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AIRBAG – THE CENTURY OF THE SELF (2024) (Heard on Bandcamp)

Having read an interesting review in PROG magazine, I was interested to hear this concept album. ‘Dysphoria’ has a gentle acoustic opening, tension building gradually: “Did you come here to find some peace of mind, too much confusion in your head at times.” Reverberating single guitar notes and brooding synths create an atmosphere of foreboding: “I see people keeping their heads down, denying everything they used to be.” A very PINK FLOYD-like vocal echo pronounces “It’s driving me insane!”

It’s an album about what I would call ‘the manipulation of the masses’ and, in modern parlance cancel culture and (my own addition), ‘gaslighting’. ‘Tyrants and Kings’ concerns being forced into having an opinion by indoctrination, you see. ‘Awakening’ is acoustic guitar led and about a person forced into isolationism, struggling for identity and purpose with strident guitar and repeated synth lines; in general style is very close to PORCUPINE TREE/ STEVEN WILSON and MARILLION. ‘Erase’ has a repetitive bass line and an ominous trilogy of notes in the melody line. ‘Tear It Down’ is the longest track at 15 minutes (in the sensible length of around 45 minutes) and features what I can only describe as an apocalyptic guitar break. This and opener ‘Dysphoria’ are the ones that really drew me in. In between, I love the messages contained within about rewriting history and the current state of the western world (Airbag are Norwegian).

However, I found it rather laid-back for what is essentially a ‘protest’ album: perhaps it is the NO MAN/ PORCUPINE TREE style that restricts its melodic intensity -perhaps an injection of RADIOHEAD might have helped! - and I found myself waiting for hooks that never really came that often. However, this is one album I do intend to return to try to find the spontaneity of expression I maybe missed first time around.

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