Album Review: Bjørn Riis – “Everything to Everyone”

BjoBjørn Riis, Everything to Everyone, Karisma Records, April 8, 2022
Tracks: Run (5:56), Lay Me Down (11:40), The Siren (7:20), Every Second Every Hour (13:20), Descending (4:33), Everything to Everyone (7:28)

At the risk of throwing objectivity out the window, I’ll start this review by saying I absolutely love this album. I think it’s the best music I’ve heard in a long time. But it’s Bjørn Riis! By this time I expect no less than the best from him.

While I still haven’t quite gotten into Airbag, the band for which Riis is most well known, I love his solo albums. They’re all excellent, and they seem to get better with each record. His 2019 album, A Storm is Coming, was brilliant, and it made my year-end best-of list. I expect Everything to Everyone will be near or at the top of that list this year. To make a contemporary comparison, Riis’ style reminds me most of Steven Wilson, both his more progressive solo albums and his work with Porcupine Tree. Riis is on that same level, as well.

Rather fascinatingly, Riis says the influence for the concept behind this album came from Dante’s Inferno. He comments,

A bit pretentious perhaps, but I’ve always been fascinated by that very personal journey and the search for some kind of peace or redemption, while being both mentored and hurt along the way. Musically, I wanted to take the listener on that journey, experiencing both hope and anxiety.”

The lyrics are filled with emotion, reminding me at times of Mariusz Duda’s lyrics. Riis is clearly a very thoughtful man, and I’ve found his lyrics always resonate with me. There’s a lot of depth in them, which allows for reflection on repeated listens. The music is often melancholic, which I especially enjoy, and this is frequently reflected in the lyrics.

The opening instrumental track acts as an overture for the rest of the album. With a careful listen you’ll spot musical themes from this track throughout the album. Parts of “Run” are on the heavier side, which sets a nice stage for the record, which has both its heavier rock sides and its spacier contemplative moments. Both are equally alluring.

“Lay Me Down” may start off a bit slow, and admittedly it is a bit of a jarring transition from the heavy rock of the opening instrumental track. The song really catches its groove a minute 20 seconds in, though, when the drums kick in. A little later female vocals come in to back Riis’ soothing voice, and the result is very [don’t say Floyd, don’t say Floyd, don’t say Floyd] spacey. The song is almost 12 minutes long, so it ebbs and flows through various passages, some of which do indeed remind me of Pink Floyd. David Gilmour is obviously an influence on Riis’ guitar playing, and Riis lives up to his musical influences. The song also has its heavier parts, reflecting the opening track.

“The Siren” was one of the singles for the record, complete with its own video. It’s a haunting track on the relaxed side of Riis’ musical spectrum. The lyrics are from the perspective of someone sitting in the audience at a dance performance, where the dancer performs for both you individually and for everyone all at the same time. It’s an interesting dynamic, but the lyrics are also written in such a way that deeper meanings can be inferred. I’ve found mine own rather personal meanings in it, and as such the song has grown on me to the point where I find it very moving.

Bjørn Riis – The Siren – YouTube

I’m not the biggest fan of the artificial vocal distortions on parts of “Every Second Every Hour,” mainly because I think Riis’ voice is great and shouldn’t be hidden, but it doesn’t take away from the song too much. Just a minor quibble. I have to keep my enthusiasm in check somehow. Overall this song is epically wonderful. It’s over 13 minutes long, and like the other similarly long song on the album, it ebbs and flows along the range of Riis’ styles. The acoustic guitar and piano passages with simple singing abound, but these also give way to soaring guitar solos and walls of drums. The synth soundscapes help create a wall of sound that isn’t particularly dense, but it lays a beautiful background to the song.

