"The Greatest Show On Earth" is the third studio release from Norwegian progressive rock group Airbag, and their most impressive album to date.
Actually this is more than simply 'impressive'. As the title suggests ... it's GREAT!
I reviewed their debut album "Identity" back in 2009 and gave it somewhat of a mixed review. The band captured the essence of those moody atmospheric ballads from Pink Floyd's final chapter ("A Momentary Lapse Of Reason" and "The Division Bell") but lacked the variety and dynamics of their ballsier tracks. And even though I enjoyed each individual tune on "Identity", when presented as a whole, the very chilled-out nature of the album blended into a musical blur with little variation to distinguish one track from the next. So as a reviewer I found myself in somewhat of a quandary and ended up giving the individual songs a 9 out of 10 rating, but graded the album as a whole 7 out of 10.
Their 2011 follow-up "All Rights Reserved" saw the band fine tuning and expanding their musical pallet with a more aggressive bite and harder edge. And now with the release of "The Greatest Show On Earth" Airbag has fully matured into exceptional songwriters, incorporating a tapestry of textures, shifting tempos, and bombastic dynamics, engaging the listener with a balanced combination of both moody atmospheric soundscapes and grandiose sonic assaults in the tradition of albums like "Dark Side Of The Moon".
Unlike "Identity", there is no fear of being lulled into a melancholy Prozac trance on this album. Airbag has gotten my attention in a big way.
Over the years a great many bands have been influenced by and compared to Pink Floyd (Pulsar, A Perfect Circle, Memories Of Machines, Blue October, Riverside, Mostly Autumn, The Future Kings Of England, Primus, Amorphous Androgynous, Negative Zone, Abarax, Phideaux, and Nosound ... to name a few) but the most notable are bands like Eloy, Porcupine Tree and RPWL who assimilated that style early in their career and then put a new spin on it making it their own. The same can be said of Airbag with "The Greatest Show On Earth".
Although unmistakable echoes of Pink Floyd permeate the recording, the band tweaks the material just enough to make it their own while appealing to the most ardent Floyd aficionado. And for fans nostalgic for the days when Waters, Gilmore, Wright, and Mason were at their creative peek, "The Greatest Show On Earth" should be right up your alley.
The concept behind "The Greatest Show On Earth" follows closely the theme of the latest Nemo album reviewed earlier this month "Le Ver Dans Le Fruit". Both albums deal with alienation, distrust in established authorities, and being manipulated and kept in a comfortable state of mind, believing we’re in control of our self-centered lives. A typical fear expressed by many of today’s young Millennials who have watched their future squandered by corporate greed and both factions of the political establishment.
This is another album in which I can't single out a single track as a musical highlight because the entire album is superb from beginning to end. And should be enjoyed as a complete piece of music.
The current line-up consists of Asle Tostrup (vocals), Bjorn Riis (guitars & vocals), Jorgen Hagen (keyboards), Anders Hovdan (bass), and Henrik Fossum (drums).
Highly recommended to fans of Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, RPWL, and Eloy. And a welcome addition to any prog/rock music collection.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on January 11th, 2014