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Airbag - The Greatest Show On Earth CD (album) cover





3.91 | 440 ratings

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5 stars Everyone has been debating the true definition of 'progressive rock' since its inception back in the late 60s and regardless of the multiplicity of opinions, truth is generally found in the word itself. Airbag is now up to their third album and it has been a clear evolution ever since their debut Identity back in 2009, polishing, refining, defining and focusing their heavy Pink Floyd vibe into something wholly theirs. This album has lots of gleaming atmosphere, a deliberate mood creating sequence has been structured to provide more than just a collection of songs, best proven by the opening moody intro. And a true intro it is, as it will be expanded into a full blown finale extravaganza.

Guitarist Bjorn Riis is a tremendously gifted player, as well as composing energetic space prog arrangements that have a modern sheen on a trusted and proven formula, there is also a lot of attention to detail which perhaps was a previous omission, the sophomore All Rights Removed being just a few inches away from perfection. Here little things abound such as some Roxy Music-like tightness on 'Redemption', a phenomenal track that also features a swirling guitar solo amid tempestuous walls of resonating riffs, frantic drumming and heartfelt vocals. 'Silence Grows' is sleek and more obviously from the Darker Side (sic), organ trembling nicely with wistful vocals and slashing Gilmourian guitar crescendos, the beat binary and solid. It's a shorter ballad that has a familiar sound and yet still displays interesting aspects, with lots of bombast and grandiose wallop.

The 11 minute +'Call Me Back' is a clear sign that the experimental phase has settled in nicely with the otherwise brilliant chops, a divine substance has been blended into the compositions with deft detail, overt passion, disciplined direction and profound sensibilities. The deliberate axe solo is layered atop some cannonading beats and flapping synths, severe contrasts in power and substance, very cool, indeed, like an edgy form of laid-back! Oohing backing vocals add sensational cinematographics to the breathlessly unconventional melody. Yes, candlelight vigil music at its finest, lights out!

The title track, a 7 minute classic prog song, is as close to ear-friendly you can hope for, overpowering gusts of shimmering sonic genius, rhythm guitar blasts that slashes with utter confidence, brooding synthesized veils and depth-charge bass and drums. The lead guitar shies away from being a technical monster, tight notes going up and down the neck, just like blues guitar should be = emotional, graphic and raw.

As with any palatial structure, the domed roof is what gives this prog cathedral its imposing feel, a closing epic that spans nearly 17 minutes, drenched in earnest emotion as singer Asle Tostrup shows off a scintillating voice, neither Gilmour nor Waters but truly his own. I once believed that he had a slight Robert Smith of the Cure tinge, but that has somewhat dissipated here. Airbag has concocted a true epic jewel, a defining moment in their impressive career. The power is intense, unrelenting, almost on the verge of hard (check out the 9 minute mark section!), careening into sonic delirium. A mid-section washes onto a splendiferous beach of echoing sounds, pools of aquatic synth vie with bending guitar palm trees. A clanging guitar appears on the horizon (yeah, very Pink!), a binary beat mason churns slowly towards the warm synthesized winds and then, finally Riis lets loose a tremendous axe salvo.

Atmospheric, dense, exciting, powerful and intoxicating, Airbag has arrived with a furious riposte, adding their grain of salt to the 2013 treasure trove, a deluge of stupendous releases. The artwork is spellbinding, very Storm Thorgerson/Hipgnosis and is a pure delight that complements the music inside. This band deserves to be considered up there with all the recent leading contenders (Haken, Deeexpus, Nine Stones Close, Galahad, Big Big Train etc'.) as a purveyor of quality progressive music.

5 extravaganzas

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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