On Her Journey To The Sun by Rikard Sjöblom's Gungfly

Release date: May 19, 2017
Label: InsideOut Music

With Rikard Sjöblom settling into his new role as part of the current Big Big Train line-up, it seems something has had to give, and with the break up of his fantastic project Beardfish, we may have lost a great band. The music remains though, and now the outlet is through Gungfly, previously a place for his less progressive music.

Although Gungfly has related to the more pop and jazz aspects of his songwriting Rikard can never keep more progressive aspects from creeping in and On Her Journey To The Sun is chock full of little nuances and tempo changes that evoke a mix of classic Genesis and the Canterbury Sound. It’s an invigorating, and emotional, listen that pushes the boat out on what is considered modern prog, always retaining a slightly jazzier edge, just to keep you guessing.

And that is what Sjöblom does here. Not once does he stand still as the songs simply pour out at you. Starting with the gloriously proggy ‘Of The Orb’, which soon segues into the equally progressive title track, it seems there is a no holds barred approach. At times you may even feel like the kitchen sink is being thrown in.

Where the album really comes together, and it is incredible throughout, is in the superlative songwriting that signals Sjöblom out as a very special musician indeed. Highly melodic, with an ear for a good, simple hook (‘He Held An Axe’ in particular hits right in the heart), it offsets the complexity of the music on show. One minute you are moved to tears, the next he is driving all manner of changes on ‘Polymixia’, a jazz prog epic.

There’s a melancholy about Sjöblom’s songs too, which adds a sadness to the effervescent music. ‘Over My Eyes’ plays out over minor key progressions, only raising to a crescendo at key moments. Driven by a lone cello, it provides a haunting feel that seeps through the album. There is loss and grief behind the valiant front, a human whirlwind of emotion, driven by a need for release through melody. When placed alongside the more bombastic moments, the impact is powerful and raises this album to a special place. As he rages on ‘Old Demons Die Hard’, before dropping back to a teasing, questing vocal, you are left holding your breath as you try to follow the twists and turns of not just the lyrics, but the feelings too.

Whilst his day job may attract all the plaudits, Sjöblom’s Gungfly music is nothing short of remarkable and anyone with a passing interest in him should take time to explore this album. Set loose from the confines of a particular style, the music here is lively and unpredictable. Fiercely progressive, and wildly melodic, you barely have time to catch your breath before something new is thrown at you. Underpinning it all is that wonderful sense of classic songwriting though, and it is that which makes this release a contender for one of the albums of the year.

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