Wobbler – Dwellers of the Deep Review

Those of you who insist we review nothing but the purest and most extreme metal, step away from the computer. The next five paragraphs will upset and irritate you, causing you to lob hit pieces at the Huckster down in the comment section. For there is nothing remotely metal about today’s band of choice, Wobbler. This is music to prance to, not music to bang one’s head to. In fact, one has to be an El Cuervo-like old soul to truly want to dive into this band’s immaculate take on 70’s progressive rock. So wet-vacuum your Yes albums. Give those Gentle Giant records a gentle wipe. Examine that old Ruphus vinyl for warpage. And once you’ve done all that, hit play on Dwellers of the Deep. You are about to descend into the realm of exuberant progressive rock at its finest.

Three years ago, nearly to the day, we examined this Norwegian band’s fourth album, From Silence to Somewhere. That album also happened to garner honorable mention in my year-end list in 2017. Dwellers of the Deep is very similar. Once again like its predecessor, Dwellers of the Deep is configured specifically for vinyl release, with four songs totalling 46 minutes, each “side” featuring a long and short song. And once again, Wobbler pack the album with creativity, wankery, whimsy, and a massive variety of instrumentation. The album highlight of course is the nineteen-minute closer, “Merry Macabre.” Much like the grandiose suites of yesteryear, this song ebbs and flows through a myriad of movements, starting with an absolutely killer organ riff and churning verses featuring abundant counterpoints. Like the rest of the album, it’s incredibly dynamic, and as always is centered around the sounds of Lars Fredrik Frøislie’s vast keyboard collection and Andreas Prestmo’s vocals. It’s everything that is majestic about progressive rock.1

The shorter songs are hardly less compelling. “Naiad Dreams” is a whimsical, airy piece, a light bit of fluff offsetting the rest of Dwellers of the Deep’s complexity. It’s a very quiet number, primarily acoustic in nature, and a pure joy to simply close one’s eyes and listen to.2 “Five Rooms” almost by default had to be the first cut released. Long but not too long, in a similar vein as Yes’s “Roundabout,” it features Prestmo’s complex yet alluring vocal melodies, soaring Mellotron and/or Moog chords, and rollicking, Yes-like rhythms. Prestmo’s timbre may remind one of Jon Anderson, but his off-kilter presence brings to mind The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie.

Frøislie himself produces Wobbler’s music, and the warm, organic tones, open vistas, and effortless intermingling of the entire plethora of the band’s instruments should be the envy of many a producer. The rickety world of vintage gear is fully embraced here. In fact, I’m pretty sure the name of the band is somehow based on the queasy tones that can involuntarily lurch out of old instruments like the Mellotron or clavinet. Regardless, not only does Frøislie imbue the songs with a wonderfully analog aura, he allows the rest of the band (drummer Martin Kneppen, bassist Kristian Hultgren, and guitarist Marius Halleland) to shine. Kneppen’s drumming is a stellar example of how not to overplay. Hultgren’s bass tone is eerily similar to that of Chris Squire, and Halleland weaves his way through it all masterfully.

Wobbler have released another gem of an album, on par with previous efforts, and proven themselves to be amongst the top tier in today’s progressive rock scene. There’s not a lick of metal to be found here, nor should anyone look for or want one. This band should be the benchmark by which other modern progressive rock acts judge themselves. Simple yet complex, self-indulgent yet still generous to the listener, and aurally beautiful, Dwellers of the Deep is an album that can be tossed on the turntable at an old-fashioned record party, where we all sit cross-legged on the floor, take turns reading the liner notes, and grin ear to ear as the music plays.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320kbps mp3
Label: Karisma Records
Websites: wobbler.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/wobblerofficial
Release Worldwide: October 23rd, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Or incredibly self-indulgent and annoying, if you hate the genre.
  2. Check out the video, which is a splendid live recording.
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