Review – Airbag – The Century of the Self

“Prepare to embark on an auditory journey like no other as Norwegian prog-rock maestros Airbag unleash their highly anticipated sixth studio album, ‘The Century Of The Self’. Showcasing their trademark fusion of mellow introspection and dynamic energy, from the mesmerising depths of Dysphoria to the haunting crescendo of Tyrants And Kings, each track captivates with irresistible vocal hooks and virtuosic lead guitar work that has become synonymous with the Airbag sound.”

Let me first put in a disclaimer before you read this review, I am a huge fan of Airbag and Bjørn Riis‘ solo work but I will be as objective as I can throughout.

Right, now we’ve got that out of the way, let us begin…

‘The Century of the Self’ is an album that stands as a testament to the artistic vision and enduring creativity that Airbag bring to their music. Touching on themes such as cancel culture and the rewriting of personal histories, it is a reflection on modern society’s zeitgeist, and a poignant commentary of today’s world, which is steeped in fear and condemnation.

Those words really got me excited when I read the promo email that came from the band’s label, Karisma. I have been an admirer of the lush soundscapes created by this wonderful band since I first heard their debut album, ‘Identity’, back in 2009 and they have matured like a fine wine ever since. Their discography of five studio albums prior to this latest release has some absolute gems like ‘All Rights Removed’ and ‘Disconnected’ but every Airbag release is a superb auditory experience.

Let’s cut to the chase, ‘Century of the Self’ is another brilliant album but one that maybe has a more edgier, in your face attitude than the earlier releases. Through its five tracks we go through the whole gammut of powerful, hypnotic bass lines, powerful riffs and thunderous drumming to a lightness of touch and contemplation and everything in between. It is as complete a listening experience as you will get and will excite Airbag fans both old and new.

The slow burning, edgy Dysphoria will keep you on edge with Bjørn Riis‘ coruscating guitar lines and Kristian Hultgren’s superbly metronomic bass lines. Add in the elegant drums of Henrik Bergan Fossum and Asle Tostrup’s hypnotic vocals and we are already onto a winner, this is Airbag turned up to eleven! A standout track on a album of killer tunes, the wonderful Tyrants and Kings ebbs and flows with an elegance and precision that is a joy to hear. Riis’ guitar playing, ably assisted by Ole Michael Bjørndal, is as intense and scintillating as ever and literally stops you in your tracks and Tostrup’s haunting vocal delivery is just a delight. This is Airbag at their magnificent best and it’s a pleasure to hear them delivering songs of such calibre, even after fifteen years together. This is music that you need to listen to with no distractions to get the best from every note and the solo at the end is just about damn perfect! I spoke about a lightness of touch and contemplation earlier and that is what you get on the wistfully refined Awakening, a song that just dances lightly over your emotions and leaves a feeling of calmness and joy in your heart. Asle Tostrup delivers a near perfect vocal performance full of pathos, passion and poignancy, “Wake up and feel again…” a line that says so much. The guitar is ethereal and contemplative, breaking out into a plaintive and ardent solo that really touches your heartstrings. It’s just an exquisite and uplifting piece of music that will really leave its mark on you.

Things get a lot more primeval and edgy with Erase, the stylishly mesmerising bass line and Tostrup’s vocals spellbinding in their delivery and grabbing your attention. The restless, tense atmosphere is created by the terse drum beat and cacophonic guitar riff before the mood gets even more chaotic when Riis opens up with some dissonant and jarring licks and another superb solo that raises the roof. The album closes with the epic conclusion of Tear It Down, fourteen minutes of music that goes from serene introspective self-reflection to some of the most forceful and compelling music that the band have ever written. The track opens with a mellow, reflective vibe that sees synth lines and a ghostly guitar just wash over you, Asle’s voice a soothing presence along with the refined drum beat. Everything then opens up with dynamic and vibrant section that almost raises the hairs on your neck before we return back to the calm serenity of before, the track ebbing and flowing between the two in perfect harmony. A special shout out must be given to Simen Valldal Johannessen whose keyboards on this song are exceptional but you just need to let the music do its work and immerse yourself in the experience, the guitar solo that closes out the track, and the album, is particularly memorable

‘Century of the Self’ is a mesmerising and involving odyssey that elevates you to a musical nirvana that not many artists can create. Airbag are one of those bands that just seem to get better with age and this new release just might be their best album yet, and that’s saying something!

Released 14th June, 2024.

Buy the album from Burning Shed here:

Airbag (

Or from bandcamp here:

The Century of the Self | Airbag (

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