Progressive rock speaks to us directly, intensely, profoundly; it elicits all manner of feelings, evokes a gamut of passions and emotions and forces to the surface thoughts and ideas which startle and surprise. It takes hold of us, resonates and reverberates within us and becomes infused into the deepest levels of who we are and what we do. Progressive rock becomes a way of thinking and a way of living in the world, a beacon and a guide in our journey through life.
Lighthouse is the debut album from 4-piece Norwegian band Oak. It embodies and expresses an enduring and heart-felt belief in the inherent value of music to be both an intimate companion and an illuminating presence in the lives we live. The music is searchingly reflective, gently poignant and captivatingly intelligent. The songs draw on and are inspired by the deeply personal dreams, experiences, events and journeys of the members of the band.
Although not a concept album per se, these musical musings powerfully convey a series of casually related yet intensely focused contemplative explorations into various aspects of life, memories and the on-going struggle to make sense of it all. In this respect the song titles are quite revealing of events, episodes and moments captured in memories, whilst the existence of a Prelude (Track 1), two Interludes (Tracks 6 and 9) and a Postludium (Track 12) are suggestive of some kind of structure and a sense of progression.
Yet it would be a mistake to believe these designate a set of fixed points within a definitive plan or map of where the album is taking us. Rather, it is better to approach Lighthouse with the feeling that you are dipping your toes into a river which has been flowing long before the music begins and will continue long after the last track has played. These are more like collections in a scrapbook, pictures in an album, all loosely arranged but nevertheless having an order and significance which give them meaning and purpose.
The emotional energy of the music is catchy, infectious and completely embracing. The album exudes a charismatic atmosphere and enveloping ambience which struggles throughout with shifting moods, turbulent feelings and the intensity of raw passions. The journey on which we are taken is certainly melancholic in character but that doesn’t blunt the sheer diversity of musical expression which moves from haunting depression through to contended nostalgia to happy optimism and joyful exuberance.
The penetrating distinctiveness of the writing lies precisely in the unique ability the band has managed to forge in seamlessly blending these emotional landscapes and using the full range of musical styles to express the complexity and the profoundness of each moment to capture so richly the nuances and delicacies of life. In beauty lies suffering, in happiness lies pain; and the opposite is equally true. In our hours of darkness and despair, a light can emerge, peace pierces the maelstrom of emotions, happiness bursts through sorrow and anguish.
The brilliance of this album lies in the recognition that life is neither one thing nor another, but a perpetual fusion and mixture of all sorts of feelings, experiences, thoughts and emotions. The music captures and reflects this struggle with a dynamism and clarity which makes this feel alive, vital, a dance which you are invited to join and enjoy, for better and for worse. The normally upbeat instrumental foundations fashion impressively tight, rhythmical, energetic landscapes as the vehicle for the highly melodic and layered vocal harmonies which deliver poetic and articulate lyrics imbued with sentiment, insight and perceptive comment.
Lighthouse has a unique and gently distinctive character, one which, to my mind, is affably and affectionately endearing. It has the feel of good friends getting together to share, discuss and reflect on things which perplex or matter to them and do so in a way which is honest, expressive, passionate and appealing. That is what good friends allow us to do and it is a pleasure to sit down with this album and be allowed to reflect and muse with them along the way.
This review first appeared for The Progressive Aspect
1 Prelude (1:13)
2 Home (5:15)
3 Perceiving Red (6:24)
4 Munich (4:32)
5 Stars Under Water (5:22)
6 Interlude I (1:17)
7 The Sea (8:35)
8 Fire, Walk With Me! (6:20)
9 Interlude II (0:56)
10 Where Did The Summer Go (3:12)
11 Lighthouse (4:47)
12 Postludium – Walk Of Atonement (4:02)
Ole Michael Bjørndal – Guitar
Simen Valldal Johannessen – Lead Vocals, Keyboards
Sigbjørn Reiakvam – Drums, Percussion
Øystein Sootholtet – Bass Guitar
With appearances by
Steinar Refsdal – Saxophone
Bjørn Riis – Lead Guitar
Henrik Skjervum – Guitar
Label: Apollon Records
10th June 2016
Format: CD, Vinyl