PER WIBERG - The Serpent’s Here 2023
Swedish multi-instrumentalist PER WIBERG will release his brilliant new solo offering, The Serpent’s Here, via Despotz Records on February 9 2024
As an unrivaled musical alchemist, WIBERG‘s work has illuminated an array of now-classic albums over the years performing with the likes of Opeth, Spiritual Beggars, and Candlemass, as well as Clutch/The Bakerton Group, Switchblade, and Kamchatka, among others, for over thirty years. However, it’s WIBERG‘s solo conjurings that serve as the zenith of his musical voyages.
In 2019, WIBERG released his debut solo offering Head Without Eyes. A record of Nordic prog submerged in a gnawing stew of jolting guitar notes and emotive melodies, WIBERG’s debut laid bare an unexplored sonic landscape that surpassed the successes of his past and solidified his strong presence as a unique solo artist in his own right. Wrote Louder Than War, “Dark and sinister... The combination of the discordant and the harmonic, the sparse and the monolithic… is impossible to defy. Sit back, relax and allow yourself to be consumed.” Everything Is Noise concurred, noting, “[It’s] quite a ride, whether you blast it on your car stereo or enjoy the haunting tales of dark places on good headphones with some Scotch at hand. This head WIBERG sings of might lack some eyes, however, we can quite easily see his first solo album is nothing self-indulgent or overpolished, but a genuine slab of solid music.”
Wiberg followed Head Without Eyes with his equally stunning 2021-released All Is Well In The Land Of The Living, But For The Rest Of Us… Lights Out EP, a compelling celebration of innovative rock at its finest. Expanding and further evolving his vision, WIBERG expertly composed the definitive and established paradigms of traditional progressive rock with spirited and electrifying twists of dark tone. The Metal Observer hailed, “a great EP that serves as a fitting soundtrack to these strange, dark times,” adding, “its thick, otherworldly atmospheres represent a gloriously dark and hallucinated take on Scandinavian prog that weaves together WIBERG’s many musical influences and takes them to the next level of dark melodic exploration.” Treble gushed, “It’s less than a half-hour in length, but it’s a record that feels massive in scope, bridging together sounds of doom and progressive metal, folk and gothic rock into a sonic mixture that carries on the musical legacy he’s created with his other bands, but also takes it that much further into new musical terrain.”
This year’s The Serpent’s Here continues WIBERG’s innovative trajectory boasting six consuming tracks, plus a fantastically gloomy rendition of Warrior Soul’s “The Losers,” that are at once grim and surreal; airy yet ominous. WIBERG paints vivid sound tapestries with his clever sense of dynamics and thoughtful lyricism. Each song moves with alluring subtlety and suspense, not unlike the conventions of classic film noir. And while WIBERG strays far from the traditional musical constructs, there’s an inescapable melodicism and intrinsic catchiness to his output that makes even his most experimental conjurings seamlessly accessible.
“The music has a strong familiar identity I’d say,” notes WIBERG, “It’s heavy in its tone but this time a little braver, uptempo, loose, and ‘rock’n’roll’ compared to the previous two albums. Overall, this is the most epic sounding of my stuff so far. Things are more defined. I worked hard with lyrics and vocal arrangements this time.”
On The Serpent’s Here, WIBERG is joined by drummer Tor Sjödén (Viagra Boys) who played drums on the previous EP, as well as bassist Mikael Tuominen (Kungens Män). Basic live tracks (drums, basses, grand piano) were recorded at Studio Gröndahl by David Castillo and, as with previous releases, the record was mixed and mastered by Jonas Kjellgren at Blacklounge Studios.
“All songs are built from rough song sketches that I showed Tor and Mikael,” elaborates WIBERG of The Serpent’s Here’s writing process. “The idea was that they could improvise. All basic tracks were recorded live in an afternoon to give it that extra spontaneous energy, and then I’d layer keys, guitars, and vocals on top of what we recorded. Overall, there are more guitars this time as well as two basses on the majority of the tracks.”
Lyrically, The Serpent’s Here continues the All Is Well… EP storyline that began with “Anywhere The Blood Flows” from WIBERG’s debut, Head Without Eyes, and ends with this album. “It was an unplanned trilogy that deals with escapism, outsiders and nihilism,” he admits.
The record opens with “Dead Sky Lullaby,” an up-tempo, krautrock rager that boasts a Hawkwind-meets-Sonic Youth vibe with a big chorus in the vein of Killing Joke. The title track rolls in with a sludgy, Melvins-esque intro before shifting into a ‘80/90s Pixies/Devo alt rock anthem with a soft verse, loud chorus, and a free form, noise rock improv explosion reminiscent of Last Exit before its epic Faith No More-styled finale.
The expedition continues with “Blackguards Stand Silent.” The song commences with nightmarish lyrics accompanied by curious soundscapes and ultimately shapeshifts between the beautiful and the dreadful culminating with a motorik beat and Krautrock feel.
The record’s final three tracks are linked together. “This House Is Someone Else’s Now” begins with a dynamic, doomy air while maintaining a consistent melody. “It’s perhaps the most ‘70s inspired song,” notes WIBERG. “It hints of King Crimson and obscure bands like Spring and T2 as well as the lyrical playing by all the Pat Metheny/Lyle Mays collabs.” “He Just Disappeared” is a spoken word over a free form band ambient improv piece. Musically somber and brooding, the track is suggestive of Diamanda Galas with the ebb and flow of early Tangerine Dream and Swans. More of a traditional heavy tune but with lots of melody and big hooks, “Follow The Unknown” closes the trilogy. Says WIBERG, “Musically it’s an epic doomy ending of the album, picture Sleep going to bed with Pink Floyd and Motorpsycho.”
WIBERG’s cover of “The Losers” by Warrior Soul is a bonus in the truest sense of the word with a weighty feel that stays true to the original. “I’ve always loved this song, both the straight to the point lyrics and the epic feel of the music. It felt totally right during the pandemic to do a warped version of this one.”