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Bjørn Riis - Lullabies In A Car Crash CD (album) cover


Bjørn Riis


Crossover Prog

4.03 | 176 ratings

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The Shrubbery
5 stars Bjorn Riis hails from the progressive rock band Airbag where he is more of a guitarist and less of a vocalist. While Airbag has always excelled in writing and melody (especially their first album which had some of the best written neo-prog outside of Iluvatar, Marillion and Edison's Children) it seems like Riis had been saving his best work for this solo project. While many may criticize his music as being too influenced by "Gilmouresque" Pink Floyd, two particular songs which are "Stay Calm" and the title track "Lullabies in a Car Crash" which are perhaps some of the singularly best written songs of the neo-prog era. Stay Calm begins with a harsh high pitched clanging guitar with all of the bottom end removed that eludes the beauty of the chording within. This is done on purpose so that Bjorn's beautiful voice comes in with an upper baritone that brings a sense of intensity and deeper sense of purpose. About 1 minute in, it all comes together with guitars and synths rising behind the original chording before the drums drive it into the next stage of its performance. This is pure sonic build up and similar to the way Pete Trewavas & Eric Blackwood have been writing for years in the Marillion side project Edison's Children (a band that is remarkably similar in that both follow that "Floydian" style of writing yet both take it to different levels that make them unique and exciting and in the end, something completely new). Both BR and EC also continue to somehow fly under the radar despite writing music that has incredible depth and poignant moments that are so strong you wonder how they continue to be overlooked. By 2 minutes in... the beautiful chords are now joined by a driving rock beat while Bjorn sings a beautiful melody over a quickly muffled picked riff on the guitar before his vocals go into "megaphone" style and the music speeds into a frenzy before falling back into a Gilmour style riff that is perfect for where the song is heading. At 4:30 the drums give way to electronic percussion upon which to build a tapestry of sonic beauty... with a hard edged guitar and soft strings providing a contrary backdrop. By 7 minutes in Bjorn's beautiful voice is back in and at 7:15 that muffled pick on the guitar drives the song and you can't help but follow along on "air guitar" before breaking into the intensity of the bridge and what you would expect to be a return to the hard edged breakdown. Instead however we are switched into an even more intense Gilmouresque guitar with a high pitched guitar in back providing chaos. Bjorn asks us to remain calm in what is obviously the beginning of a life changing moment. Holding on for "dear life" as we feel the world spinning around us, Stay Calm is one of the best songs written this decade and as great as the title track is, Stay Calm is the real star of Bjorn Riis' career. The album ends with a long somewhat drawn out 13:26 minute track that starts with Richard Wright style keys which set a tone at which you almost feel dazed as if you are coming in and out of a situation where you are still trying to find your way. Perhaps a car crash, or hearing of an accident to someone important to you. Bjorn asks us again to try to breathe slowly and give in to what has happened. The energy that is left will be needed to get us through those final moments. "When you try to hit the brakes and you know it's too late" sung with an intensity and purity that just rips through you. This isn't music written in some odd time signature. Its straight forward and every "prog purist" will complain about the lack of complexity and completely miss the point. The simplicity of the moment is paramount to understanding that this is a life that is coming quickly to an end and there's no going back. At 7 minutes in the hard edged guitar leaves the listener dealing with the complexities that life has changed for this person forever, depending on which point you are at (whether it be the person directly in the crash, the people left behind, or most likely both). The song seems to fade into life support for a few minutes with sirens in the background until another great guitar lead brings you to the point at which the song hits its apex at 11:35 and the hard edged guitar comes in and you feel the life fighting for that one last time before at 12:05 a simple nearly acoustic guitar finger pick leaves you like a soundtrack and you can feel the life leaving the body and going away to the sky. This is as an intense album about the death of a loved one since Edison's Children's "The Final Breath Before November" (Marillion's side project starring Pete Trewavas, Eric Blackwood and Neil Armstrong's son Rick Armstrong - Believe me this is very high praise). It leaves you breathless and heartbroken not just for those lost and those left behind to face it, but for those who won't give this album a chance to affect them the way they should. "Lullabies In A Car Crash" is about as intense of a musical soundscape as there is in music today (prog or not). Put your metronomes away because you won't be impressed if you're looking for syncopation that rivals ELP, Fripptronics or Gong. This isn't for those looking for a jazz rock fusion. If you're looking for something however to take your breath away and make you think; No better yet, "feel" something, something so deep that it haunts you, then this is for you.
The Shrubbery | 5/5 |


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