Artist: Bjørn Riis
Album Title: Coming Home EP
Label: Karisma Records
Date Of Release: 23 February 2018
New material, even an EP, was an unexpected surprise so soon after the latest full-length release from Airbag guitarist Bjørn Riis. Of 2017’s album, ‘Forever Comes To An End’, I can be quoted as saying:
“…this is a hugely impressive body of work in its own right and deserves to be enjoyed as such. ‘Forever Comes To An End’ is a no-brainer for anyone who enjoys expertly written and professionally executed progressive rock where textures and emotions are as important as the complexity of the music.”
It is safe to say that I enjoyed the record, equally as much as recent Airbag material, and so I approached this latest EP, ‘Coming Home’ with eagerness and excitement. And I have not been left disappointed, that’s for sure. ‘Coming Home’ contains all of the ingredients that makes Riis such a compelling musician and song writer. In his hands, the guitar sings and soars with effortless beauty, further justifying the lofty comparisons with David Gilmour.
However, it takes until the midway point of the second song before we get to hear Riis’ trademark lead guitar work. The opener, ‘Daybreak’ is a moody and atmospheric scene-setter, ushered in by the sound of the wind whipping over lonely and desolate vistas, striking in its simplicity. When it arrives, the guitar work is equally simplistic but no less impactful, drenched in effects and as evocative as the natural backdrop.
The title track maintains the introspective and melancholy vibe, if anything, ramping it up to another level. The lone clean guitar strumming and fragile, human lyrics create a poignancy that is sublime. As the song develops, ambient sounds join the fray and then in the final third, the song explodes, led by a soaring lead guitar solo that is achingly beautiful, communicating an incredible depth of human emotion in the process.
There’s a less restrained vibe that emanates from ‘Drowning’, which begins in typically quiet fashion but then experiments with a harsher, more post-rock in a pulsating mid-section that threatens to spiral out of control. In the build-up, the lead flourishes are distinct but minimal, hinting at what’s to come. But as quickly as the power arrives, it retreats back into the darkness. The inclusion of guest Norwegian singer Sichelle Mcmeo Aksum to duet with Riis is a lovely addition to the thoroughly moving composition, as it gently unwinds to end in thought-provoking silence at its death.
‘Tonight’s The Night’, the final 100% original composition on this EP is arguably my favourite song of them all. The piano that sits at its heart is simply gorgeous, accented by a strong bass heartbeat. The guitars, dive in and out of the composition, adding drama, colour and rich texture to what is an extremely moody instrumental that’s over far too quickly as far as I’m concerned.
Closing out this five-track affair is an alternate version of ‘Lullabies in a Car Crash’, the title track from Riis’ debut solo record. Featuring the talents of touring Airbag guitarist Ole Michael Bjørndal, it is a worthy reinterpretation of what was already a fantastic piece of music, almost unrecognisable in places. Whilst acoustic guitars and sensitive vocals find themselves front and centre, the soaring and emotive lead guitar notes of Riis take the plaudits, carrying us on an emotional and memorable journey in the brief time that they exist within the song.
There is no doubt in my mind that ‘Coming Home’ feels darker in tone and more sombre overall than ‘Forever Comes To An End’. It is also, for my money, more of a minimalist affair, even more stripped back than normal, allowing the simplicity in itself to become the strongest and most compelling factor. However, the fact remains that the material is equally as beautiful and eloquent, meaning that you’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by it, at least in some small way. If you’re a fan of Airbag, Bjørn Riis or minimalist prog rock in any shape or form, this is a must-buy.
The Score Of Much Metal: 8.85
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here: