A Little History:
Airbag are back with their fifth album and their first as a three-piece. The album is called A Day At The Beach and is a conceptual piece about a man leaving his family into an unknown future. For those unacquainted with the band here is a little information. The band formed in Oslo, Norway back in 2004 with their first album Identity coming out in 2009. Two of that band Asle Tostup (lead vocal, keys and programming) and Bjorn Riis (guitars, keys, backing vocals) make up the band now along with Henrik Fossum (drums) who has been there since the second album All Rights Removed back in 2011. This album also features Kristian Karl Hultgren from the band Wobbler on bass duties helping out. The band formed primarily through their love of Pink Floyd and most of them are also in a Floyd tribute act which gives you some idea of one of the main influences on show.
The Six Songs Dissected:
The album comprises 6 songs and runs just under 50 minutes. Four of the songs are over 8 minutes long with the other 2 coming in at around 4 or 5. Opening and longest song “Machines And Men” sets the pace. With a slow build-up, the synths remind me of both Tangerine Dream and Eloy as well as Floyd. When the song’s vocals kick in there is a definite Riverside sound to it with the vocals sounding similar in sound and delivery as Mariusz Duda. There is an urgency in the “I want to get out, I want to be free” lines. There is some variety as both keys and bass sometimes are upfront and centre, the bass near the end having a warm fuzzy feel to them as the keys tinkle away underneath. There are also clever moments on guitar being used for atmospheric sounds before the actual solo. There is a heartbeat sound coming and going through the track via a synth. This is followed by the shortest song “A Day At The Beach Part 1” which is a quiet reflective piece where he sings that he wants to be alone on the beach for some reason. I admit I didn’t see the flow of the concept lyrically and how the songs tell the story and thought it a bit confusing but musically I found it relaxing and enjoyable.
“Into The Unknown” is on the whole gentle and reflective and features lots of keys and a breathy vocal like he is tired and sad. Even when there are drum rolls they are not in any way heavy or loud but rather very restrained apart from one short section around halfway through. There are sounds of a helicopter and a heart monitor again which slowly lead into a very tasteful guitar solo of the styles of obviously Gilmour and Knopfler from Dire Straits. Less notes and more feel. It is really lovely to listen to. There is no hurry to go anywhere making it an extremely pleasant journey. “Sunsets” continues with a drum led intro into spacey keys with moments of very prominent bass. There seems to be lots of little sound effects until the very poppy almost 1980s sounding chorus. There is late in the song after the heavier guitar part a hint of “How Dare I Look So Beautiful” section of “Suppers Ready” by Genesis. The guitars soar when required and the band can create harsher heavier sounds when appropriate.
“A Day At The Beach Part 2” is another short track and has what sounds like a warning beep going on through it and has quite a tasteful guitar solo in it. Then it is into the last song “Megalomaniac” which opens with a gentle guitar refrain with keys bubbling away nicely underneath. It slowly builds up with the bass and drums coming through into a guitar solo. Lyrically he sings about folks with power whether it be “suits and ties” who always “get what you want”, folks who “always win the race, arms in the air, better than everyone else” or “always standing tall with shield and sword, you can pick a fight and take them all out”. The mid-section of the song has the 2 heaviest pieces on the album machine gun fire guitar riff followed by another which feature some powerful drum fills and more riffing before dropping back down ala the opening.
Despite being technically only a 3 piece there is plenty going on, a full and lush sound which drifts along carrying the listener in a quite often dreamy soundscape. There is the odd moment of rockier material but it mostly stays ambient and genteel. It is an excellent listen. Get the headphones on, grab a beer and relax and be taken on a gentle journey with a band in full control of the wheel!
Album out June 19, 2020, on Karisma Records!
Also, find more of my CGCM reviews here: Tom Cornell
Email Me at: Tom Cornell