Rikard Sjöblom is best know as the former frontman and multi-instrumentalist for Beardfish. Beardfish were a favorite of mine so I was quite upset when they disbanded last year. Prior to that, Sjöblom released his second solo album “The Unbendable Sleep” which was more akin to his work with Beardfish than his debut solo album which was an all instrumental affair. Sjöblom also joined UK prog rockers Big Big Train.
So while Beardfish was officially over, Sjöblom was clearly not done making music. He comes back already with another release, this time under the moniker Rikard Sjöblom’s Gungfly. Gungfly was the side project that recorded the music that initially didn’t fit with Beardfish, 2 albums worth before this. Now that Beardfish is done, it’s clear that Rikard Sjöblom’s Gungfly is now the primary outlet for all of his music. And “On Her Journey To The Sun” has all of the elements that Beardfish had plus the melodic sensibility that was on his last solo album. Add in that his old Beardfish bandmate David Zackrisson is in Gungfly too and you have half the band on this album.
The first track “Of the Orb” is very much like a long lost Beardfish epic. Yes I know Beardfish was a band and yes so is Gungfly but let’s be honest, Sjöblom is the creative force behind each. His voice is very distinct as is his songwriting. There is just no mistaking that. The title track is another great track, shorter yes but proggy as well with a great keyboard solo in the middle and a great closing guitar solo.
The main thing that makes this album more inline with Beardfish is that this does feel more like a band. The songs flow really well together too. But again, there’s more of a willingness to have melody step to the fore which is the main difference here. “He Held an Axe” is a great example of that. It’s pure 70s FM radio prog. “My Hero” goes back to sounding very much like Beardfish. With awesome keys once again by Sverker Magnusson.
And if you don’t know Beardfish, you really need to! That band (and this one) have plenty of vintage Yes technicality in them, a dash of Zappa whimsy and the regal nature of Genesis. But again, that is Sjöblom because all of that does show up here as well. For as much as I did enjoy the last Beardfish album “+4626-COMFORTZONE,” it sounded labored and that is definitely not the case with “On Her Journey To The Sun.”
“Polymixia” might be my favorite track on the album. Beardfish were always great with weird, quirky instrumental epics and that’s how this track starts out. Tight playing with plenty of interplay between various guitars and keys and yes the bass as well. This track has it all including weird wordless vocals. I still consider it an instrumental though.
“Over My Eyes” is a fine acoustic based track with violin, piano and a great vocal from Sjöblom. “Old Demons Die Hard” reminds me of Yes which shows that both Sjöblom and Gungfly are capable of going from strength to strength. I just wish there wasn’t a phone ringing in the track. It drives me nuts every time I hear it. “Keith (The Son of Sun)” is another instrumental but completely different from “Polymixia” but no less great.
The album closes out with another epic in “The River of Sadness” which has a catchy chorus, while “All I Dream” is a brief peaceful outro with some spoken word on it. It winds up being the only part of the album that does nothing for me. So 2 minutes out of 75 don’t work for me. Those are great numbers and “On Her Journey To The Sun” is a great album by a very good band. I am really glad that Rikard Sjöblom still has an outlet for his considerable talent.
1. Of The Orb
2. On Her Journey To The Sun
3. He Held An Axe
4. My Hero
5. If You Fall Part 1
7. Over My Eyes
8. Old Demons Die Hard
9. Keith (The Son Of Sun)
10. The River Of Sadness
11. All A Dream