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EINAR SOLBERG – 16 (2023)

Prog magazine’s vocalist of the year and the lead singer of LEPRUS released his first album in 2023. It remains true to the spirit of his band’s music in “realising that life is serious and bad shit can happen.” And there certainly is an intense and poignant visceral edge to the music; Solberg’s fabulous vocal range helps greatly in conveying a range of emotions, of course. The album is in fact a collaboration with cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne.

The temptation is always to move in a more ‘pop’ direction for progressive musicians who often have to supplement their income with side projects, but the most pop-oriented song here, ‘A Beautiful Life’ has no hint of compromise about it, just a darned good song. Before it, ‘Remember Me’ is the epitome of bare emotion. ‘Where All the Twigs Broke’ is a piano-led semi-classical beauty. ‘Metacognitive’ is one of the most heartrending cries for help (“Get me out of here”) I have heard since ATOMIC ROOSTER’s ‘Banstead’. ‘Home’ features a little rap which works well within the context.

The second half of the album is equally effective: ‘Blue Light’ features Asger Mygind, vocalist and guitarist with the Danish progressive metal band VOLA. Sonic artist Magnus Børwick joins in for ‘Grotto’, the one with commercial potential. You know there is going to be a change into doomy territory when Vegard Sverre Tveitan (Insahn) of black metal band EMPEROR enters the fray on ‘Splitting the Soul’ which is a cleverly concocted combination of electronica, growling, howling winds and haunting synths. On ‘Over the Top’ the artist’s soul is once again bared, with sparse piano chords “Holy water cannot save you from yourself”; making an anthem about wasting one’s life away and living a life of shame to a subdued cello accompaniment is no mean achievement. ‘The Glass is Empty’ ends the album in epic style, 11-minutes long, the most progressive and sophisticated piece. with mellotron and orchestral arrangements and a role for Tóti Guðnason, Icelandic film music writer and guitarist and a sing-along chorus in the middle, perhaps? Einar Solberg’s heartbreaking cry is primal.

The choir boy vocal allied to a stunning vocal range, well-conceived and executed arrangements of songs that convey deep emotions, this music will appeal to fans of STEVEN WILSON, MARILLION (Steve Rothery inevitably springs to mind) and CARPTREE and various other cathartic melodic progressive artists. “16” is very impressive indeed.

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