Published on 14th August 2017
Gentle Knife – Clock Unwound
Norwegian progressive rock collective Gentle Knife return with Clock Unwound, the follow-up to their self-titled debut released in 2015. This currently eleven strong ensemble have made some slight changes to their line-up since the first album with Melina Oz, Ole Michael Bjørndal and Astrid Lenvik leaving, to be replaced by Charlotte Valstad Nielsen and Veronika Hørven Jensen.
Gentle Knife’s sound does take its influence from the classic era of progressive rock, but they have managed to attach a modern feel to it. There are a lot of influences here; you may hear some early King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Yes and even some Caravan, all tied up with touches of symphonic and melodic prog, hard rock with at times some prog metal elements, Scandinavian folk music, plus a bit of jazz thrown in. It is a heady mix to be sure, but one that does seems to work.
The main theme of this release is described by the band as, “The relentless passage of time” which “delves into lives overshadowed by longing and disappointment”. The songs have an epic feel to them and all flow well from start to finish, each track diverse and varied, providing an easy and comfortable listen. Despite its fifty five minute running time, it appears over too soon.
There are six tracks, the centre piece being title track The Clock Unwound which comes in at just under sixteen minutes, preceded by the soft lament Prelude: Incipit, piano soon joined by a clear and somewhat soulful trumpet. Both instruments take the song slowly to its mournful conclusion before a savage guitar cuts through, introducing us to the title track which is a more up tempo affair. It has a symphonic prog metal feel to start which gives way to some great keyboards, reminiscent of Rick Wakeman at his best. The song shifts and evolves as the vocals join in; here for me the female vocals appear a little at odds to the music, at times not sitting well with the melody, but this appears to be intentional and doesn’t overly detract from the enjoyment of the song. The addition of flute and saxophone help to take it to another level, creating a melodic feel which is cut with riffing from the guitar.
Fade Away has a gentle start, but the guitar and rhythm section give it a harder edge before washes of great flute add a lightness to the proceedings. At times there is a jazzy feel to the song, which continues into Smother with saxophone laying down a great groove, the vocals having a Caravan/Canterbury style to them. On Plans Askew we are presented with a guitar picked opening, similar to something you might expect to hear from Steve Howe. There is some fine bass work, accompanied by drums throughout the track, with flute and guitar creating some beautiful moments.
The final track, Resignation, has a slow build up, again the contribution from bass and drums is excellent in setting up and driving the song as keyboards and create atmosphere. The pace increases as the vocals appear, presented as spoken word rather than sung, dealing with the process of giving up on things. A mournful saxophone joins in, developing a jazzy edge as it takes the song to a satisfying conclusion.
Overall, this is a very satisfying album which holds together and flows well with an epic feel at times. The use of the flute and brass gives it an added dimension and there is a classic seventies feel here but given a more modern touch. It’s not ground breaking stuff but a very good effort, the band showing progression, development and maturity on this second release. It will be interesting to see where they go from here.
01. Prelude: Incipit (3:21)
02. The Clock Unwound (15:56)
03. Fade Away (7:23)
04. Smother (8:48)
05. Plans Askew (9:21)
06. Resignation (10:16)
Total Time – 55:05
Astraea Antal – Flutes, Bagpipe Chanter, Alto Saxophone
Pål Bjørseth – Keyboards, Flugelhorn, Trumpet, Alto Recorder, Backing Vocals
Odd Grønvold – Bass
Thomas Hylland Eriksen – Tenor Saxophone
Veronika Hørven Jensen – Vocals
Håkon Kavli – Vocals, Guitar
Eivind Lorentzen – Guitars, Synths
Charlotte Valstad Nielsen – Alto & Baritone Saxophone
Ove Christian Owe – Guitars
Ole Martin Svendsen – Drums, Percussion
Brian M. Talgo – Mellotron, Samples, Vocals
Record Label: Bajkal Records
Country of Origin: Norway
Date of Release: 15th June 2017