I have a confession: I’ve always wanted to listen to progressive rockers Wobbler, but haven’t. Their 2011 album Rites at Dawn has been sitting in my iTunes wish list folder for six years now, but life/time/priorities kept me from ever clicking on “Buy.” So naturally when I saw them pop up on our feed as having a new album coming out, I grabbed it. And then I had to go back and listen to their older stuff as well. All of which is a good thing if you’re into 70s prog rock done right, because that’s what Wobbler are all about. This gathering of Norwegians specializes in epic-length tracks in the vein of Yes’s Relayer or Tales from Topographic Oceans, combining lush, expansive musical arrangements with alto tenor vocals. So if that’s your bag, read on and enjoy of deep prog.
From Silence to Somewhere is not for the faint of prog heart: we’re immediately thrown into the deep end, as was the wont all those decades ago, with the 21-minute title track. Busy drums, layers of keys and guitars, and Chris Squire-style bass lines permeate the intro, leading into multiple dynamic movements ranging from pensive to frantic. The performances throughout are stellar, never dragging. Not counting the short interlude “Rendered in Shades of Green,” there’s really only three songs here, all of which are excellent. The best is “Fermented Hours,” which features an absolutely killer arrangement, balls-out on all fronts to start, a prog rock version of a Maiden gallop before dropping down into a swing rhythm momentarily before featuring what I believe is a glockenspiel solo – and more of that great rolling bass. It’s ten minutes of proggy bliss.
This is one of the best-sounding albums of the year. The aural depth is drool-worthy. The music thrums and resonates as if it’s an entity unto itself, with wonderful balance and an organic nature that’s perfect for the style. Drum sounds are full and powerful while not losing their finesse. Bass and keyboards retain more than ample bottom-end and never get lost in the mix. The placement of the vocals varies, which is a wise decision. During vocally strong passages Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo’s voice is prominent, and in those moments where he struggles (and he does), his voice is lower in the mix. Founder/keyboardist Lars Fredrik Frøislie has a massive vintage keyboard collection, and it’s put to excellent use throughout, from Mellotron to Moog, Hammond to Rhodes.
If there’s a downside to From Silence to Somewhere, and Wobbler in general, it can be found in the vocals. Prestmo’s voice is comparable to that of Jon Anderson, but a step below in quality. Smokier, but lacking a certain degree of finesse. Nowhere is that more clear than the tentative first lines of “Foxlight,” where he struggles to stay in tune. The moment is fleeting yet off-putting: if Prestmo was just a little more polished it would do wonders for the band. Another small personal nitpick is the abundance of flute throughout. It might just be me, but I can’t keep from envisioning Ron Burgundy. One day I’m going to start a petition to have the flute banned from rock music.
Really, one could list every prog rock band that was active pre-1975 and you would have a comprehensive list of Wobbler’s influences. Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, ELP, even a pinch of King Crimson: it’s all here in crystal-clear glory. But nothing on From Silence to Somewhere comes off as ham-fisted copycat music. Instead, it’s clear these guys put their own mark on 70s prog. This album is a joy to listen to, start to finish, and is one of the best progressive rock releases of the year.