PROPHECY PRODUCTIONS, 12. SEPTEMBER 2014
Oberon's first album in 13 years. "Dream Awakening" is a journey through a diverse and imaginative musical landscape full of contrasts, emotions and mystical symbolism, blending New Artrock with Avantgarde Pop and even elements of Neofolk. More than a year in the making, the album is conceptually characterized by the image of the Phoenix and tells the story of the soul's path towards awakening - of man's struggle to gain self-knowledge.
LORDS OF METAL
A new Oberon album? That is quite a surprise! Once we bought the self-titled debut album (actually a MCD), being one of the first issues of Prophecy Productions. The reason for that was the beautiful song ‘L.I.T.L.O.T.W.’ which stands for ‘Love Is The Light Of The World’. In this title you already notice the spiritual, mystic approach of life by the moving spirit of this outfit: the Norwegian Bard ‘Oberon’ Titlestad. After that another two albums were released by himself: ‘Mysteries’ (1998) and ‘Anthem’ (2001) on which he chose more and more the path of experimental ambient. Years of silence followed, dedicated to personal development. This inner search towards higher consciousness lasted until Christmas 2011. At that moment Oberon started the preproduction of what would turn into ‘Dream Awakening’. Of course, before that some ideas had been merged into songs. It is the reflection of the personality of this musician in all its facets, a seemingly sober record that shows so much depth that we are silenced by it.
The image of the phoenix, rising from the ashes, symbolizes the conceptual theme of ‘Dream Awakening’. It deals with the path of the soul on its way to the grand awakening, or even enlightening. Without being stuck in a naïve hippie feel or unworldly vague thoughts, Bard puts the finger on the wounds of our society. These keen visions are expressed in poetic words. More than once we just write them down while listening to enjoy the beauty of it. Consequently the result of this thinker has led to an album that brims with purified maturity, musical as well as lyrical, yet at the same time it is ultimate genuine and pure. Not restricted by earthly concerns and that is exceptional.
The album begins introvert and thoughtful with ‘Empty And Marvellous’: a man with a sonorous voice and his acoustic guitar. But do not fear: this will not be another stuffy acoustic plea. There we have the electrified ‘Escape’ as second track with all its Pink Floyd-ish beauty! This is soaring atmospheric music with delicious contemplations and soon it passes into an amalgamation of heavy guitars with momentum, with a marvellous instrumental part as result. Then Bard presents himself mainly as proper singer-songwriter in the next four songs. With acoustic guitar and piano/keyboards he really charms us during ‘In Dreams We Never Die’ and ‘Flight Of Aeons’. But surely the title track and ‘Dark World’ give us goose-bumps. ‘Dark World’ goes until the bone in its melancholic darkness, with a menacing gloomy choir to emphasize the drama of this matter. Concerning the title track I just suggest to listen to the first three sentences… when it does not send shivers down your spine, my words are not meant for you. The contemplative atmosphere promptly changes in ‘I Can Touch The Sun With My Heart’: an up tempo rock song that has the potential to hit the charts, due to its catchiness and fetching melody lines. Yet the artist adds the dark choir in it as well as a magnificent glissando guitar solo. The cosmos: that is another topic close to the heart of Bard. During ‘Phoenix’ a feeling of resurrection is not that far away indeed. It almost sounds prophetic with its amazing poetry. The dreamy ‘Secret Flyer’ is catchy too and goes from acoustic to electric with loads of… here we go again… Pink Floyd-ish guitar sounds. This is a very spiritual album, serene, with pumping bass lines in ‘Machines That Dream’ and an eclectic performance of the emptiness of material things, even though they might be helpful from time to time. ‘Age Of The Moon’ is swinging rock, with orchestration and special sounds towards a climax. Finally it ends with introvert moments as passport to a better world. More than ever this is very actual as a matter of fact… Let this music soften the blow and let it make you sink into reveries.
