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


Bjørn Riis

Crossover Prog

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Bjorn Riis is the lead guitarist for Norwegian prog group Airbag, a band that has definite Pink Floyd tendencies that have been enhanced with a few more current alternative twists. The band has released 3 glorious albums, all having met a respectful audience and some fine overall ratings, certainly spearheaded by Riis and his magical guitar, very much in the same style as legend Dave Gilmour. But being familiar with the group, I can state that Airbag does offer a more contemporary sound, mostly due to Asle Torstrup's vocal tone that finds itself more in league with current sounds than the classic Waters/Gilmour hush. This solo album is an all Riis affair as he handles the guitars, keyboards, bass and vocals, leaving the drums to his Airbag colleague Henrik Fossum. Riis has crafted an album that has similarities to the group sound but is a much mellower affair, more densely atmospheric and personal, with loads of wispy keyboards and more understated guitar soloing.

After a trendsetting and moody intro intuitively titled "A New Day", the album's first cornerstone piece and an absolute highlight is the 10 minute long "Stay Calm", which is perhaps the closest thing to the Airbag style. Entering from the mist are a strummed acoustic guitar and breezy vocals that recall the great Floyd, aided by some floating synths and that classic monotone beat we all know well and love. Lyrically the story is intense and reflective, with echoing voices and fueled by those large guitar slashes that Gilmour is famous for but still done with a great amount of class and reverence. A choir mellotron makes an entrance and decides to stay awhile as Riis unleashes a series of powerful and heartfelt solos. This track has all the makings of a classic piece that should please many a fan.

"Disappear" initiates a more introspective style that verges on the ambient style made famous by Lunatic Soul , though this is more guitar-centric, with various layers of rhythmic arpeggios crisscrossing with tactile magic, using a wide variety of effects and reverb, the sweet voice closer to a gentler version of Steve Wilson (who remains a reference throughout). The details are wondrous, never dull or repetitive and most definitely spiced with some wicked electric runs that scour the skies.

Back to another 10 minute affair with the equally furtive "Out of Reach", a leisurely building epic that has the crystalline axe playing tribute to a brittle voice that is deeply despondent and achingly melancholic. Very gentle, very sentimental as the mellotron buzzes in the background, as he pleads 'still waiting for you to call, out of reach'. Bjorn then looks down at his guitar and then at the "aaaah" mellotron and kicks into gear a mammoth solo, full of pent-up feeling and lots of wah-wah pedal, I mean WOW! The explosive climax is reached and then begins the sweet afterglow, sensations frayed and sensitive, deliberate caresses and feathery touches.

"The Chase" would perhaps indicate a more violent expression of speed and lack of control but this is a suave artist at work, incorporating instead some much needed bombast, a thrilling guitar-driven ride that buzzes and swoons. The mid-section gets very silent and tingling, as if in some hallucinatory trance, not really surprising as Riis likes to infuse some psychedelia into the mix, which means that , of course, the mood reverts to the initial intensity, howling synths blowing in the background and the guitars daring to riff and riff hard. What a surprise as the piece ends in serene tranquility. Brilliant!

So as to illustrate the constant sense of creativity, a synthesized electric piano colors the opening moments of the title track, the longest one here clocking in over 13 minutes. "Breathe slowly now and don't be afraid, lay down and rest your head, it's over now". Yup, that about sums it up, a kaleidoscope of emotions wrapped in a soporific glaze, enhanced by a moving chorus full of emotion and wanting. And then, you guessed it, the delicious guitar moves in for the kill, a bluesy scrambling of notes that intends only to instill goose bumps. Again the massive mellotron and the whooshing synths wail in the background giving Bjorn all the impetus to rage on his instrument. Halfway through, barely audible police sirens announce some unforeseen tragedy, you suddenly realize that the subject matters is pretty gruesome, that out of body experience one can experience in a car accident , when there is that brief moment when you ask yourself, Am I still alive? Am I still breathing? The lullaby carries you to the answer that fate has decided. After all, the line between life and death is a thin and precious one.

On first glance, this is perfect late night music, ideal atmosphere for just relaxing and getting ready for some eventual dreaming. But do not be alarmed, it's very intense, fiery and quite volcanic stuff. It also delves into much stronger emotions than one would expect. That is the mark of a creative mind. Bravo Bjorn!

