October 15, 2020

This album is likely appeal to a broad range of prog fans, young and old.

This is the fifth album from Norwegian prog rock outfit Airbag.  The band is now just a trio with Jørgen Hagen (programming, keyboards) and Anders Hovdan (bass) having left since 2016’s Disconnected. Leader of the band remains guitarist Bjørn Riis who has been the band’s main source of song writing – even if the press release for this album states it has been a collaborative effort between the three remaining members. If you need any hints about Riis’ musical influences then it’s worth noting that he runs a web site by the name of http://www.gilmourish.com/! Not surprisingly therefore, Airbag have a dollop of Floyd influences, which of course is no bad thing but these sit comfortably alongside more modern prog influences (Porcupine Tree, Cosmograf) and the band’s increased use of electronics gives a very contemporary feel. The excellent album cover – designed by singer Asle Tostrup – also has a Floydian air with a beach full of teddy bears buried headfirst in the sand.

The three-piece enjoying a day at the beach…

There are six tracks here, four around the ten-minute mark plus the two parts of A Day At the Beach making a further ten minutes. Those two parts of A Day At The Beach are atmospheric pieces in a similar style to Riverside.  The four longer tracks tend to follow the same pattern of slow languid atmospheric starts building up to one or more climaxes. That is not to say that the four tracks sound like each other – far from it – so, while the opener Machines and Men has an evident Floydian feel, the jangling guitars and surging vocals in the chorus of Sunsets sounds to these ears like something that Big Country might have written! Tostrup’s singing is nicely emotional in the quieter sections but also satisfactorily energetic when the band up the tempo. Riis’ guitar playing will draw inevitable comparisons to Gilmour but whatever his inspiration he still pulls off some excellent solos. I particularly admired the mournful solo that constitutes the second part of Into The Unknown. 

Lyrically, the album has a loose war-related “us and them” concept, contrasting the desperate individual struggling to survive with the people in power observing at a safe distance. OK, no points for originality there, but they do capture the concept neatly in the lyrics. For example, in Machines And Men Tostrup sings ‘Here they come, marching on, one by one’ before pausing and ominously adding ‘they’ll be gone’. In the chorus of the same song he aggressively sings ‘I want to get out, I want to be free’ reflecting the anguish of the main character. It’s as if the music switches between quiet and forceful sections to reflect the changes in mood of our hero between desperation and anger.

Despite the songs being of similar lengths to previous albums, I felt there was a greater conciseness and clarity in the musical structures and that may make their music more accessible than in the past. With a less overtly Floydian sound than previous albums too, this album is likely appeal to a broad range of prog fans, young and old.