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4 stars Amazing! This is really a pretty good and pleasant record. Fully loaded with great melodies, nices atmospheres and impressing guitar playing by Bjorn. Machines and Men is really an incredible openning and the electronics effects fits very well, also the bass is very exciting here. Sunsets is the best track in the album and features some incredible vocals lines and very touching solos. And the great Megalomaniac is a majestic closure to this amazing album. Perhaps I could give it a higher rating if not for A Day at The Beach Part I and II. They are good songs, but somehow I feel they are way too long. In summary, this is a very special record, very well produced, composed and performed. I would recomend it for any lover of modern prog rock and admirers of Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, Riverside and The Pineapple Thief.

Best Tracks: Sunsets and Megalomaniac

Report this review (#2414500)
Posted Saturday, June 20, 2020 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Norwegian band AIRBAG can trace their roots all the way back to the 1990's, but it was a decade later that the band solidified and started to release material. Initially with a couple of EPs, that are now deleted if I remember correctly, and then from 2009 and onward the band has been going from strength to strength with a succession of acclaimed studio albums. "A Day at the Beach" is the most recent of these, and was released through Norwergian label Karisma Records in 2020.

"A Day at the Beach" is a strong and solid production through and through. From my perspective there aren't any weaks congs at hand here, although for my taste in music I'd say that the opening cut 'Machines and Men' is a slight cut above the rest here. An album well worth spending time with if accessible, melancholic and delicate progressive rock is your thing, and those who enjoy the softer sides of later day Pink Floyd strikes me as something of a key audience for this album.

Report this review (#2415275)
Posted Thursday, June 25, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars

I didn't know this group of young people from Norway and know I am into the secret: They are good. Clearly They have been playing together for a time, the sound is cohesive and vibrant. There's a ton to like here:

"Machines and Men" is a great opener song with a solid bass line and a fantastic job on guitar.

"Into the Unknown" is a Chvrches song at the beginning, with no Lauren Mayberry to sing it but the song transforms with a guitar work resembling a David Gilmour circa Division Bell.

"Into the Unknown" is a song with a "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" vibe but the guitar work is similar to a more mature David Gilmour.

"Sunsets" is the most honest work here the most true song to Airbag I feel. The guitar work, again, is amazing and the feeling is of pure jest.

Clearly A Day at the Beach is a four star album that keeps playing in my car for a long time. And I would love to see this guys play live.

Report this review (#2415993)
Posted Sunday, June 28, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars I didn't know this band before but I kept seeing the name these last days. As soon as I decided to search them on Spotify I was kind of amazed by their music. Airbag don't struggle to write music, it feels that it just comes naturally. The album flows like a river, naturally.Unlike other bands that try to prove things, Airbag know that their back catalogue is strong enough to just move on with their music, evolve and progress. The strongest point of the band is the serene vocals that are occasionally reminiscent of Anathema. The voice lacks dynamics but strangely enough this doesn't result in any loss of quality. Music seems simple at first listen but after you press the repeat button, you can understand that the clever orchestrations of the songs are the main advantage of the album. You won't find any bass line when it is not essential, nor a guitar solo when the music is already busy. The Norwegian label Karisma Records that released the album has a really interesting catalogue to begin with if someone is new to modern day prog music. Airbag is definitely in their top bands and I would suggest them to anyone for a rainy afternoon drive or an alternative to alcohol when the mind is full and wants to relax.
Report this review (#2416508)
Posted Tuesday, June 30, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars This could be the break through collection of songs that takes Airbag over the top. I have been following their work for awhile and have enjoyed all of their releases, but always felt that they fell just a bit short of greatness for one reason or another. Every album has had great tracks, and they are unquestionably very talented artists, but there was always a slow ambiance to a song or two, or a negative vibe that just wouldn't keep fully engaged for the whole work.

This collection of songs is definitely different. The band's website states that this new album is inspired of 1980's electronica, new wave, movie scores, ethereal soundscapes, and driving guitars. A pretty darn accurate description, and it may be what's tipping this into what I believe to be their best work to date. Airbag lyrics always tend to have serious, and at times dark themes, and one needs to be in the right frame of mind to absorb them. This work is no exception, but the blend of electronica and new wave influences really lift these songs up, and propels them forward. But be not worried, this is serious prog and not anything else.

