I’ve been a fan of Airbag and Bjørn Riis for several years. While I do miss consistent releases from Airbag, Bjørn’s solo work is just as good, if not better. His sense of emotional gravity is dialed way up, and that is the case for his new album, “A Storm Is Coming”, which released through Karisma Records on May 3rd. If you need a slow, soothing album of sensitive expression, this is the album for you.
Bjørn himself takes care of vocals, guitars, bass, and various other instruments. The line-up for this album also includes Henrik Bergan Fossum on drums, Simen Valldal Johannessenn on keys, Ole Michael Bjørndal on guitar, and Mimmi Tamba on vocals. Overall, I’m rather impressed with the performances on this album, especially in their ability to produce pure mood.
The music on this record is highly atmospheric and textured. It is mostly contemplative and introspective in pace, so the dark tones and highly personal feelings have time to ache and groan before our eyes (or ears, I guess). You will obviously hear Bjørn’s amazing guitar work and some catchy choruses here and there, but this album is mostly about abstract ambiance and communicating in shades of grey and blue.
When I say that the album communicates in shades of grey, I really mean that. This album borders on psychedelia, too, though. The music moves along with uncertain piano melodies, sluggish guitar licks, and an atmosphere that screams doubt. You will definitely hear Bjørn’s love for Pink Floyd a few times, and I think that adds to the casual and psychedelic vibes. I love the way the keys sweep in to accent the feelings at just the right moments, too. So, the album is both shadowy and also colorful.
Lyrically, the album is quite human. It discusses relationships and the way we hang on each other, or maybe the ways in which we tear each other down, or maybe both. It touches on loss and mourning, as well as healing. Relationships are complex, complicated things, and this album captures them quite well. The storm of emotions is palpable in most of the tracks.
The album has six tracks and clocks in around 51 minutes in length. The album flows very well from one song to the next, but never feels monotonous and the songs do not blur together in my mind. So, even though the album creates an effective mood, it doesn’t get lost in that abstraction.
A couple of the tracks are longer in length, specifically “When Rain Falls” at 10 minutes and “Stormwatch” at about 15 minutes. “When Rain Falls” opens the album with a leisurely pace, which I find adds to the gravity of the album as a whole. It features a great guitar solo from Bjørn, plus a very Nick Mason-like drumbeat that gives me nostalgic feelings immediately. “Stormwatch” is a duet of sorts, and it comes across as simultaneously grand and restrained. It has several transitions and atmospheric portions, too, so it’s a song that you can get lost in, truly.
While those two tracks are probably my favorites, I also really like “Icarus” and “Epilogue”. The former is the single, and the strong vocal hook in the chorus is perfect for such a thing. Personally, while I love the melody, the lyrics are the strongest part of this song. The latter is a truly outstanding instrumental ending to this album. It helps us muse over the events and themes of the album. You really do feel satisfied at the end.
Bjørn has another winner on his hands here. While his amazing “Lullabies in a Car Crash” might still be a smidge better in my mind, “A Storm Is Coming” is definitely going to challenge that album as my favorite from him. I continue to be impressed by the levels of emotion and mystery that Bjørn injects into his music. Definitely hear this album!