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Airbag - Identity CD (album) cover

IDENTITY

Airbag

 

Neo-Prog

3.81 | 237 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Airbag's 2009 debut came to my attention only once I properly enjoyed their second and third offerings, namely the rather brilliant 'All Rights Removed' (2011) and the more recent 'The Greatest Show on Earth' and both getting high marks in my critical reviews. Guitarist Bjorn Riis also has a solo album, 2014's 'Lullaby in a Car Crash' which provided another more 'floating' chapter to their cause and certified this Norwegian outfit with a determined and flourishing output of quality material. Yes, they are clearly inspired by Pink Floyd, as many prog bands are and have been, just like the zillions of pop bands that have a Beatles influence, proving once again that the Floyd did have a colossal impact on contemporary music, whether one likes it or not! So it really is quite indicative of their artistic intelligence to name their first effort 'Identity', both highlighting the 'meddling' inspiration as well as the slight differences, the most obvious being lead vocalist Asle Torstrup's aching voice which is closer to The Cure's Robert Smith than Roger Waters. Also, their material , while there are occasional drifting episodes that highlight the dense melancholia, the sounds are quite upbeat and aggressive, especially with Riis' ability to blend the classic Gilmourian influences with some harsher rhythm guitar work that is quite prevalent.

'Prelude' is the obligatory and atmospheric primer, a sweeping instrumental that sets the tone from the opening bar, as a clock ticks gently in the background. All the players are introduced so as to blend into a gentle anesthetic, ready to dim the lights, flickering candles and fine Pinot Noir in hand, sit back and relax. 'No Escape' is a tad too commercial to be flaunted about so early on but that is just my take. The following tracks are pure bliss.

On a piece like 'Safe Like You', a sense of comfort takes over immediately, the only surprise is the lingering thought that this is what the Floyd should/could have been doing during their long hiatus, with a bolder singer among the classic sounds and sweeping melodies. Tick-tock drum intro, rolling organ swells, crooning sustain-laden guitar lines and swooning bass, does this sound familiar? Asle sings with clarity and 'pain inside my head and my stomach aches'' that can hint at Radiohead or even recent Anathema, full of agonizing sentiment. A Sleeping Beauty of progressive bliss, a gentle bluesy caress and dream cloud splendor.

The highlight track remains the sublime 'Steal My Soul' which incorporates a gargantuan amount of skin-deep emotion, featuring a spectacular final guitar solo that will tetanize your speakers into abject respect. The minimalistic piano takes the initial lead here, amid a flurry of effects buried under Asle's soporific tone, ('I used to be the boy with the gun') and Bjorn lighting the wick on his sizzling guitar (a Manzanera influence indeed). The tune evolves into an audacious lilt, the vocals now closer to Gilmour and hence, very Floydian but really good Floyd! ('I am still the boy with the gun!'). An astonishing piece of music, period.

The excruciatingly attractive 'Feeling Less' is oddly reminiscent of Porcupine Tree's 'Even Less', as the plaintive vocals are quite close to Steven Wilson's especially if the brooding lyrics are taken to account, a litany of sad words, despondent howls, depressing convulsions and shattering conclusions. Bombastic and explosive, the numbing arrangement glows like a dying wildfire, orange embers and crackling snaps that disrupt the night air.

'Colours' is another ultimate cracker, the discouraging words sung are deeply wounding, his voice overwrought with passion, the lead electric guitar full of agony and sensitivity, a simply splendid jewel of melancholic genius. Lush symphonics kick in to add to the deepening emotion, a distressed organ enters the fray, liberating Riis to discharge another scintillating axe solo into the obscure by cloudy skies, exploding mightily like some fireworks display and all the colours of the universe having now a canvas to display their unique magnificence. Another stellar piece of music, period.

'How I Wanna Be' veers towards even more experimental zones, the mood even more atmospheric, painful and wretched in utter anguish, pretty much a continuing legacy of the previous pieces, definitely doom-laden and despondent. Clearly fans of Anathema will find their fix here. The keyboards are excellent here and throughout the entire album, Jorgen Hagen is a real master colorist that comes forward only if one listens intently.

This thrilling debut is put to rest with a lovely lullaby, Hagen putting his piano to calming sleep, encouraging Asle to 'give up'. 'The Sounds That I Hear' continues the plea to go on, as if acknowledging the past, the present and the future. Bjorn finally ends the torment with a tortured by optimistic solo. A truly interesting debut that begs for attention by fans of the bands mentioned throughout this review. If you pay attention to all the details this music has to offer, you will be rewarded in kind. The best is yet to come'..

4 Eye personalities

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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