Rikard Sjöblom’s Gungfly – Friendship – Album Review

40868881_1130628103769079_100020987935850496_n

Artist: Gungfly

Album Title: Friendship

Label: InsideOut Music

Date of Release: 9 November 2018

It takes a special kind of artist to be able to lure in listeners who are usually more comfortable in other genres. It takes an even more special musician to retain their interest and engage with them once they have taken the decision to listen. I am, of course, referring to myself here, because as the name of my website makes clear, my usual music of choice is of the heavier end of the spectrum. And, whilst I do take pleasure in ‘softer’ forms of music, experimental progressive rock isn’t where I tend to go for my aural kicks.

And yet, here I am, fully immersed in ‘Friendship’, the latest studio recording from the highly talented Swedish multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Rikard Sjöblom, under his ‘Gungfly’ moniker. Having never really been a fan of Sjöblom’s output under the Beardfish name, I felt compelled to give his new venture a try following his assimilation into the Big Big Train collective a few years ago. That’s a band that I adore and I reasoned that if Sjöblom is good enough for Big Big Train, I need to give him another go. I did and thoroughly enjoyed Sjöblom’s previous record, entitled ‘The Unbendable Sleep’, even though it was markedly more experimental and diverse that the pastoral prog rock of Big Big Train. Some might refer to it as ‘out there’.

In conclusion to my review of ‘The Unbendable Sleep’ in early 2016, I remarked:

“…I find ‘The Unbendable Sleep’ to be a rich, warm and inviting album that has the ability to delight on a number of levels. Listen superficially or listen with minute detail; either way there’s something to enjoy at every turn. As such, Rikard Sjöblom has to be commended for ‘The Unbendable Sleep’, a truly rewarding progressive rock record and a welcome addition to his ever-expanding back catalogue.”

In essence, the same could be said for ‘Friendship’ which once again is a rich, vibrant, varied and occasionally challenging record with plenty of interesting quirks. Again, Sjöblom explores musical landscapes that I’d normally turn my nose up at. And yet, somehow, I am forced to admit that I quite like the final result.

The reason for this is that Sjöblom is such a talented chap. Aside from guest assistance from Petter and Rasmus Diamant, and David Zackrisson, Sjöblom plays most of the instruments and sings on the record. But in a way, that’s not the most impressive bit. It’s his extremely adept and clever songwriting that grabs me and wins me over whatever weird and wonderful sound or technique he chooses to experiment with. The melodies might not always be immediate but they will almost certainly always get lodged in your head, popping back up when you least expect it. And, the more you listen, the more enamoured you will become with this album.

Rikard-Sjoblom

At the core of this ‘Friendship’ album that explores the ideas around the effect of time on past friendships, is a deep love of and appreciation for 70s prog rock and so throughout, you are hit with lots of synths and keyboards, mimicking the sounds of that era but also trying out more modern ideas. Sometimes the sounds are very subtle, at others they are bold and striking. Either way, they lace the compositions with an organic and warm feel, making it a welcoming experience.

I suggested earlier that ‘Friendship’ could be termed as experimental prog rock and I’d like to clarify this statement at this juncture. This album is not a bonkers avant-garde affair where Sjöblom sounds like he’s on hard drugs. More, it is an album that fused the rock core with other musical genres. As such, you get songs like ‘They Fade’, which brings with it a strong country music vibe. Now, I hate country music. Almost exclusively, I will run a mile in the opposite direction at the mere mention of the term. But this song benefits from some lovely melodies, a touch of Dire Straits-esque blues and an irresistibly nostalgic and wistful lyrical content, meaning that I really like the end product. In fact, it is one of my favourites on the album.

Then there’s the bright and breezy acoustic-led ‘A Treehouse In A Glade’ complete with hand-clapping before it veers off into other realms. I really enjoy the vibrancy within this song and the way it contains some strong Big Big Train vibes, which become ever-more apparent as time goes by.

The opening track, ‘Ghost Of Vanity’ is beautifully upbeat and vibrant song that underlines the 70s prog rock credentials nicely. Every instrument is afforded clarity within the mix, even the bass which dances fluidly throughout the length of the song. And there’s a great blend of subtlety and surprising grunt from some forthright guitar riff in places; the perfect mix as far as I’m concerned.

