AIRBAG – The Greatest Show On Earth [Ltd. Ed. Digipak] (2013)
Norwegian progsters AIRBAG are releasing their 3rd release “The Greatest Show On Earth”, continuing their journey through delicate sounds, cinematic pictures and bringing out emotions pulling the listener into their world.
Their previous album won 5 Progressive Album of the Year awards, but although a polished and melodic piece of work there was something about it that didn’t quite gel together enough for me.
I think what it was lacking, something that their new release has in spades: atmosphere and a personal, distinctive style.
You really wonder how the band feel about being constantly compared to Pink Floyd (I’d take it as a compliment, personally), but they undeniably do sound like a more modern Floyd version, mostly because Bjørn Riis’ guitar tone and playing style is very, very similar to Gilmour: lots of bending up, hitting a high note, then bending back down, nothing super fast and technical yet plenty of emotion.
However, now that Airbag have mastered the sounds and stylings of their ancestors, they have moved into new territory in “The Greatest Show On Earth”, creating fresh, new music.
There are beautiful, majestic instrumental sections, lots of nice build-ups and truly inspired guitar solos, balanced by Asle Tostrup’s velvety vocals. Riis is a tremendously gifted player, as well as composing energetic space prog arrangements that have a modern sheen on a trusted and proven formula, with a lot of attention to detail.
I hear some classic British influences (not only from Prog) on the “Redemption”, a phenomenal track that also features a swirling guitar solo amid tempestuous walls of resonating riffs, frantic drumming and heartfelt vocals.
“Silence Grows” is sleek and more dynamic, organs trembling nicely with wistful vocals and slashing Gilmourian guitar crescendos, supported by solid beats and a rounding bass. It’s a shorter ballad that has a familiar sound and yet still displays interesting aspects, with lots of bombast and grandiose wallop.
The 11+ minute “Call Me Back” is beautifully explorative, varied, intelligent, settled in nicely with the otherwise brilliant chops, a divine substance has been blended into the compositions with deft detail, overt passion, disciplined direction and profound sensibilities.
Title track “The Greatest Show On Earth” is a classic prog song as close to ear-friendly you can hope for, overpowering gusts of shimmering sonic genius, rhythm guitar blasts that slashes with utter confidence, brooding synthesized veils and depth-charge bass and drums. The lead guitar shies away from being a technical monster, tight notes going up and down the neck, just like it should be: emotional, graphic and raw.
As the prog cathedral that it is this record, it should close with an epic number, exactly what we find on “Surveillance”, divided into several parts, drenched in earnest emotion as singer Asle Tostrup shows off a scintillating voice.
On this composition Airbag has concocted a true epic jewel: the power is intense, unrelenting, almost on the verge of hard (check out the 9 minute mark section), careening into sonic delirium. A mid-section washes onto a splendiferous beach of echoing sounds, pools of aquatic synth vie with bending guitar palm trees. A clanging guitar appears on the horizon, a steady beat churns slowly towards the warm synthesized winds and then, finally Riis lets loose a tremendous solo.
Exciting, powerful and intoxicating, Airbag has arrived with a pure Prog delight in “The Greatest Show On Earth”.
Everyone has been debating the true definition of ‘progressive rock’ since its inception back in the late sixties and regardless of the multiplicity of opinions, truth is generally found in the word itself.
Airbag is now up to their third album and it’s very close to the definition of “pure Prog”, polishing, refining, defining and focusing their strong Pink Floyd vibe into something wholly theirs. This album has lots of gleaming atmosphere, a deliberate mood creating sequence has been structured to provide more than just a collection of songs, in short, this is what Prog Rock is all about.
1. Surveillance part I
3. Silence Grows
4. Call Me Back
5. The Greatest Show On Earth
6. Surveillance parts II & III
Bjørn Riis – Guitars, Keyboards, Bass, Backing Vocals
Asle Tostrup – Vocals, Keyboards, Programming
Anders Hovdan – Bass
Henrik Fossum – Drums
Jørgen Hagen – Programming, Keyboards
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