Bjorn Riis – ‘A Storm is Coming’ (Album Review)

Review of the new album from Bjorn Riis – A Storm is Coming, out May 3rd, 2019

by Martin Hutchinson

‘Six epic songs clocking in at 51 minutes, built around the central themes of human relations and loss, written as a dialogue between two persons.’ Well, as soon as I read that, I was hooked! The description of Airbag co-founder, songwriter and lead guitarist, Bjørn Riis’ 3rd solo album, A Storm Is Coming sounded right up my alley. I’ve been a long-time fan of this exceptional Scandinavian artist, first as part of the aforementioned Airbag and then his solo output including his amazing debut release “Lullabies In A Car Crash”. Dark, brooding and intensely emotional, A Storm Is Coming is both heavier and more tender than the previous releases, and Bjørn Riis manages to majestically combine the art of rock, prog and atmospheric pop.

Where there’s been a charge of Airbag being too much like a Pink Floyd clone, Bjørn’s solo output is more personal and is turning him into one of the outstanding progressive artists around at present.His signature guitar sound and vocals provide a dreamlike, almost surreal soundscape that takes the listener on a totally immersive journey through a whole gamut of raw emotions, full of the highs of elation and the lows of despair.

In addition to Bjørn on vocals, guitars and a wide variety of instruments, the album features Henrik Bergan Fossum (Airbag) on drums, Simen Valldal Johannessen (Oak) on keys, Ole Michael Bjørndal on guitar, and Mimmi Tamba on guest vocals
The ultra-slow burning intro to “When Rain Falls” is almost painful as you wait for the music to finally reveal itself. The thunderous guitar riff explodes on the unwary and this musical journey truly begins, the track alternating between the hard, focused approach and a languid, cathartic delivery of calmness and peace.

The uplifting “Icarus” brings a smile to my face every time I hear it. The elegantly strummed guitar and oh so tasty percussion adding hubris to the smooth vocals. A nod to Steven Wilson perhaps? But, in my opinion, this is better than anything on Mr Wilson’s last release. This song flows perfectly from beginning to end and leaves a knowing smile on your face as it comes to a close. To this reviewer Bjørn Riis’ best work has always been the sublime and seductive slower track that plays on your emotions and “You and me” is a perfect example of that. It seems to effortlessly glide along with charm and dignity, a perfect example of when less is more.

The longest and most mesmeric song on the album is the near fifteen minute “Stormwatch” which is possibly Bjørn’s most complete composition yet. An involving piece of music that draws you in to its intricate and alluring web. Mimmi Tamba’s halting vocal provides the perfect foil for Bjørn, adding a hypnotic touch to the music, a song that never outstays its welcome.

The emotive feel is ramped up to the maximum with the sublime tones of “This House”. A subtle acoustic guitar backs the touching vocal perfectly and gives an aura of heart-breaking honesty to the achingly tender music. A painful and yet beautiful sadness envelops the song leaving you drained by the end. Bjørn’s guitar playing is at its transcendent best on this incredible track.

The album closes out with the instrumental “Epilogue”, a cleansing and purifying release of soulful music that is the perfect ending. I’m a huge fan of Bjørn Riis and “A Storm Is Coming” has just emphasized what a huge musical talent this man is. Six songs of loss, love and human relations that everyone can relate to make this an album that touches you on a personal level and one that is already one of the year’s outstanding releases.

Released May 3rd, 2019 on Karisma Records

1. When Rain Falls (10:40)
2. Icarus (7:00)
3. You And Me (7:05)
4. Stormwatch (14:21)
5. This House (8:18)
6. Epilogue (3:36)

Total time: 51:00

Line-up / Musicians
– Bjørn Riis / vocals, guitars, bass, various other instruments
– Henrik Bergan Fossum / drums
– Simen Valldal Johannessenn / keyboards
– Ole Michael Bjørndal / guitar
– Mimmi Tamba / vocals

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