This three-part epic musical tale from Wobbler frontman Andreas Wettergreen Prestmo has been certainly talked about in the progressive press with a fair amount of excited trepidation, verging perhaps on hype but surely a most deserving one, when taken into the proper context. A plan was put in place to unleash all three chapters separately and apace is quite an undertaking, as its is obvious that the entire Chronicle was pretty much one long and fruitful session. This second chapter was recently released in early December 2023, and is the object of this review, as I had already enjoyed the Volume 1 and eagerly await the March 2024 arrival of Volume 3.
Steering away from classic symphonic prog like Yes best expressed by Wobbler, the focus here is initially on a more medieval/pastoral take, very much in the Scandinavian tradition, a fascinating style that has a proven track record over the decades with illustrious recordings by groups such as early White Willow, Shine Dion, Nordagust and more recently, Tirill Mohn, Elds Mark, Jordsjo, Tusmorke, among many others. As befits a sonic travelogue, the album takes on a variety of horizons, with obvious winks and nods to past progressive greats, much to the adventurous listener’s pleasure.
Initialized by a serenely calm lamentation, “Over Westerwinds” sets the overall tone with seductive singing, like a veneration of subtlety and tone, drenched in fragility and innocence. Voices, flute and echoing organ create an almost divine experience.
The phenomenal beauty of “Orias & the Underwater City” hits you immediately with a melancholic vocal elegance that fits perfectly with the winterly vista emanating from my window, like a soft carpet of white snow. Laced with aquatic electronic pulsation, gentle droplets of liquid splendour that convey an eternity of images, the ambient playfulness always apparent in the arrangement.
Hinting at a classic Gentle Giant sound, both vocally as well as instrumentally, “Ocean Traveller” could have been heard, stuck between Gargantua, Panurge and Pantagruel, performed by a venerated troubadour at a torch-lit banquet with hydromel goblets filled to the brim, while spinning roasted fowl aromatize the room. Ray must be grinning from above.
Conjuring up images of haunting sirens, “Lady of Waves” sounds more like a prototypical sea shanty sung by sailors plying the North Atlantic, with the added detail of rather frisky guitar riffs skirting the sonic whitecaps, veering to the starboard at a moments notice, bouncing around at the mercy of Poseidon’s whim.
Speaking of Poseidon, Crimson adornments meet “Green Refreshments” head on, islands where a twirling flute, an insistent voice and more of the gritty Frippoid guitar coalesce in seeming manic anarchy, yet there is an overt discipline to the chaos, as the bass gallops along for the ride, mellotron cascades not lagging too far behind. Gnidrolog also comes to mind.
The crest is reached with “The Grand Reef”, a tumultuous celebration of inflamed passions expressed through a kaleidoscope of instruments as well as Prestmo’s deliriously active voice, a flute led mid-section verging on psychedelic bliss, brought inexorably to an eruptive climax as If Krakatoa had once again exploded.
The six tracks seem to all flow from the same breathtaking fjord, densely wooded and craggy rocked terrain that seemingly can withstand the natural hazards on Northern climate. Drawing up from a deep well of progressive rock inspiration, this is a dreamier option than the more established names listed above, but I have a feeling that the combined 3 volumes make up a one-of-a-kind adventure, created for those fans looking for a musical time travel to a completely different place than whatever the current scene chooses to spew. That, in itself, is well worth the interest and er…the hype.
4.5 Drakkar trios