As Airbag is known for, the tracks are highly atmospheric, sonic landscapes as it were. The collection of songs is six in number, four that are fairly lengthy, each having a nice build up with powerful closing intensity. The two shorter tracks are the 'Day at the Beach' title songs I and II. These are a nice soft respite between the big songs. Each time I play Beach II on my head phones I just think it is too trippy ' great little instrumental track starting with synths and ending in a nice guitar solo! The under current of the synths throughout the tracks - which eventually lead to the striking guitar solos - is a reoccurring theme in all the tracks, and yet each song is uniquely different, giving the music this time around a much fuller, more accessible, and ultimately more positive feel. Well done!

If you have not checked out Airbag as of yet, this is a great place to start. I expect this album will show well on the PA 2020 best of the year list. It should! Let's call this one 4.5 great days at the beach, rounded down to 4 because I am expecting the next work to be even better, so we have to leave room for that.

Report this review (#2419768)
Posted Tuesday, July 14, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars Airbag´s compositions are often long and energetic. A Day at the Beach, their fifth album, is no exception: without haste, time elapses accordingly to the songs´ constant melancholy that allows the listeners to enjoy a world of profound and aching new wave atmospheres.

Both the influences of Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree are present. There are some good examples of this in A Day at the Beach: the dynamic Machines and Men, a song that initiates the album with some alluring guitar riffs and synthesizers; the extremely somber Into the Unknown; the discouraged reverie about the daily life that is Sunset (in which the final guitar solo is nothing but a homage to David Gilmour); finally, the potent Megalomaniac, and ironic account of a megalomaniac shrouded by a sore guitar play.

The album finalizes with A Day at the Beach, divided into two parts. Both of them are short and instrumental. But even if they keep the same structure the rest of the album has, they are just not as good.

Yet being an easily recognizable group, the Norwegian band manages to not fall into repetition, something that A Day at the Beach is a proof of. This constitutes great merit because it means that the group has created its own style.

Report this review (#2434897)
Posted Monday, August 3, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars One thing I've got to say about Airbag is they are very consistent in their sound. Airbag is a great band from Norway. The band consists of Asle Tostrup on lead vocals keyboards and programming. Bjørn Riis on guitars keyboards and backing vocals and rounding out the group on drums is Henrik Fossum. Also, of interest playing bass on this album is Wobbler's Kristian Hultgren. Airbag offer atmospheric and expressive progressive rock. They often get compared to Porcupine Tree and Pink Floyd. There's know really escaping that. Another big reason I really Airbag is because the band doesn't weigh us down with technique. Instead they bring emotional and sonic bliss to our ears. With a day at the beach the band has moved away ever so slightly from the guitar driven style of their past works. On this album Bjørn is present certainly but he's not the driving force musically I think the electronica element is probably the most present on this album than on any of their previous works and you will even notice that this is the very first thing you hear on the very first song Machines and Men. Throughout the album many of the melodies involve electronic loops as well so this often feels like it has a dozen musical layers making it feel lavish and very full. The album only has six songs but still reaches a bit over 47 minutes in length. for me personally that is the sweet spot for a length of an album. The band have released two singles / videos for the song's Machines and Men and Sunsets. Machines and Men is the opener and it takes a few seconds to get started. It is a great way to start the album and it is a definite favorite of mine. Sunsets is also wonderful having a little more gallop in its stride and I love the keys in the middle of the song. The album technically only has three more songs. the title track has two parts both of which sound great, but the second part is much more active sonically but at the same time is quite irritating I find. Into the unknown while a good song is interesting this song runs on for about 10 minutes but could have been shaved down to a four and a half minutes song. Megalomaniac ends the album I find this to be the track where Bjorn really shines and is most active and his vibrant guitars really steal the show. A day at the beach is another rich offering from Airbag. It has layers and layers of goodness and wholesomeness and maybe you could have predicted that from the little teddy bears with their heads in the sand. Obviously, the band seems to be rather politically motivated here and I bet you can guess their perspective just from the song titles.


Recommended Tracks: Machines and Men & Sunsets

Report this review (#2448712)
Posted Friday, September 18, 2020 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
3 stars Norwegian band Airbag are still very much based around Asle Tostrup (lead vocals, keyboards, programming) and Bj'rn Riis (guitars, keyboards, backing vocals), while drummer Henrik Fossum has been there since the second album, but there has been change in bassist with Anders Hovdan not involved in an Airbag album for the first time, and he has been replaced by guest Kristian Karl Hultgren. For some reason I have not heard any of Airbag's most recent albums, and in fact the last album I reviewed was the debut 'Identity' which was released all the way back in 2009, but here we have a band who have been carving out a reputation for solid and consistent albums, and the same is true of this one.