The best track on ‘Friendship’ however, is also the longest, namely the title track. It opens with some very striking futuristic-sounding synths whilst the bass provides the initial heartbeat, occasionally offering more than just a solid beat. As the song grows, it becomes an exuberant and effervescent instrumental piece, only to change markedly on the five-minute mark. A more solemn and reserved tone takes over, much more Pink Floyd-like thanks to an extended, poetic and rather moody lead guitar solo. There’s also a hint of neo-prog that I welcome. It takes until nearly the ninth minute before vocals emerge and when they do, they are as deep and meaningful as the music that surrounds them. As befits a song of this length, there’s a lovely, understated crescendo of sorts, where Sjöblom demonstrates his hidden vocal talents by belting out a few powerful and passionate notes.

In a similar way to its predecessor, ‘Friendship’ has managed to really capture my attention and my imagination. There are times when I want to listen to something just a little bit different, a little out of my normal comfort zone. And it seems that Rikard Sjöblom perfectly fits the bill thanks to his intelligent, warm and thoroughly engaging output under the Gungfly moniker. ‘Friendship’ sparkles, delights and intrigues in equal measure and is a wonderful listening experience from start to finish.

The Score of Much Metal: 8.5

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:

2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

Ashes of Ares – Well Of Souls
Veonity – Legend of the Starborn
Bloodbath – The Arrow Of Satan Is Drawn
Nochnoy Dozor – Nochnoy Dozor EP
Vola – Applause of a Distant Crowd
Lost In Thought – Renascence
Into Eternity – The Sirens
Fifth Angel – The Third Secret
Ashes of my Memory – Raptures /// Disillusions EP
Anathema – Internal Landscapes
Samskaras – Lithification
Seventh Dimension – The Corrupted Lullaby
Hate Eternal – Upon Desolate Sands
Witherfall – A Prelude To Sorrow
Northward – Northward
Seventh Wonder – Tiara
Warrel Dane – Shadow Work
Haken – Vector
Beyond Creation – Algorythm
Ultha – The Inextricable Wandering
Amaranthe – Helix
Ghost Ship Octavius – Delirium
Decembre Noir – Autumn Kings
The Odious Construct – Shrine of the Obscene
Fauna Timbre – Altering Echoes
The Moor – Jupiter’s Immigrants
Revocation – The Outer Ones
Riverside – Wasteland
Ethernity – The Human Race Extinction
Dynazty – Firesign
Deicide – Overtures of Blasphemy
Brainstorm – Midnight Ghost
Krisiun – Scourge of the Enthroned
Kingcrow – The Persistence
Cast The Stone – Empyrean Atrophy
Omnium Gatherum – The Burning Cold
Helion Prime – Terror of the Cybernetic Space Monster
Madder Mortem – Marrow
A Dying Planet – Facing The Incurable
Árstíðir – Nivalis
Mob Rules – Beast Reborn
The Spirit – Sounds From The Vortex
Aethereus – Absentia
Unanimated – Annihilation
Manticora – To Kill To Live To Kill
Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name
Halcyon Way – Bloody But Unbowed
Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 1
Redemption – Long Night’s Journey Into Day
Distorted Harmony – A Way Out
Tomorrow’s Eve – Mirror of Creation III – Project Ikaros
Atrocity – Okkult II
Lux Terminus – The Courage To Be
Kataklysm – Meditations
Marduk – Viktoria
Midas Fall – Evaporate
The Sea Within – The Sea Within
Haken – L-1VE
Follow The Cipher – Follow The Cipher
Spock’s Beard – Noise Floor
Ihsahn – Amr
The Fierce And The Dead – The Euphoric
Millennial Reign – The Great Divide
Subsignal – La Muerta
At The Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself
Dimmu Borgir – Eonian
Hekz – Invicta
Widow’s Peak – Graceless EP
Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik – Hugsjá
Frequency Drift – Letters to Maro
Æpoch – Awakening Inception
Crematory – Oblivion
Wallachia – Monumental Heresy
Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
MØL – Jord
Aesthesys – Achromata
Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages
Memoriam – The Silent Vigil
Kino – Radio Voltaire
Borealis – The Offering
W.E.T. – Earthrage
Auri – Auri
Purest of Pain – Solipsis
Susperia – The Lyricist
Structural Disorder – …And The Cage Crumbles In the Final Scene
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s