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Album Review: EINAR SOLBERG 16

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Einar Solberg is best known as the frontman and keyboardist of the progressive rock/metal band Leprous. With Leprous, Solberg has built a solid international fan base and even earned a Spellemann / Norwegian Grammy nomination. In addition, Solberg has made appearances with Ihsahn, Emperor, Peccatum, The Wretched End, etc. You might know that Solberg has collaborated with his musical siblings in the past.

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Ihsahn and Starofash, a.k.a. Star of Ash and Ihriel, are actually Einar Solberg’s brother-in-law and sister. These two are among the relatives who feature as guests on Solberg’s first solo album, the highly individualistic and, of course, family-friendly 16. This new record demonstrates that Einar Solberg is a creator who stands apart.

If you consider yourself a fan of Leprous, you are almost certainly bound to appreciate Solberg’s latest offering. 16 is an experimental, genre-defying, prog effort. It seems to incorporate a touch of everything, including rap. The songs might be a little difficult to process at first, but they become earworms after a few plays. Many music aficionados are bound to perceive 16 as beautiful, emotional, and moving. It is deeply personal, vulnerable, and honest to the point of commendable bravery.

The eleven-song 16 is not an extreme offering, but it is highly ambitious. Solberg wrote four of the numbers completely on his own. He worked to try to split writing duties 50/50 with different composers on different tracks. The presence of so many songwriters and guest artists did not make 16 the most cohesive album, but, again, it is highly eclectic. It offers a variety of surprises throughout.

Solberg is clearly a very talented artist who possesses a rare gift of a voice that has been described as mesmerizing. He is famed for his wide range. Solberg has attracted a lot of attention as a result of his high notes, yet his lows also betray the confidence of a veteran artist. Solberg certainly pours his heart out. Thus, most people will probably overlook moments that feel awkward or slightly forced.

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Mr. Solberg is presently 38, and this album represents a return to the time when he was between 16 and 19-years-old. During this period, he experienced the loss of innocence. 16 is an album for all age groups. While exploring his nostalgia, Solberg strove toward innovation. Unfortunately, the aspects of the album that do feel very fresh are sometimes undermined by lyrics that can feel a little stale, even melodramatic: “The room is shrinking. You keep on drinking. I have to leave I have to leave. I have to go. I’ve never seen anyone going this low.”

16 is not meant to please everyone, but it is an offering that you should definitely check out and just might love. This album is bound to find a fairly wide audience and manage to captivate listeners for a long time to come. Most likely, 16 is only the beginning of a long solo career. After all, it is clear that 16 is a thoughtful effort that was completed with the purest artistic intentions.

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