AIRBAG – The Century Of The Self (Album Review)

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The anticipated wait for a new Airbag album nearly always pays off: fans know exactly what to expect and the band delivers. The only ones who may walk away disappointed are any who were hoping for a new progression in the Airbag sound. As expected, sonic meditations slowly develop over time, heavy on atmosphere and tension yet devoid of flashy heroics or complex interplay. Six albums in and the obvious reality appears to be confirmed: the Airbag blueprint is here to stay. No more, no less. 

While Airbag’s first three albums reached a level that has yet to be matched, the good news is that “The Century of the Self” is a satisfyingly cohesive outing that plays to the band’s strengths, and probably their best since “The Greatest Show On Earth”. Opening song “Dysphoria” delivers ten minutes of Airbag’s classic approach with its plodding but hypnotic rhythm transfixing the listener as new doorways open to reveal swirls of guitar amidst ambient keyboard patches. Asle Tostrup’s vocals fit the dour mood with lyrics like, “You’re canceled now, they’ll cancel everything, they’ll make us suffer and they’ll make us bleed” – themes that will be revisited throughout the album. Despite the political and social commentary, the music keeps us entranced and even on the edge of elation. A fine opener.

“The Century of the Self” Album Artwork

“Tyrants and Kings” is one of Airbag’s most convincing up-tempo songs yet. This streamlined piece makes its biting lyrical impact at a driving pace, careening towards the Bjørn Riis guitar solo which will inevitably bring the song to a close. Two for two so far. The unexpected and lovely “Awakening” harkens back to early ballads like “Colours”, finding Tostrup getting a tinge of emotion in his voice while Kristian Hultgren adds simple but impactful bass lines. “Wake up now…and feel…again.”

“Erase” explores cancel culture more deeply but despite touches of angst and grit, musically it feels a bit too Airbag-by-the-numbers to make much of a unique mark. More interesting is the closing 15-minute “Tear It Down” which traverses a diverse terrain. Opening with spacious vibes on the keys courtesy of Simen Valldal Johannessen, we eventually are treated to several Riis guitar moments and a solid groove from Hultgren’s punchy bass and Henrik Bergan Fossum’s well-mixed drum kit. The whole affair is skillfully produced by Vegard Kleftås Sleipnes, making for ideal headphone tripping. 

Having proven their staying power with their previous album “A Day At The Beach”, this new release raises the bar a hair higher, feeling like a more consistent statement. Airbag once again demonstrate their obvious qualification to be one of ambient prog’s top artists. 

Released By: Karisma Records
Release Date: June 14th, 2024
Genre: Progressive Rock

Musicians:

  • Asle Tostrup / Vocals, keyboards and programming
  • Henrik Bergan Fossum / Drums
  • Bjørn Riis / Guitars, bass, keyboards and backing vocals

The Century Of The Self” Track List:

  1. Dysphoria
  2. Tyrants and Kings
  3. Awakening
  4. Erase
  5. Tear it Down

Order The Century Of The SelfHERE

8.4 Great

Airbag return with a set that proves why they are one of ambient prog’s top artists. Running a concise 47 minutes with only 5 songs, their sixth album doesn’t break new ground but instead excels at what they do best. Let these atmospheric pieces wash over you in the dark of the night

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 7
  • Production 9.5
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