But is it prog?

20799959_1711292952500182_2053678725596451360_nThe worst question that I have to deal with is whether something is “prog” or not. I’ve fallen victim to having to ask that question many times when it comes to reviews or posting content. It drives me crazy. While I have my own idea of what prog is (and most people know I stretch the term quite far), in order to have a site that people can enjoy music that they like…well, I need at least SOME boundaries.

Lately, I find myself not giving a shit what genre something falls into. I’d rather listen to good music whether it’s King Crimson, Miles Davis, Cheap Trick or whatever. But are they prog? Fuck that. Are they GOOD? Yeah! But even so, Miles Davis stretched jazz well into the prog zone and even Cheap Trick recorded very progressive songs like “Stop This Game,” “Need Your Love,” or “Gonna Raise Hell.”

The unique thing about prog is unlike other genres, it can easily meld into another genre and add value. I suppose that is what I love most about it. It demands you stretch your definitions. This is why really don’t understand people that claim only bands like Yes or ELP or early Genesis or Rush (70s only! ugh) or Crimson are prog. Some people actually claim Pink Floyd isn’t prog. Those people are the prog version of “Flat Earthers.”

Prog evolved since all of those bands started it. And even those bands changed through the years and (in my opinion) were still very progressive. But again those narrow minded progsters just won’t have it. Just because YOU didn’t progress doesn’t mean THEY didn’t. I’d rather Genesis try their hand at prog pop than sound stupid with more Supper’s Ready clones. How is doing the same thing for 50 years “progressive”? It really isn’t.


On the metal side of things, those that deride Maiden being prog or early Priest or yes even Sabbath are insane. I think part of the problem there is the snobbery that goes against metal as a whole. Not all metal is three chord stupidity. Let’s remember that Lemmy was in Hawkwind, so maybe Ace of Spades isn’t overly clever but those early Hawkwind albums are incredible and quite prog. Maiden? I am not even going to justify that. No need. Priest? “Sin After Sin” and “Stained Class.” Sabbath? “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” and “Sabotage” but there are many tracks on many other albums.

Prog was bound to find its way into metal like it had done with rock. Much of metal is very classical in nature (some like Voivod even have jazz elements) and bands like Yes were practically lifting classical passages. So again, open your mind to other possibilities. I think the question isn’t “but is it prog?” but rather “does it challenge you?” and most importantly “but do you like it?”

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Vulkan – “Technatura”

470201At this point, the only reviews that I am writing are the ones that I am motivated to write. In other words, it has to be an album that I want you to know about. Here we have one: Vulkan – “Technatura.” I have a thing for Swedish bands which was partially why I decided to check out Vulkan. By the mid point of the big opening track “This Visual Hex,” I realized that I was not skipping ahead to check the next song but I wanted to listen to the rest. Ok Vulkan, you have my attention.

Their sound has elements of Katatonia, newer Opeth and even Soen by way of Tool. None of those influences are overt. Part of why I was drawn in was that the overall sound was not completely derivative of anyone else. It’s heavy psych rock with polyrhythms and some excellent grooves. Think The Mars Volta if they ever reigned things in a bit (a lot).

They do some experimenting here and there, the second track “Hunter-Prey” is short and a bit odd but I wouldn’t necessarily call it filler. In some ways, it’s like the shorter tracks that Tool does on their albums. Both “Klagans Snara” and the title track fall into this bucket as well. They aren’t tracks that I would seek out but as part of the whole they are fine.

It’s really a bright sounding album and the songs often take flight. The next tracks “Redemption Simulations” and “Bewildering Conception Of Truth” fit that mold and you find yourself hooked. I love the funky groove on “Rekviem” and the sway of tracks like “Spökskepp.” Like any great album, each song has its own uniqueness. Vocals are important to me and vocalist Jimmy Bob Lindblad has a very strong voice that I feel like reminds me of someone but I can’t place it. That’s a plus as well.

The album has many high points as I’ve mentioned and not the least of which is the 10 minute plus “The Royal Fallacy.” Like any really great longer song, it doesn’t feel as long as it is. The sections flow effortlessly and the song is just another jewel on this album. “Technatura” is a crowing achievement for Vulkan. Get it? Jewel. Crown. Anyway, this is one of those bands that people need to check out because they are not on a big label or a small one for that matter! Highly recommended!

