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Bjørn Riis - A Storm Is Coming CD (album) cover


Bjørn Riis

Crossover Prog

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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Bjorn Riis is a multi-instrumentalist from Norway and Crossover Prog artist that is the guitarist for the band "Airbag". He has released 3 solo albums since 2014 which includes the 3rd album named "A Storm is Coming", released in May of 2019. He plays most of the instruments on this album, but has also recruited a few other musicians to help him out on this album. It has a total run time of 51 minutes which is disbursed among tracks, most of them over 7 minutes, and two of them over 10 minutes. According to his page on Bandcamp, he album centers around human relations and loss and is written as a dialogue between two persons.

Starting off with the 10 minute track "When Rain Falls", the music fades in slowly and is soft, ambient and atmospheric led by sustained guitar and keys. At 2 minutes, the peace is suddenly interrupted by a sludgy, loud and dark guitar and slow rhythm. Intensity builds as improvised guitar layers come in. Tempo increases with a thumping bass line and progressive riffs, then the sound shifts to a sudden, soft jazz style led by piano and brushed drums. After a while, the drums solidify, atmospheric guitars play and soft and airy harmonized vocals begin. At 8 minutes, a lovely electric guitar solo comes in backed by sustained synths making for a nice lush sound. It's a dynamic track, but when it settles in it gets quite beautiful.

"Icarus" starts with a strummed acoustic guitar and keys, but an electric guitar also helps with support before the vocals come in. The track has a nice laid back sound with a moderate rhythm. The music is pleasant and quite accessible, not progressive, per se, but still nice. Bjorn's vocals are quite easy to listen to and suite the music quite well. The tone darkens and intensifies halfway through, but return to the more mellow sound later with more vocals. "You and Me" uses a soft repeating broken chord as the only accompaniment to a pensive vocal. Piano leads later with nice effects as the music remains soft. There is a slight build at 3 minutes as other instruments are added, including a slightly symphonic feel and wordless sustained vocals while the music floats along slowly with a drone building in the background. The drone eventually drops off just before the last verse begins.

The next track is the 14 minute "Stormwatch". With the many passages of slow and quiet music, Bjorn's vocals are quite capable of supporting the music against the quiet backgrounds. This track also starts like this, and builds slowly as the moderately slow rhythm starts and harmonies begin with a female guest vocalist Mimmi Tanba. This develops into a beautiful melody and smooth backdrop of strummed acoustic guitar and sustained chords in the keyboards. The harmonies continue and a bit more intensity builds, and this has a nice similarity to the sound of "Anathema" in their later years. After 5 minutes, the percussion drops off and things become quite ambient with echoing guitar and Mimmi's wordless vocals and choral effects. After 7 minutes, there is a sudden increase in tempo and volume as heavy guitars come in for a while before switching to a more mellow sound with a nice guitar solo and then the return of vocals. There is still time for another great guitar solo and then an extended cooling down section that features a somewhat muffled rhythm section and atmospheric guitar notes floating around.

"This House" continues with the soft style that permeates the album. Vocals and a lone acoustic guitar start off, the track builds a bit with added instruments and nice guitar effects. Mimmi lends her vocals to the harmonies on this track also. This track does tend to drag on a bit as there isn't a lot of change to the sound and it remains soft and slow. A nice guitar solo comes in later during the last half of the song, but for an 8 minute track, it would have helped to be more dynamic. "Epilogue" closes the album with the shortest track at just over 3 minutes. It's an atmospheric and ambient instrumental that works to tie up the album.

This album is mostly quite laid back and slow, dark and thoughtful, but also quite accessible and easy to listen to. There are elements of progressiveness throughout, but the use of those elements are very sparse, while the use of atmosphere is used quite heavily. The songs are emotional and even have some dynamic passages, but overall, expect it to be slow and soft. The best tracks seem to be on the first half of the album, and there is a lot of beauty there. By the time you get to the last half, you might find yourself yearning for some more dynamic in the music however, and more of a progressive feel. As far as atmospheric pop/rock, this is very nice and completely accessible. The vocals are great also, very well suited for the music. In the first half of the album, it seemed to be nearing a five star rating, but the 2nd half continues in the same vein and the album drags a bit bringing it down a notch. The production is great however, and so is the musicianship and vocals.

Report this review (#2190188)
Posted Saturday, May 4, 2019 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Norwegian composer and musician Bjorn RIIS initially made a name for himself as a member of Norwegian progressive rock band Airbag and as the main man behind the website, but since 2014 he has also developed a solo career that appears to go from strength to strength. "A Storm Is Coming" is his third full length solo album and his fourth solo release overall, and was released by Norwegian label Karisma Records in the spring of 2019.

Those who are fond of atmospheric laden progressive rock, often with a melancholic general mood, and compositions that ebb and flow in pace and intensity with mainly slow, deliberate and subtle developments alterations will probably be something of a key audience for this production. Those equally fond of the more atmospheric laden parts of later day Pink Floyd and ambient oriented post-rock possibly the audience that will get this music most readily. A solid production that will be treasured by the right audience.

Report this review (#2265524)
Posted Tuesday, October 1, 2019 | Review Permalink

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