The Chronicles Of Father Robin – The Songs & Tales Of Airoea – Books I, II & III (Album Review)

Review of The Chronicles Of Father Robin – The Songs & Tales Of Airoea – Books I, II & III

by Bob Keeley

The Chronicles of Father Robin (TCOFR) has a long legacy. Back in the early 90s, members of the band Fangorn got together with the idea of writing and recording a set of albums about a fictional Father Robin, the namesake of the band. They started recording these albums in 1997 by making recordings in a friend’s garage. Along the way, they remained friends while being involved in other bands, like Wobbler, Jordsjø, Tusmørke and The Samuel Jackson Fiv, and continued working on the Father Robin work, The Songs and Tales of Airoea. The first two parts of The Songs and Tales of Airoea were released in September and December of 2023 and with the new Book 3: Magical Chronicle (Ascension), the story of Father Robin (a metaphor for the members of the band) reaches its conclusion. The music on all three evoke classic, almost stereotypical prog lyrical tropes but the band delivers them without a touch of irony and, before you know it, you’re drawn into this strange (and sometimes hard-to-follow) story. (Come to think of it, that, too, is a classic prog trope.)

Book 1 (State of Nature) introduces us to the character of Father Robin and after two one-minute intro tracks, the first of which is nature sounds and the second introduces us to Father Robin as we dive into four longer songs that tell the first part of the story. Book 2 (Metamorphosis) takes us under the water with Father Robin as his journey in Airoea continues. Finally, Book 3 (Ascension) brings us to the sky. All three albums are single vinyl length with the longest, Book 1, clocking in at about 46 minutes and the shortest, Book 3 at 34 minutes. The general sound of all three albums is somewhat similar, not surprising since they’ve all come out within six months of each other and were conceived to be one story, but there is some good variety on each album and it seems that as the setting changes from the forest to the sea to the sky the general tone of the music also undergoes a subtle shift as well.

For example, on Book 1, “Eleision Forest” is quite heavy with organ and guitars. “Unicorn,” on the other hand, is a much lighter songs with a non-distorted guitar figure and flute leading the way building to an intense and heavy conclusion to both the song and the album. The musical heritage of The Chronicles of Father Robin is easy to hear on all three discs. Early prog influences, specifically Yes, Jethro Tull, and Gentle Giant, are easy to pick out. The vocals from Wobbler’s Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo have a classic prog sound to them, singing in Jon Anderson’s register. Aside from the two very short songs that open this album, the rest of the songs are among the longest in the trilogy, with two of them well over the ten-minute mark.

Book 2 (Metamorphosis) opens with the beautiful “Over Westwinds” and as it moves into the next track, “Orias and the Underwater City,” it does a nice job of evoking the water and the gentle wash of waves and tides. As the traveler nears the city, the music becomes more mechanized with what sounds like a sequencer driven rhythmic pulse taking the music to a new place. Still, they never lose the natural sounds of the main character. Overall, Book 2 is more immediately accessible than Book 1, with shorter songs, fewer jams and a somewhat lighter tone. The bass work of Jon André Nilsen (from The Few) is noteworthy, especially in track 5, “Green Refreshments.”

This brings us to the latest installment, Book 3 (Ascension,) where Father Robin takes to the sky. TCOFR does a remarkable job of again, adjusting the music to take us to a new setting. While they never lose their particular sound, there is more space in the music as Father Robin ascends. In “Skyslumber,” the guitar of Thomas Hagen Kaldhol (The Samuel Jackson Five) comes to the front with a delicate and intricate musical figure. Kaldhol is not a shredder. Rather, he uses the guitar to lay a foundation for the melody and the other instruments. It is quite delightful. Every time “Cloudship,” the third track, comes on I am reminded of Yes’ “Your Move.” The acoustic guitar and the high harmonies would be right at home on The Yes Album but it is not a copy or a rip-off, rather it is a unique song that really evokes the spirit of that aspect of Yes and of the story of Father Robin in the sky.

While the three albums of The Songs and Tales of Airoea are clearly meant to be one story and one artistic statement, each album also stands alone as unique and interesting albums. The Chronicles of Father Robin, the band, was formed to make this set of three albums. I hope they continue to look for new inspiration, perhaps more adventures in Airoea. And I hope it doesn’t take them decades to get there. It may take you multiple listenings to learn to hear what TCOFR have done with these releases but it is worth the effort. It really is a fine set of albums.

Released on Karisma Records / Old Oak Records

Book 1 – out now.
1. Prologue (1:06)
2. The Tale of Father Robin (1:16)
3. Eleision Forest (11:57)
4. The Death of the Fair Maiden (8:03)
5. Twilight Fields (15:24)
6. Unicorn (8:29)

Book II – out now.
1. Over Westwinds (3:59)
2. Orias & the Underwater City (8:37)
3. Ocean Traveller (6:22)
4. Lady of Waves (5:38)
5. Green Refreshments (7:09)
6. The Grand Reef (7:25)

Book III – out on Feb 23rd.
1. Magical Chronicle (6:09)
2. Skyslumber (7:26)
3. Cloudship (6:57)
4. Empress of the Sun (4:47)
5. Lost in the Palace Gardens (7:58)
6. The Great Storm (1:04)

Total Time 34:21

Line-up / Musicians
– Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo / vocals, guitars, bass, synth, organ, glockenspiel, percussion
– Henrik Harmer / drums & percussion, synth, backing vocals
– Regin Meyer / flute, organ, piano, backing vocals
– Jon Andre Nilsen / bass, backing vocals
– Thomas Hagen Kaldhol / guitars, mandolin, electronics & sound effects, backing vocals
– Aleksandra Morozova / vocals

– Lars Fredrik Frøislie / keyboards, organ, Mellotron, piano, synth
– Kristoffer Momrak / synth
– Håkon Oftung / organ, clavinet, Mellotron, strings, electric piano, synth

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