Not content with releasing one of 2015’s finest albums with Beardfish, Rikard Sjöblom begins the new year with what is arguably his first bona fide solo effort.
Both 2006’s instrumental curiosity Cyklonmannen and his two albums released as Gungfly displayed subtly eccentric shades that contrasted with his main band’s kaleidoscopic, big-screen prog. The Unbendable Sleep is equally distinctive, albeit still essentially rooted in the 70s keys and melodic songcraft that have made Sjöblom one of modern prog’s most fascinating exponents. At times introspective, at others blissfully surreal, it veers from the succinct catchiness of opener Love And War Part 1: I Am Who You Are and the elegant Will We Cry? to the 11-minute epics Rhyme And Reason and Love And War Part 2: Lucky Star. The whole cohesive piece flows at a serene pace that provides a counterpoint to Beardfish’s intrinsic complexity. Sjöblom’s arrangements are dazzling: myriad delicate layers of harmonious simplicity, topped with vocal refrains that aim for the heart and the head. It’s a compelling affair from start to finish, peaking with Under Northern Skies (Villemo’s Song), one of the Swede’s most beautiful songs.