Review Summary: An emotional journey to catharsis.
Is it possible for a classic album to exist in today’s music? Something that will stand the test of time and be revered by more than a select few, 20 years from now? I have to admit that I’m not very optimistic, and that doesn’t have to do with the quality of music per se, but more with the circumstances surrounding the music business. Uli Jon Roth, one of the people who wrote the “How to be true guitar hero” manual, in an interview a few years back, stated the obvious: it is impossible for albums like Led Zeppelin IV
, Machine Head
or In Trance
to exist today; not because kids lack the talent, but because there is no monetary incentive. Yes, “the love of music should be enough”, but guess what, it’s not. It’s not enough when your stomach is the loudest instrument in the room and music does not constitute a realistic gateway to a brighter future.
That being said, Wobbler’s fifth LP has classic value written all over it. Or to put it in another way: if Dwellers of the Deep
had been released 45-50 years ago, today it would be at least an obscure gem.
It’s hard to wrap my mind around how a group of young-ish dudes dared to even try and release a symphonic prog rock album that could stare into the sun and not get burned. It goes without saying, that the Norwegians are apt students of the genre, but that’s not enough. They are amazing players who can perform at the highest level and still, it’s not enough, as music schools are filled with talented individuals who can perform at a robotic level.
And the funny thing is that this is not the first time these guys are doing it, From Silence to Somewhere
was equally mind-boggling.
Dwellers of the Deep
is as demanding as it is effortless. Demanding, because you really have to immerse yourself to fully enjoy it, but at the same time, it flows so effortlessly. Its bookends are 14 and 19 minutes long, but somehow it doesn’t matter, as they seem to fly. This is some glorious ‘70s-inspired symphonic prog that brings to mind the likes of Genesis, Camel, Van der Graaf Generator, and Gentle Giant. Compared with the Norwegians’ previous efforts, their fifth release feels a bit more complex and dense, leaning more towards Yes’ Relayer
rather than King Crimson, something which makes you discover nuances with each listen. Speaking of Yes, you will definitely enjoy some sweet audible Rickenbacker bass playing on here which contributes to the warm, pastoral sound.
One important aspect of Wobbler’s music is that the transitions between various parts make sense, they sound natural. Check the 9:30 mark of “By the Banks”, for example, where the track slows down to enjoy an atmospheric passage before it picks-up again two and a half minutes later. Those passages are fundamental to Dwellers of the Deep
, as they allow the music to breath and create much-needed dynamics, not only during songs but also between them. Take, for example, “Five Rooms” and “Naiad Dreams”. The former is quite energetic, while the latter relaxes the listener with its acoustic guitar and serves as a nice passage for the album’s most ambitious suite, “Merry Macabre”. In its 19 minutes, it creates a roller coaster of emotions and serves as a cathartic finish to an introspective journey.
Going back to the opening question of this review, the answer seems to lean towards “yes”, but with one important asterisk. As far as quality is concerned, today’s bands can release a classic album. However, what has changed is everything surrounding the music itself, including us, the listeners, and the time we’re willing to dedicate to actually experience music, rather than just consume it. If you allow yourself to immerse in Dwellers of the Deep
, you will enjoy what is one of the best rock LPs of 2020.