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Gungfly is one of Rikard Sjöblom's side-projects, a man better known as a member of Swedish prog rockers Beardfish, and 'Lamentations' is the sophomore release for this particular venture. Credited with performing vocals, keyboards, guitars, bass and drums it appears to be somewhat of an autonomous effort, although bassist Rasmus Diamant and Petter Diamant contribute to select tracks as well as the trumpet of Maja Svedén on 'The Game'. At core, though, this is largely a solo record, written in its entirety by Sjöblom with the Diamants assisting with arrangements of the four songs on which they play. So a quick read of the press sheet, which I always find can variably help or hinder the listening experience, 'Lamentations' is largely "70s sounding yet modern progressive indie rock" with additional influences that include Foo Fighters, Them Crooked Vultures, Jethro Tull, Culpeper's Orchard, King Crimson, Opeth, early Elton John, and John Mayer. That's quite some list; the album has much to live up to! The influence of most of the aforementioned artists are actually audible in particular passages of music throughout, but I guess this is a case of press sheet hindrance as I found myself trying to spot an Opeth inspired part, or an early Elton John vibe etc. Influences aside, what Sjöblom actually offers with 'Lamentations' (an Opeth inspired title too?), is a series of subtly progressive, stylistically diverse, adeptly composed songs that adhere to both retro and modern underpinnings. I'm not sure if "progressive indie rock" is an entirely apt label to use here; I would prefer progressive alt-rock as that hints more towards what to expect. Also, don't let the album title mislead you, as lament Sjöblom does not. Use of the word "lamentations" engenders preconceptions of something more musically melancholic, just as Opeth deployed the word for their 2003 DVD, but the tracks that comprise this Gungfly release, while certainly melancholic in parts, are far more musically uplifting. Also, the songs work on a surface and depth basis - that is to say, on the surface the tracks are very catchy slices of innovative rock but there are some nice layers in the music that adds a lot of emotional depth to the songs so, on each subsequent listen, I find myself discovering new listening pleasures. That's quite an accomplishment in that Sjöblom's managed to write instantly accessible songs but, over time, a greater profundity in the music reveals itself. A perfect balance of musical innovation and aural accessibility. And his singing/playing is superlative the whole way through. The very smart digipak packaging also houses a bonus DVD which features a live performance at Spegeln in Gälve on November 13th 2009 which has been mixed, edited, and mastered by Sjöblom himself, with great audio/visual results. A short narrative that precedes the 60+ minutes of performance footage informs that Spegeln is a venue in Sjöblom's hometown where he spent much time with his friends during their later school years and is actually an old cinema that's been transformed into a café, club, and concert venue. So evidently a place of personal significance for the man it's the perfect location for him to exercise his art. Whether any overdubs have been used or not I am unsure but the music is, on the whole, performed flawlessly live and the mixture of clear, black and white, grainy, and sepia-toned footage is edited together to great effect. With a setlist that draws solely from Gungfly's 2009 debut 'Please Be Quiet', it has the dual effect of actually making me want to check out this predecessor to 'Lamentations' as the songwriting is rather good, and to get off my arse and go check out Gungfly in live action if the opportunity ever arises. The DVD also includes the official video for the track 'On and On' - cheaply shot with Sjöblom singing and playing on the back of what must be a moving truck as a tree lined road passes by, it's effective enough and a nice addition to the package. Recommended for fans of prog-rock, alt-rock or whatever you choose to label this piece of musical innovation as. Bottom-line is that here we have some most awesome songwriting that deserves to be heard by a wide audience for that is its potential appeal.
Progress Records
Review by Mark Holmes
31st May 2011
1) Bringing Down the Walls
2) White Light
3) Lamentations
4) Peace at Mind
5) The Game
6) Sleight of Hand
7) In This House
8) And She Drives Me...
9) We Will Never Leave
10) Shape of Days to Come
"...Sjöblom's managed to write instantly accessible songs but, over time, a greater profundity in the music reveals itself. A perfect balance of musical innovation and aural accessibility."