“Descending” is another instrumental track that has an interesting name because the music actually appears to ascend rather than descend. It starts out quiet and gradually gets louder and heavier as more elements are layered onto the song. If we go back to the inspiration from Dante’s Inferno, however, I think we get our answer to that question. In Inferno, Dante is given a tour of Hell by the poet Virgil. Hell is depicted as a ring of concentric circles, with each circle filled with increasingly brutal punishments for increasingly heinous sins. As such, the story gets more intense the further Dante and Virgil descend into Hell. When viewed in this light, “Descending” makes sense for this particular song on this particular album.

The title track is a quintessential Riis track, featuring the spacey electric guitar solos, walls of acoustic guitars, and emotion-filled vocals. There’s also more female backing vocals. The song gradually builds as it closes out, with a wall of sound created through guitars, drums, and piano. It’s very Porcupine Treeish in the best of ways. The lyrics talk about reaching out for help as we stumble through the dark parts of life.


Put simply, Bjørn Riis’ Everything to Everyone is a thing of beauty in very dark times. The album reflects the good and the bad we experience through our emotions, and it tells a beautiful story through music and words. Do yourself a favor and buy this record. Dwell with it. Let the music and lyrics wash over you. You won’t be disappointed.

https://www.bjornriis.com
https://www.karismarecords.no
https://bjornriis.bandcamp.com/album/everything-to-everyone

Bjørn Riis – Everything to Everyone – YouTube

Bjørn Riis Releases Music Video Off Upcoming Album

Bjørn Riis is one of the most criminally underrated guitarists and artists out there. I have been consistently returning to his solo albums over the past few years, and they never disappoint. He’s a brilliant guitarist, and he manages to make so much out of the sparsest sounds. Where it would lack in other artists’ music, a simple drum beat creates the perfect mood and textures in Riis’ work. He is a master of a spacey atmospheric sound that is hauntingly beautiful.

Today he released a music video for his song, “The Siren,” told from the perspective of someone watching a dancer. The song is off his upcoming album, Everything to Everyone. The track features piano from Simen Valldal Johannessen of Oak, one of my favorite bands of the last several years. Riis has also provided guest guitars on a few Oak tracks.

The album is out April 7, and it can be ordered at various sites at the following link from Karisma Records: https://link.karismarecords.no/Bjorn-Riis_Everything-To-Everyone_Album

Bjørn Riis – The Siren – YouTube

Bryan’s Best of 2019

Here we are at the end of another year. As you’re probably well aware, 2019 has been the latest in a string of great years for progressive rock and metal. Overall it didn’t blow me away like other years have (a few particular albums did however), but I think that’s more because of how my year has gone. I finished up grad school in the spring, and I spent the entire year job-searching before finally starting a new job at the beginning of this month. A couple of important people in my life died this year as well, so overall it has been a year full of challenges. My ability to properly soak in all the great music that has been released understandably suffered. But nevertheless, I found much to enjoy this year, and the following are some of my favorites. They are in no particular order except for my top three down at the bottom of this list.

Rise Twain – Rise Twain

The first album by Philadelphia-area duo Rise Twain is a stellar example of what popular music should be. Brett Kull and J. D. Beck are excellent songwriters and equally talented musicians. They combine the simplicity of a good song with the more technical aspects of prog. While it may be hard to call this a “prog” album, it certainly has many varied influences that make this a solid showing. Check out my review and interview with Brett Kull here: https://progarchy.com/2019/08/30/a-conversation-with-brett-kull-of-rise-twain/

Soen – Lotus

This is a magnificent album. Beautifully heavy, as any metal album should be, it retains an ability to move int0 peaceful contemplative spaces. When this album rocks, it rocks hard, and it keeps an upbeat tone that so many metal albums often lose. “Lotus” delivers musically, lyrically, and vocally. Check out Time Lord’s review here: https://progarchy.com/2019/01/09/album-preview-soen-lotus-soenmusic/

Continue reading “Bryan’s Best of 2019”

Watson’s Best Prog Albums of 2017: Part 1 — The “Honorable Mentions”

This year has seen a bonanza of quality progressive music. I have probably listened to more great albums this calendar go-round then in any recent year. This list is, of course, totally subjective and based on my own predispositions towards symphonic, orchestral, and melody-hooked prog.  There was such a plethora of wonderfully creative work in 2017 that I am increasing the list from the usual Top Ten or Top Twenty to a whopping 40 best.

