Sweden’s multi instrumentalist Rikard Sjoblom has made quite the name for himself over the past decade with his band Beardfish, rising to rather high echelons of the modern progressive rock scene before calling it quits last year. Not one to sit on his laurels, he soon got to work on solo material under the moniker of Gungfly (Swedish for “unsecured ground”). Sjoblom had previously released material under the name in 2009, and then again last year. This year’s ‘On Her Journey to the Sun’ marks the third release under the Gungfly name, and it is likely to please fans across the genre.
Bringing together a barrage of gifted musicians to work with him (including Beardfish guitarist David Zackrisson), the band begins the album in great flair with “Of the Orb.” The song is classic Sjoblom, meaning it’s very heavy on keys, and very much of the 70s vein of prog. Unsurprisingly it’s also very reminiscent of his material with Beardfish. An honest confession, I’ve never been a big fan of Beardfish, thinking the music is a bit too much of the 1970s; vintage is fine, but I prefer modern bands to branch out a bit more and do something new. I’m not sure if anything on here is newer, but I like it a lot more than I do any Beardfish record. And “Of the Orb” is an especially good start to an album. After a quiet ambient spoken word opening saying “this is all a dream” it grabs the listener by both ears with the tasty, swirling key work, and crunchy guitars as well. The lyrics are also deeply personal, dealing with loss, a topic Sjoblom has written much on due his own personal tragedies, but with the lines “I would have died for you, why couldn’t I die instead of you?” sung with the emotion he puts into them are simply chilling. Frankly if you’re not moved in some way by his performance on this track I’d question if you were human.
The rest of the album moves along swiftly and pleasantly with a nice mix of prog and jazz as well. The vocals are very good throughout, and the playing tight. That being said, my favorite piece on the album (aside from the opening track) is the 11 minute instrumental “Polymixia” which allows the whole band to stretch out and play. Besides Sjoblom on keys (and also guitar) the band has two additional keyboardists Sverker Magnusson
The album continues in a somewhat calmer fashion with “Over my Eyes” and “Keith (The Son of Sun)” before picking back up with the final throat grabbing track, a guitar driven (which is not to say the keys take a back seat, but the guitar is more present) “The River of Sadness.” At just over 12 minutes it’s the longest track on the album and musically sums up the album as a whole. Vintage prog, with flashes of tightly played jazz, all topped with the impassioned vocals of Sjoblom which ties it all together. Like the rest of the album, the song doesn’t break any real new ground, either in the overall sound, or prog in general. But it is well executed and, above all, fun and exciting to listen to, and the vocal melody is catchy enough to get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. The album closes the way it began with “All a Dream,” ambient music with spoken word ending with “this is all a dream,” a fitting bookend that ends the album nicely.
With ‘On Her Journey to the Sun,’ Rikard Sjoblom’s Gungfly have put out a fine example of progressive rock, with strong vintage 70s sounds. It’s an often emotional and stirring journey, accompanied by vibrant and lush keyboard work and solid, tight playing by all the musicians involved. It is sure to please fans of his previous band Beardfish and fans of classic 70s progressive rock in general. Recommended.