Norwegian proggers Airbag show what happens when prog and metal collide
Norwegian atmospheric prog rockers Airbag explore the darker side of music – Guitarist Bjørn Riis opens up about fourth album Disconnected
A ll is not well in the world of Airbag. The Norwegians have slowly but steadily become one of the most admired bands in the modern prog scene, propagating a languid but emotionally turbocharged take on classic Floydian atmospheric rock that has always had a certain melancholy hue. But on the band’s fourth album, the glimmers of hope offered on previous albums, like 2013’s stunning The Greatest Show On Earth, seem to have been extinguished. From its austere, minimalist artwork to an overall sound that’s markedly less bright, Disconnected is a self-evident howl of anguish. According to founder member and guitarist Bjørn Riis, the creation of this dark and frequently despondent record began during a moment of personal crisis.
“I had a big revelation a few years back,” he says. “I suddenly realised I had a job I hated, and I hated pretty much everything in my life. So that was the first song I wrote for the album, and the lyrics reflect the state I was in. The rest of the songs and the rest of the album just grew from there. I don’t think any of our albums are overly happy but Disconnected is one of our darkest records, if not the darkest.”
We’ve been here before, of course. From Pink Floyd to Porcupine Tree and on into an increasingly unpleasant modern world, prog has often provided a commentary on mankind’s downward spiral into selfish madness and alienation. But there’s something about Disconnected that prods particularly violently at the conscience, as if to awaken us all to the grim reality that we may be sleepwalking through life and doing ourselves a grotesque disservice as a result.
“I think many people go through life thinking that they do what they want to do, they have the friends and the family and the job they want to have, and that everything’s perfect,” explains Riis. “But you also go around with a feeling that something is wrong but you can’t quite put your finger on it. I was forced to not be a creative person at one point. I lost the creativity and I lost the will to be creative and to write music, because something in my life was holding me back, I guess. I’m not saying everyone is in that kind of prison, but more people are than perhaps want to realise it.”
The ominous grey off-switch on Disconnected’s cover seems to shield a familiar litany of contemporary woes, not least the undeniable fact that the ubiquity of the internet and the extraordinary proliferation of social media has created the illusion that somehow human beings are becoming more connected and engaged with their fellow, erm, online entities. Perhaps it takes a pessimist to acknowledge it, but the way that living life online seems to enable people to disengage almost entirely from the real world, real relationships and the here and now provides Disconnected with an undercurrent of highly pertinent despair.