It’s a bit of a cop out on my part maybe, but the description that accompanies this eleven track journey captures the experience. “Dream Awakening” is presented as a “diverse and imaginative music landscape with contrasting emotions musical symbolism, blending New Art rock with Avant Garde pop and even Neofolk”. The album is characterised by the image of the rising Phoenix, as the story captures the soul’s path towards awakening and man’s struggle to gain self-knowledge. If that sounds heavy going, let me tell you – it isn’t.
This is a remarkable album. From the beginning a crystal clear voice is the medium through which thoughts are expressed. For much of the album there’s a soft and simple acoustic guitar which acts as the framework for the air of self-doubt and melancholy. The voice and music are haunting. What is particularly remarkable is that every track conveys a message which is in perfect musical and vocal harmony. It can be very dark. “It’s a sobering thought that all flowers die, all men will grow old” pronounces the vocalist on “Dark World”. Yet through all this melancholy there is beauty of form and the quiet air contains cosmic majesty. Occasionally it steps up and rises. Stylistically there’s so much that I’m reminded of here. I hear Noel Harrison’s “Windmills of My Mind”, a bit of John Bassett, Cynthesis in the fluid rhythmic melancholy, Anathema in the darkness and on “I Can Touch the Sun with My Heart”, the sinister melodic power of Katatonia. But most of all I hear Dark Suns and Porcupine Tree. The vocalist has the innocent sound of Steven Wilson but there is the same richness and depth in the message. Oberon play gently with sounds but it’s so well packaged and structured that it may be eleven separate pieces but this is one gripping story, which takes us through transforming stages of self-doubt and emotions. From the opening “Empty and Marvellous”, every song has devastating impact. Its gentleness never goes away but is enhanced by the sound effects representing cosmic ecstasy on “We Never Die”. There’s darkness but this is about dreams and aspirations. “We are the flickering thoughts of the cosmos” is a line from “Phoenix” but it’s ultimately very human with the music and words merging into a reflective summer’s breeze. “Machines that Dream” is shatteringly beautiful. “Age of the Moon” ends wispily. These are dreams and reflections, but dreams with which one can identify and in which one can become totally absorbed.
This album is worthy of Porcupine Tree, Katatonia and the other bands mentioned. I now know that its author Bard Oberon has been creating mystical visions for 20 years, so such comparisons are perhaps invalid. What I also know is that I must delve further into his artistic world, such is the quality and spine-tingling ambiance of “Dream Awakening”. This album has a simplicity but above all it is the perfect fusion of developing thoughts and music, resulting in a work of immense impact.
(9/10 Andrew Doherty)
Some bands are just masters of shrouding themselves in mystique. The creation of one Bard Oberon, Norway’s Oberon began as early as 1994 as one of Prophecy Record’s first outputs, with their own brand of esoteric and dark, multiple influenced music. 1998 saw the band’s second full length Mysteries before Bard began his own musical journey, transcending different sonic landscapes under a different moniker; Future Whirl. Now Oberon returns with their latest effort,Dream Awakening (Prophecy).
Like much of the work Oberon is associated with over the years, Dream Awakening has its roots in atmospheric folk with enough tints of the experimental to catch the attention of the prog foray.Dream Awakening ventures very little distance from its predecessors, mostly built upon folk’s clean acoustic guitars and soaring vocals and a near haunting tone. The palette is broadened here however with some electric, energetic moments, ‘Escape’, for example, comes across like a cross between Opeth and The Pineapple Thief yet never feels out of place.
Oberon’s strength has always been his conjuring of atmosphere and here is no different; invoking contrasting moods and tones throughout offering both the brooding and gloomy as well as a sense of uplifting.
A cryptic presence in the more thought provoking musical realms, Oberon’s latest effort has enough character and qualities which will appeal to both the prog audience and the extreme metal crowd who worship the likes of Alcest and Les Discrets. An earthy album caped in whimsy and mystery.