Bjørn Riis’ second solo album surprised me. Twice. Only being familiar with his work as the guitarist for Airbag, I was expecting “scenic” guitars punctuated with melodic, emotional solos. “Forever Comes to an End” instead opens with an attack of guitars and drums – still emotional, but heavy and distorted. It grabbed me hard, right away.
My first expectation gave way to my second – that this would be an album where Riis gets to throw off the familiar trappings of his playing, and explore heavier riffs.
That’s where I was surprised again.
The turmoil of the opening, titular track gives way to a softer soundscape, overlayed with acoustic guitars and softly played piano, setting up the mood that permeates the rest of the album.
As “Absence,” the instrumental second track gets underway, I found myself immersed in the textures – more familiar to fans of Airbag, but still different. While Airbag often evokes bands like Pink Floyd, or some of Porcupine Tree’s earlier and more atmospheric work, Bjørn on his solo album creates sounds more familiar to fans of post-rock.
“The Waves” follows, and eases into the primary pattern of rest of the album. Bjørn moves from instrumental tracks which present a variety of textures and feels into songs with soft, sparse vocals; telling a story of disconnection, separation, and loss.
Just when I got comfortable with the contemplative atmosphere he was building, “Getaway” slowly builds groove with some wah wah, and starts to generate a sense of urgency. By the end of “Getaway”, shades of the opening track return with a tinge of darkness and raw over-driven guitars. The fourth track, also an instrumental, ends and gives way to “Calm” – the rare perfectly named track – a gentle instrumental that builds a layered, orchestral sound.
The sixth track, “Winter” features acoustic guitars and contemplative lyrics. I particularly love the emotion captured through the use of unearthly guitar effects throughout the verses.
The final track, “Where Are You Now?” weaves lyrics of longing through thin piano chords. The thin chords give way to melodies of guitar, piano, and synth; with a huge emotional solo that fades again into the gently delivered lyrics and soft piano chords that close the album.
Light on lyrics, heavy on atmosphere; “Forever Comes to an End” delivers an emotional story through music. Don’t expect a display of technical wizardry or guitar acrobatics or catchy tunes: Instead find a cohesive, gorgeously crafted story; with few words, little excess, and so much depth.