And though ## 40 – – 21 are being categorized as only “honorable mentions” they still deserve your attention.  All of the following releases are so good that on any given day (just not today) they might well “crack the ceiling” and wind up on my official TOP TWENTY (coming later this week).   And now, in descending order from number 40 to number 21 are this years:

“Honorable Mentions”

40) SACRED APE/Sacred Ape

sacredape

Continue reading “Watson’s Best Prog Albums of 2017: Part 1 — The “Honorable Mentions””

Birzer’s Best of 2017, Part I

As you all happily know, Timelord has announced his top albums of 2017 already.  When he did, I was a bit surprised.  Wait, is it that time of year already?  What about albums that come out in December?  The more I thought about it, the more I thought Timelord was absolutely right to announce his top picks.  Not much is going to happen this month, and, even if something does come out, it will be hard to measure against what already exists.  Should something come out and shake up my list, I will, of course, be happy.  For any thing that could possibly shake up this list would have to be really, really good.

And, as you also happily know, Tad Wert took a unique perspective on his top picks, focusing on the live releases of the year rather than on the studio releases.  Bravo!

Unlike 2012-2016, this is the first year that I found actually easy when ranking.  That is, picking and ranking has been relatively easy.  As some of the other progarchists have said over the past half decade, so much prog had come out in any previous years that it felt like “taking a sip from the fire hose.”

This year, 2017, just feels different.  The quality definitely outdid the quantity.

Before starting rankings, though, I would be dead wrong not to mention two critical things.

Jerry Ewing
Our Fearless Leader, Jerry Ewing.

First, God bless, Jerry Ewing, and his glorious PROG magazine.  For a time there, we all thought the ship was gone, our captain lost at sea in a corporate hurricane of insanity and avarice.  Then, Ewing emerged—and stronger than ever.  Congratulations, Jerry.  Long may you lead our little platoon of prog-loving weirdos.

Second, may God bless, Tim Hall (Kaylr).  I never actually met Tim, but I really appreciated his views on everything.  He was always intelligent and prudent, and our loss is heaven’s gain.  Tim, if you can, please say hello to Hendrix, Morrison, Emerson, Lake, Squire, and all of the other greats of the last half century.  And, say hi to my dad, my grandparents, and my daughter, Cecilia Rose, as well.  Someday, brother, someday. . .

On to the show!

Continue reading “Birzer’s Best of 2017, Part I”

My Best of 2017???

Let me just state from the outset that I love that Chris had the gumption to post his favorites albums of the year already.  We’re not even in December, Chris!  Love it.

So, just as an experiment, I checked my player’s settings and calculated the albums I listened to the most.  While I can’t claim this to be a fair statement of what I think the best of the year was–after all, some albums, such as Glass Hammer’s UNTOLD TALES.  It’s only had a month to compete against some albums that have had 11 months.  Still, it’s a marker.

Additionally, because my player calculates the number of plays for the year total, it registers all albums in my collections, not just those that came out in 2017.  So, by the number, folks, by the numbers—the ten most played albums in the Birzer house for the last 11 months.

No. 10 most played of 2017:

Glass Hammer Untold

 

Continue reading “My Best of 2017???”

Dark Nordic Lullabies

Review of Bjorn Riis, LULLABIES IN A CAR CRASH (Karisma Records, 2014).  52 minutes.  Six songs: A New Day; Stay Calm; Disappear; Out of Reach; The Chase; Lullaby in a Car Crash.

From Karisma Records.
From Karisma Records.