If ever an album was grower then it is this, as after the first two or three plays I really was not at all convinced as their modern take on Pink Floyd, soundscapes, Radiohead, Kraftwerk, recent Marillion et al just did not do it for me. I knew the guys were trying to build an emotional connection, with laid back music which often contained high separation of instruments and loads of space, but somehow it still just felt too clinical. But the more I played it, the more I started to fall into the world, and it all seemed to make sense. Once one gets past the rather disturbing cover photo of teddy bears having their heads buried in the sand, there is progressive crossover electronic art rock music which is cinematic and has real breadth. This is music which does really need to be listened to as otherwise it will fall into the background, but for those who are prepared to spend the time and effort they will get something out of this. The vocals are front and centre, but there are also long passages when the band play purely instrumentally, often veering into electronic and ambient territory. Personally, I would have liked to have heard more guitars, as the electronica is too much for my personal taste, but all in all this is an interesting album. But it does need time to drop into the brain.

Report this review (#2451064)
Posted Friday, September 25, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars My Highlights: - Machines and men - Into the unknown - Sunsets - Megalomaniac

With a powerful and epic opening track in Machines and men the Norwegian melancholic prog masters open their fifth (and latest for now) studio album. Like in every album that precedes Riis amazing guitar work is the center of all musical atmospheres created by the band, with the unmistakable perfectly spoken vocals by Asle, pronouncing every word for us to rapidly understand the concept of the album...a man leaving his family to adventure himself into the unknown. Lyrically and musically a prog masterpiece. Into the unknown confirms that electronic music principally influences in the late 80's scene has been very influential in recording this album. Melodic but dark with Bjørn soloing like there's no tomorrow believing every note of uncertainty that accompanies the band through the concept by them created.

Sunsets... maybe the most "in your face" hard prog song in the album constantly growing with different guitar textures until it all fades away to give way to yet another calming tune... like it's first part, A day at the beach part II, only that this time it's seems to be anger and frustration behind the keys textures and some infinite sadness sustained by the entrance of the tight (and down tempo) rhythmic section, brilliant! Megalomaniac was/is/will be the perfect closing to this emotional music experience... Tostrup vocals and Riis guitars again showing pain in such a beautiful way! Wait! Is that even possible? Airbag guarantees it is possible, they are sure we can picture the naked soul of the concept's main character for all of us to see and cherish. Speechless and torn away... looking forward to new music from this amazing band.

Report this review (#2594291)
Posted Monday, September 13, 2021 | Review Permalink
4 stars The darker the times, the more subtle the perception.

For the first time in my life I write one review twice, but at different times. Perhaps this review of the latest release to date by one of the greatest rock bands of our time will serve to write a number of articles devoted to their previous albums, well, at least I would like to.

It will be about the last year's album of the Norwegians Airbag "A Day at the Beach", which caused me a mixed reaction at that time (Summer 2020). Now, having treated with understanding some of the new nuances of the group and having listened to this album several times, my attitude towards it is changing for the better, albeit not radically, but slowly and confidently. I'm not going to describe the general, rather gloomy style and concept of the band now; I hope that this will be revealed in subsequent articles dedicated to the group, their brighter albums.

Into The Unknown is perhaps the most important part of the record. As the deepest, most diverse and multifaceted palette of moves, it also most vividly reflects the band's signature sound, which was shaped 10 years ago. The composition really seems to float into the unknown, then emerging from the pool with beautiful landscapes, then diving into desperate abysses. Here the talents of the lead guitarist Björn Riis, a kind of new David Gilmour, are most widely manifested, as well as the extraordinary beauty of the voice of the vocalist and guitarist Asle Tostrup, whose lyrics can touch even the most "impenetrable" listener. Music is like a distant landscape that sweeps in front of you at different speeds, now moving away, now approaching.

Sunsets is the second "coolest" thing on the album, darker and more straightforward than the one described above. The atmosphere of sunset, desolation, pursuit and loneliness. Like something dark, rising from the swamps behind your back, from which you run. It is not the healthiest state, but what to do - such is the complex and gloomy, but beautifully attractive world of Airbag. And this composition is another confirmation of this.

Beautiful keyboards suddenly became one of the fundamental parts of the band's sound, which was not evident on earlier records. This creates a somewhat ambiguous effect at first. But this time they made the sound much richer than on the earlier albums, however, having lost a particle of sharpness. In general, if you are a radical fan of this great band, you should be more careful when listening to this opus, if not - the earlier albums will do you more good and should stay on them. Everything is already stated in theses releases. But we will speak more about these albums in the future!

Report this review (#2651901)
Posted Monday, December 13, 2021 | Review Permalink

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