anekdoten who revitalised the progressive scene in Scandinavia in the early 90s). Sometimes the vocals sound similar to Jahn Teigen's, front man of Norway's leading progressive act in the 70s Popol Vuh/Ace before he turned to family entertainment.
Like the originals, Wobbler incorporate some classical and medieval influences, and also adds some harder metallic edges from the last couple of decades. And the obligatory time signature, tempo and power changes flourish throughout the album as well as lashes of mellotron sounds.
Some critics have claimed Wobbler only copies the sound of the past and Hinterland lacks musical contents. Though I haven't gained the obligatory master degree in prog-rock I dare to disagree. I find more than enough new constellations, sounds and moods. Especially the construction and development of "Clain Obscur", 15 and a half minutes from
heaven to hell and almost back again is a thrill. And the 27 minutes plus title track is a spine-chilling impressive grand opus. Though never only impressive. The band members don't seem tempted to expose individual skills with long and tedious solos. It's the band's music and sound as such that counts. Those familiar with the genre will find vocal harmony structures similar to Gentle Giant's, glimpses of rural acoustic moods of the early Genesis albums, keyboard sounds similar to Keith Emerson's etc. To me they work as appetisers and short homages to musical heroes and not cynical copying.
Wobbler gained reputation through some of the members' and helpers' involvement in the more established prog-act White Willow, I guess, and a couple of downloadable demos. They're no doubt the first Norwegian band ever to be invited to play in the USA only based on two home made demo recordings. The album has been eagerly awaited in prog circuits in several countries for a long time. After about six weeks I think Hinterland has been well worth the wait and delay. For a Norwegian debut it's unique, which also goes for the clear and up to date production. But I guess the final judgement will have to wait..., let's say 10 or 20 years, until I've played the album a couple of hundred times or more...
If you find this slightly interesting, I recommend you to check out Wobbler's aforementioned demo recordings first to give you a better idea what their music is about, available at their home page, before facing the real beast.
Copyright © 2005 JP