Without a doubt, my favorite Porcupine Tree song is “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here.”  If you could take the best of that 12 minute song—its moodiness, its psychedelic atmosphere, its thundering bass and guitar, its surrealism—and expand it to 52 minutes in length, you’d have Riis’s solo album, LULLABIES IN A CAR CRASH.

Of course, you might also find yourself with a slightly less depressing version of Pink Floyd’s ANIMALS or THE FINAL CUT or a less religious and more nordic version of Talk Talk’s SPIRIT OF EDEN.

Whatever you’d have, you’d be listening to and holding something of intensity, struggle, and beauty.  LULLABIES couldn’t be any moodier, frankly.  In fact, if you’re feeling the holiday blues at all, don’t come near this album.  If, however, you’re in a good state of mind, in a darkened room, wearing your state-of-the-art headphones, and sipping a vodka-tonic, then you’re a blessed listener.  It won’t get better than this.

Indeed, this is the perfect early 1980s album, the type of album that you could (and probably will, even if you’re now in your 40s) listen to again and again and again, trying to immerse yourself in the very Riis-Hollis-Waters-Wilson atmosphere: thick, claustrophobic, and all-pervasive.

Bjorn Riis, having entered the Norse pantheon of prog deities.
Bjorn Riis, having entered the Norse pantheon of prog deities.

No one can avoid comparing Riis’s work here or with Airbag to Floyd and PT.  Yet, there’s something distinctively Riis-ian, too.  This is no mere cover band.  By no means.  In large part, Riis brings three critical things to each of his albums: 1) a haunting vocal style; 2) the uncanny ability to allow his music to flow, organically, as did Mark Hollis; and 3) an outrageously fine sense of audiophilia.

Of course, has there been a misfire from any Scandinavian prog release since Roine Stolt’s mind-bogglingly good THE FLOWER KING?  Not that I know of.

Riis ably follows in this noble tradition.

To learn more, visit Riis’s official site: http://www.bjornriis.com/about/

Karisma: Bjorn Riis’s Forthcoming Solo Album

Bjørn Riis

Lullabies in a Car Crash

Karisma Records

3 November 2014

A 1,000 years ago, this guy would have terrorized your monastery.
A 1,000 years ago, this guy would have terrorized your monastery.  Now, he wields the guitar rather than the double bladed axe.

OVERVIEW

Airbag lead guitarist and main song writer Bjørn Riis is releasing his debut solo album, “Lullabies in a Car Crash”. The album is very much a personal statement, with lyrics dealing with fear of abandonment, alienation and loss. It’s also homage to many of Bjørn’s musical influences.

Bjørn is one of the founding members, the lead guitarist and main songwriter of the highly successful Norwegian band Airbag. Their three releases have all received great reviews worldwide and all become favourites among fans all over the globe.

“Lullabies in a Car Crash” feature six songs with a coherent and thematical composition. Bjørn’s soulful guitar playing and low-key vocals creates a rich listening experience. Although Bjørn as a guitarist have developed his own sound with a unique tone and his own technique over the years, the playing and tone are reminiscent of David Gilmour, Steven Rothery and Steven Wilson. As a singer this is the first time he takes the lead, normally doing the backing vocals in Airbag. His singing style is in the area of the mellow vocals of Tim Bowness and Nick Drake.

In addition to playing with Airbag, Bjørn is a highly respected guitarist within the guitar community, where he has a huge fan base. His guitar page “Gilmourish.com” has, with more than 40 million hits in total and an average of 150000 hits every week, become a centre for gear and music discussions online.

“Lullabies in a Car Crash” feature Airbag’s Henrik Fossum on drums and Asle Tostrup providing loops and effects. Long-time Airbag collaborator Vegard Sleipnes has co-produced the album together with Bjørn. The album is mastered by Jamie Gomez (Orgone Studio).

TRACKLIST

1. A New Day

2. Stay Calm

3. Disappear

4. Out Of Reach

5. The Chase

6. Lullaby in a Car Crash

Band website: www.bjornriis.com

Label website: www.karismarecords.no