Einar Solberg / 16 – A Cinematic Journey Through Life’s Defining Moments

If you are familiar with Norwegian experimental proggers Leprous, you don’t need me to tell you that Einar Solberg has a ridiculous vocal range. If you don’t know Leprous, then you need to know that Solberg’s upper range is out of reach of most female singers.

Einar Solberg – 16 (InsideOut Music)

Release Date: 2 June 2023

Words: Robert Adams

16 is a semi-autobiographical album. “It’s called 16 because that’s when the first really, really bad things started happening to me in life,” Solberg told us. “From 16 to 19, there were a lot of very life-defining moments that happened to me, and that changed me.

“That’s when I kind of lost my innocence, and I started realising that life is serious and bad shit can happen. A lot of pretty drastic things happened within those three years. But this album is not only about the bad things. It’s also about some of the career-defining moments, like the moment I started playing with the band and began to find a community to belong to. Emotionally, I’m a bit of everything, so it covers the entire emotional spectrum.”

The first thing we hear as the title track opens the album is the sound of a fire crackling. This gives way to Raphael Weinroth-Browne’s haunting cello with Solberg’s fragile, almost whispered vocal on top. As album openers go, it’s a bold move to put such a fragile and emotive song as the listener’s first port of call.

Remember Me has more than a touch of Portishead in its DNA. It’s also telling that the first real guitars on the album aren’t heard until halfway through the second track. A Beautiful Life has echoes of fellow Norwegians A-Ha and sees Solberg open up his incredible vocal range.

Where All The Twigs Broke opens with a repetitive piano motif and Einar’s beautiful voice. Halfway through, we get a full orchestra with very progressive and almost free-form jazz drumming courtesy of Keli Guòjónsson.

Einar Solberg
Einar Solberg

This album could very easily be the soundtrack to a Norwegian Noir movie. The mood changes and subtle musical touches are cinematic in approach and beautiful to hear.

The second half of the album is just an incredible journey through emotions, both lyrical and musical. That’s not to say the first half of the album was slacking, indeed far from it.

From Home through to The Glass Is Empty is some of the most beautifully emotive music you’re likely to hear all year.

Long time friend and collaborator Ihsahn lends his powerful growls to counterpoint Solberg’s falsetto in Splitting The Soul. Starting with an almost Bollywood rhythm as dirty, processed bass keyboards lead us up to a choir, the track just pushes and pulls the listener in so many musical directions.

The only complaint I have with Over The Top is the sometimes clumsy lyrics. That might just be me, but when you get an album closer like The Glass Is Empty, those minor gripes fade into insignificance.

16 isn’t an album for everyone. The elephant in the room is Solberg’s voice. It’s proper Marmite – in that you either love it or hate it. Personally, I think his voice is a thing of wonder, and I love it.

Where Leprous’ Aphelion album went in terms of experimental progressive rock, Solberg has picked up that ball and ran like Forest Gump with that. Not everything works – a few musical edits could’ve stopped a few tracks from dragging in places, but the emotional beauty and scope of styles far outweigh any nitpicking.

16 isn’t a full-on, headbanging shred fest. If that’s what you’re after, then this album definitely isn’t for you. However, if you’re looking for honest, emotional, interesting music, then look no further.

This is an album that gets better and better with each listen and is sometimes brave in its musical choices.

Einar Solberg – 16

  1. 16 (feat. Raphael Weinroth-Browne)
  2. Remember Me
  3. A Beautiful Life
  4. Where All The Twigs Broke (feat. Star Of Ash)
  5. Metacognitive
  6. Home (feat. Ben Levin)
  7. Blue Light (feat. Asger Mygind)
  8. Grotto (feat. Magnus Børmark)
  9. Splitting The Soul (feat. Ihsahn)
  10. Over The Top
  11. The Glass Is Empty (feat. Tóti Guðnason)

Sleeve Notes

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