Rikard Sjöblom is a busy bloke. Besides working with Big Big Train and touring as support for The Flower Kings, he has his own project in place with the highly impressive Gungfly. He made his mark in the prog world with Beardfish, who became something of a legendary cult prog-band, if that’s possible. One of the criticisms aimed at them was that they were something of a retro-prog band, just using the sounds and approach of the 1970’s prog bands from what is viewed by many as prog’s golden age.
Alone Together proves that you can take those prog sounds and make them as vital and exciting as they have ever been. The album sounds fresh and vibrant, sumptuous and highly melodic. Alone Together sees Gungfly recording as a trio, with brothers and previous collaborators Petter and Rasmus Diamant on drums and bass respectively. Rikard says; “it was a lot of fun playing both keyboards and guitar because I had come up with a lot of nice parts but I knew early on that I wanted to make the album with the brothers on drums and bass – luckily they were very up for it!” This power-prog-trio have focussed on the rock this time, and you can hear that loud and clear: “I didn’t want to smother the production with layers upon layers of keyboards and bells and whistles but instead tried to keep it prog rock with the focus on rock. I wanted every instrument to mean something in the mix,” adds Rikard
Rather than being retrospective then, you have the feeling that this is more of a paean to progressive rock. Sometimes this is quite subtle, at others quite openly so, as in the tribute to Frank Zappa on On The Shoulders Of Giants, and the others that inspired Rikard over the years. The results are often sumptuous. The opening Traveler has great interplay between the musicians, whilst the title track shows how important achieving the right instrumental tones can be. That is a facet throughout the album though. Not just the playing of the three musicians, which is superb, but the tone of the instruments. The Hammond organ sounds magnificent, and the guitar work is excellent. The rhythm section of the Diamant brothers are great foils for Rikard, besides being sublime musicians themselves and they are allowed the space in the mix to shine.
There’s more to the musical influences than prog though. On From Afar things become a little singer-song writer-ish, whilst keener ears might here a touch of soul here and there. “I’m a big prog fan and I’ve always been proud of being a part of this scene, says Sjöblom, “but I can sometimes feel that I was sort of shoe-horned into it, since a lot of my music isn’t prog, really…but on the other hand it kind of fits nicely with the eclectic prog label.”
There’s some lyrical depth to the album too. You might read the current state of the covid hit world into the album’s title, but its meaning comes from Rikard “being sick of the sugar-coated reality of social media where we think everyone else is living fuller and happier lives than ourselves just because they happen to post a happy picture whenever they do something. The phrase ‘Alone Together’ came to me when I was writing lyrics for the title track, but in the song of the same name it’s used in a different context. It’s written from the perspective of a parent whose child is in a psychiatric ward because she’s lost contact with reality” – something which you could argue that social media is also guilty of.
Inspiration also came from the art work that would become the album’s cover picture. It was these themes that led him to the evocative work of US painter Kevin Sloan, whose piece ‘All the martyrs and saints’ can be seen on the cover of the album. “I had just written lyrics for the song ‘From Afar’ and was looking at Kevin’s paintings when I came across this one and I couldn’t believe the connection, particularly the lyric “A million eyes watching glimpses of each other’s lives”.
This, then, is an excellent multifaceted album of high quality progressive rock. The three musicians work together exceptionally well and each has the opportunity to shine. The writing standard is equally high with the lyrics thoughtful and thought provoking. It is good to hear a band not only on the top of their form but leaving the listener with great expectations for what might follow.
1. Traveler (13:04)
2. Happy Somewhere In Between (06:19)
3. Clean as a Whistle (06:24)
4. Alone Together (09:35)
5. From Afar (02:46)
6. On the Shoulders of Giants (14:50)
7. Grove Thoughts (03:25)
8. Shoulder Variations (05:23)
Rikard Sjöblom – Vocals, Guitar, Keys
Petter Diamant – Drums
Rasmus Diamant – Bass
Ltd. CD Digipak, Gatefold black LP+CD, Digital Album
Release date: 4th September 2020
Label: InsideOut Music