Rikard Sjöblom – The Unbendable Sleep – Album Review

Rikard Sjöblom album

Artist: Rikard Sjöblom

Album Title: The Unbendable Sleep

Label: Gungfly Productions

Year Of Release: 2016

I must be honest from the outset and say that I have never been a big fan of Beardfish. I should be, but their particular brand of progressive music has never really clicked with me. Having admitted this, an eyebrow or two may be raised by some of you upon seeing this, a review of only the second solo album to bear the name of the Beardfish founder and multi-instrumentalist Rikard Sjöblom. At this point, I make my second admission of this review: I chose to take a listen and review this album primarily because of Sjöblom’s more recent involvement with Big Big Train. Now this is a band that has well and truly lit up my life of late and so, for that reason mainly, I was interested to hear more. As it has turned out, my decision, as perverse as it is, has paid off handsomely. I may even re-visit Beardfish to see if I’ve been too hasty.

The album is entitled ‘The Unbendable Sleep’ and sees the light of day on February 10th 2016, with a physical version available via Gungfly Productions, named after another of Sjöblom’s creative projects. After much careful listening, I’m hooked and so this record comes with a hearty recommendation from me.

Photo credit: Simon Hogg Photography

Photo credit: Simon Hogg Photography

The first thing to point out about the music on ‘The Unbendable Sleep’ is that it is extremely varied, intricate and rather quirky in places. There’s a lot going on amongst the eight songs, keeping the listen on their mettle at all times. At its heart, this is progressive rock in a classic sense and with more than a few nods towards Beardfish, but this is only the basic framework upon which sits many other diverse influences. ‘Building A tent For Astor’ has a distinctly French feel thanks to the way in which the central melody sounds; it isn’t my normal music of choice, but I find myself really liking it. The same can be said for the country rock-infused and bluesy ‘Anna-Lee’ or the Ennio Morricone-inspired, almost Western-sounding ‘Will We Cry?’ complete with a military beat. The conviction with which these songs have been crafted and performed, not to mention the strong melodies and the clever song writing, counteracts my normal apathy and/or dislike for this kind of music generally. Instead, I find myself tapping along or nodding my head in appreciation.

That said, my favourite tracks are those with a much more progressive rock vibe. ‘Love And War Part One: I Am Who You Are’ opens the album with a really nice upbeat, up-tempo folk vibe. The keys and vibrant lead guitar work lend the track a demonstrable 70s, almost feel, but the chorus melody and the passionate vocals inject a more modern-sounding element. Then there’s the acoustic guitar-led ‘Realm Of You And Me’ which canters along with a care-free breezy attitude as well as ‘Under Northern Skies (Villemo’s Song)’, which also catches the ear thanks to a great mid-track guitar solo that leads into a closing segment that I find is equal parts poignant and euphoric.

The real star of the show as far as I’m concerned however, is the sensational ‘Rhyme And Reason’. At over eleven minutes long, it has many different facets to it and maintains my rapt attention throughout. In places, it’s arguably the heaviest track on the album with moments of barely contained frustration and raw passion noticeable in Sjöblom’s vocals, something that is mirrored within the surrounding instrumentation. The composition ebbs and flows beautifully, creating a sense of drama and urgency as well as moments of quieter introspection. The chorus is one of the strongest on the album as are the melodies in general, meaning that the whole thing flies past in a flurry of brilliance.

Lyrically, I get the feeling that this is something of a personal album that has been written by Sjöblom, for Sjöblom. ‘The Unbendable Sleep’ deals with many of the most common human emotions but, as the press release comments, there’s a big focus on self-esteem and self-belief. This is something that I can, all-too-readily equate to and so I think that this has helped the album to connect and resonate so firmly with me. I’m not normally a lyrics man but when they are good, I notice and they add another dimension to the overall package.

In conclusion, 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.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.0

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:

Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

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2 thoughts on “Rikard Sjöblom – The Unbendable Sleep – Album Review

  1. Allan

    Hello Matt

    Just want to thank you for this recommendation. This is probably my album of the year so far and just ordered it on vinyl. Nice to listen to something a bit mellow after lots of heavy stuff. Think some of the keyboards on this are just fantastic and especially love tracks 2,3 and 4 though the whole album is great.

    Regards Allan

    Reply

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