4.5 automotive serenades

Report this review (#1326125)
Posted Thursday, December 18, 2014 | Review Permalink
Second Life Syndrome
5 stars As soon as I heard this solo album from Airbag's Bjorn Riis, I fell in love. It arrived randomly in my mailbox one day, and I put off hearing it for at least a couple weeks. That, my friends, was a mistake. It is my opinion that "Lullabies in a Car Crash" is one of the best of 2014.

Sure, I like Airbag's Pink Floyd sound and all, but Bjorn's new album combines emotional guitars with ominous bass movements and post-rock-esque structures. Production is high quality and lacking the "sound wall" effect, which would have been an easy way to give this album more power. However, the mix is full of class and is definitely quieter, which put the responsibility for oomph in the artists' hands. Taking hold of that, Bjorn has created an album that feels heavy and dark, but is rather light and serene overall. It is heavy in lyrics and in structure, but the instruments and myriad effects used are all about skill rather than distortion.

Feelings I get from "Lullabies in a Car Crash": sadness, elation; darkness, light; movement; stillness. This album will leave you in shambles, but somehow uplifted, too. Music, to me, is mostly about emotional impact, and Bjorn embraces this with a peaceful vigor. In some ways, it does remind me of Lunatic Soul with the emotional, dark movements, which explains my attraction to it. However, there is more guitar and more Pink Floyd influence, and that creates a whole new sound. I must mention, however, that any Floyd influence is modernized heavily and is mainly found in Bjorn's amazing guitar work, which screams Gilmour's emotion to me.

I love finding amazing albums at the end of the year. Bjorn's solo album is pretty incredible, and is honestly better than Airbag's latest. It has edge, but submerged in colors and water. It has movement, but subtle and weightless. It has emotional weight, full of tears and hope. If you haven't heard "Lullabies in a Car Crash", you really need to soon.

4.5 stars

Report this review (#1330283)
Posted Monday, December 29, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Norwegian composer and musician Bjorn RIIS isn't a name that will be a household one for too many, but when adding the factoids that he's one of the original members of the Norwegian band Airbag and the man behind the website a few will presumably take notice. One could also add that some years ago he was a member of the Norwegian tribute band The Pink Floyd Experience. "Lullabies in a Car Crash" is his first solo album, released by the Norwegian label Karisma Records in November 2014.

Bjorn Riis' solo debut comes across as an accomplished piece of music, a well developed production that may not yield the biggest musical surprises of the decade, but that instead delivers plenty of ear-candy for the attentive listener. as well as material fairly close to what you'd expect from a musician with his background. Fans of Pink Floyd, David Gilmour and Riis' main band Airbag should all take note of this album, and especially those amongst them with a taste for music with lots of room given to details of a subtle and careful nature.

Report this review (#1421666)
Posted Saturday, May 30, 2015 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars AIRBAG guitar player and DAVID GILMOUR-worshipper Bjorn Riis here tries to go it alone and the result sounds remarkably like Airbag's last two albums. Bjorn's sometimes atmospheric, sometimes soaring Gilmouresque guitar play is always the highlight and always amazing in how completely he has replicated the great Pink Floyd guitarist's sound, stylings and technique. On Lullabies in a Car Crash Bjorn takes on the lead vocal duties and does surprisingy well. He even sounds remarkably like a cross between Airbag band-mate and lead vocalist, Asle Torstrup and the man himself, Roger Waters. Great music still very much in the Animals-era Pink Floyd vein.

Favorite songs: 1. "A New Day" (4:16); 3. "Disappear" (6:27); and the title song, 6. "Lullaby in a Car Crash" (13:27).

Solid four star effort of impeccable neo-prog music.

Report this review (#1445031)
Posted Sunday, July 26, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Airbag made love to Pink Floyd and first Bjorn Riis solo album was born.

I don't know how did he does it, but he did. How he created music so sad and uplifting, so quietly flowing and rocking at the same. This merge of trademark Scandinavian melancholic with Gilmore guitar works especially well on his epics 10 minutes Out of Reach, Stay Calm and over 13 minutes title track Lullaby in a Car Crash - masterpiece of Prog Rock.

If spirit of Pink Floyd is still beating in your heart and Animals & Wish You Where Here are still spinning in your mind, this album is for you.

Thank you, Bjorn. It's very touching, very moving... 5 Floyd's stars in a white digipak.

Report this review (#1488456)
Posted Wednesday, November 18, 2015 | Review Permalink
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.
Report this review (#2242297)
Posted Wednesday, August 7, 2019 | Review Permalink

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