Bjorn Riis - A Storm is Coming

Bjorn Riis is the co-founder, songwriter and lead guitarist in Norwegian band Airbag. This is his third studio album, released in May 2019. The album features Riis on vocals, guitar, bass and other instruments with Henrik Bergan Fossum on drums, Simen Valldal Johannessenn on keyboards, Ole Michael Bjørndal on guitar and Mimmi Tamba on vocals. The album is around fifty-one minutes long and has six songs.

 

The sound of falling rain opens the album and “When Rain Falls”. The song is just under eleven minutes long and after a delicate sound of pinched harmonics, the song takes on more of a sludge rock & stoner metal vibe. It then heads in a piano heavy jazz fusion direction. It is not until half-way through the song that the vocals come in and there is a wonderful Gilmour influenced guitar solo at about eight minutes in. One of the highlights of the album.

 

“Icarus” is built around a strummed acoustic guitar but there also some of the stoner metal influences in there too. One of my favourite parts is the simple arpeggio lead part at about three minutes in. The lyrics tell the story of Icarus who flew too close to the sun.

 

“You and Me” is the second of the seven-minute songs but this one is a lot slower. It opens with a delicate guitar arpeggio. About half-way through, the drums played on timpani mallets and acoustic guitar come in for a short time before reverting to the arpeggio. A very sad but beautiful break-up song.

 

“Stormwatch” is an epic piece, fourteen minutes and the longest on the album. Based around more of the acoustic guitar mixed with piano and synth, there is even a female voice singing in that wordless familiar way to “The Great Gig In The Sky”. I can hear more Pink Floyd influences on this song than any other but there are also the heavy rock parts too with influences from later Porcupine Tree albums and two wonderful guitar solos. The centerpiece and my favourite song on the album. Incredible.

 

“This House” is another song heavily featuring acoustic guitar and piano but this one is another of the slow songs. There are some lovely guitar sound effects and some lovely synth parts.

 

Instrumental “Epilogue” is the song that most made me think of Tangerine Dream. The guitars do not play arpeggio but are more textural and with lots of delay. A lovely way to end the album.

 

There is some wonderful songwriting and playing on this album by everyone. What I especially like is how the drums are subtle and not overpowering even during the heavy sections. There are influences from his own band, The Beatles, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Porcupine Tree, Monster Magnet, Pink Floyd (a huge influence on Airbag), King Crimson, Nirvana and Tangerine Dream. A Storm Is Coming may not be as good as any of the Airbag albums (very few side projects are) but this is a mighty fine album with “Stormwatch” as its highlight.

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