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Riis, Bjørn: A Storm Is Coming

Best known as one of the founders of new prog sensations Airbag - a band that I must admit have left me kind of flummoxed - singer, guitarist and songwriter Bjørn Riis made a serous impact with his debut solo outing, Lullabies In A Car Crash and its follow up Forever Comes To An End.

Detailing the breaking of a relationship and the bereft emptiness its unravelling leaves, A Storm Is Coming is undoubtedly something of a lament, with the initial lack of light to penetrate the gloom a key feature of a set of songs that still somehow manages to avoid the self flagellation this album could so easily have become.

The first change-up comes from the furiously churned riffs that steamroll over a slow and ponderous introduction by way of “When Rain Falls” where, if you hadn’t heard Riis before, you’d swear his main inspiration was Black Sabbath. Playing alongside a melodic core and longing heart there’s an instant and engaging contradiction which is immediately turned on its head by the much more obvious nod of the head to Steven Wilson or, more pertinently, Porcupine Tree that caresses and cudgels by way of “Icarus”. Again heavier sections are delivered with more vigour than was maybe anticipated but when the acoustic guitar strums and the vocals pierce the gloom, the touching points are unmistakable and well observed. Personally “You And Me” maybe takes the homage a little far, the notion that Wilson’s other project (of many), NoMan, or the other protagonist in that band, Tim Bowness, have been covered just a little too closely being almost impossible to shake off. Still, as well intentioned glimpses into inspirations go, it is hugely effectual and an interesting, moody aside.

Opening the second half of the album, "Stormwatch" looks to blend the styles that have already come before and as it does so, a familiar but much more idiosyncratic mood is revealed. Yes, there are glimpses of Wilson and indeed Bowness, but the underpinning keyboards that allow the acoustic guitar to soar as the vocals pine for better times are magnificent. Slap a pair of ‘eadphones round your lug’oles and this track alone not only stands out as the centre point of A Storm Is Coming, it also transposes you into other dimensions as it rinses you of the day’s grinding dirt. Although don’t become too lulled by the mid-track instrumental ambience, because on A Storm Is Coming, the fret fury of Iommi is never too far away.

In truth, from there “This House” and “Aftermath” become a little more incidental than their construction truly deserves, but then neither do either of them get quite close enough to matching the majesty of this album’s stand out piece. The production, for me, in the more progressive and melodic moments is near perfection, although the heavier rifferama can become just a tad hazy, however, it’s more churlish pickiness than true complaint. Something that can also maybe be aimed at the observation that while I’ve thoroughly engaged with this third foray from Riis, in all honesty, it hasn’t quite resonated as strongly with me as what the Airbag man has achieved on his previous solo sojourns. Although with that watermark being set impressively high, neither is it a suggestion that A Storm Is Coming isn’t a thoroughly involving experience.

Track Listing
1. When Rain Falls
2. Icarus
3. You And me
4. Stormwatch
5. This House
6. Aftermath

Added: November 23rd 2019
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: A Storm Is Coming on bandcamp
Hits: 815
Language: english

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