Rating: 9/10

Facebook: www.facebook.com/thebandvulkan
Bandcamp: vulkanband.bandcamp.com/album/technatura

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Aleah – “Aleah”


The discovery of PMP introduced me to many artists. When Rob asked me to become a reviewer for the site, my net of musical discovery was cast even wider.

This latest album I have for review is from a vocalist whose life was cut short by cancer. Aleah Stanbridge was the singer for the band Trees of Eternity. She also featured on albums by Swallow The Sun and Amorphis.

This posthumous solo album is a collection of remastered tracks and unreleased songs It was completed and compiled by Aleah’s partner in music and in life, Juha Raivio.

While I recognize the names of two of the acts she has sung with, I never checked out their work and her participation. I rectified that!

I would say that if you have enjoyed her previous work, this album is a must listen for you.

The music may not be as intense. Aleah’s vocals are the focal point here.

A selection of the songs on this release are acoustic tracks that are then complemented by fuller versions.

One of these tracks is a favorite of mine, Vapour. The fuller version has a tension and a dark tone that reminds me of the work of Chelsea Wolfe. It is a song that hints at the dangers of desire after a lover has left you behind.

Another song I enjoyed on this release is Breathe. Again, I prefer the electric version with the atmospheric instrumentation and Aleah’s voice gliding within. It’s a song of love and hope to close out the album.

A beautiful voice is gone from this universe, yet it still brings us joy.

Rating: 9/10

Digital available now
CD and vinyl July 24th, 2020


1. Vapour – Acoustic Version
2. Sacrifice – Acoustic Version
3. Open Sky – Acoustic Version
4. My Will – Acoustic Version
5. Breathe – Acoustic Version
6. Closing Under Pressure – Acoustic Version
7. Water and Wine – Acoustic Version
8. Terrestrial Torrents – Acoustic Version
9. Touch My Face – Acoustic Version
10. My Will
11. Sacrifice (feat. Anilah)
12. Inverted Enlightenment
13. Vapour
14. The Tower
15. Breathe

Label: Svart Records
Facebook: www.facebook.com/aleahstarbridgeofficial
Bandcamp: aleah-starbridge.bandcamp.com/album/aleah

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Rob’s Top Ten of the first half of 2020

27857751_10156354240383938_3754386157897054753_nI noticed that The Prog Mind had posted a best of 2020 list and also that only one of the releases was one that I thought would make my list. So then I thought, do I even have 10 albums from the first half of 2020 that are worth making a list for? This year has been terrible so I wondered if that translated to the music.

I haven’t been listening to much music of late. And when I do, it tends to be older stuff that I already know. I’m just not in that head space. This is fallout from various personal things. Music was always something that held me together and now even that isn’t working. So okay I was able to find 12 albums which I then cut down to 10.

I don’t have an order to these so they are listed in alphabetical order. And I did not include anything that hasn’t been released yet. So while I would include Haken, the album got delayed. I wonder if these will survive til the end of the year…hell I wonder if the human race will survive til the end of the year. Here are ten releases to consider spending your money on.

Dool – “Summerland”
Elder – “Omens”
Hail Spirit Noir – “Eden in Reverse”
moe. – “This Is Not, We Are”
The Night Flight Orchestra – “Aeromantic”
Pattern-Seeking Animals – “Prehensile Tales”
Phish – “Sigma Oasis”
Psychotic Waltz – “The God-Shaped Void”
Pure Reason Revolution – “Eupnea”
Tame Impala – “The Slow Rush”

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Outside In – “Karmatrain”

outsideI assume what happened to me happens to many of you: weeks go by with what seems like no great new music and then the dam overflows.  I was still recovering from Intronaut’s new one Fluid Existential Inversions (featuring a career-defining performance by drummer Alex Rudinger) along with Rise Radiant by Caligula’s Horse when on one of those whims I decided to check out a band I’ve seen floating around Instagram recently, Auckland, New Zealand’s Outside In.

Bandcamp suggests song 5 “Morning Warning” as the go-to so I decided to give it a spin.  Isn’t it so weird how the mind quickly tries to attach a new sound to something familiar?  The vocal melody of the verse brought Tool to mind but that’s just a function of the musical scale used.  Just as I was appreciating the fuzzy bass tone, in-kicks the chorus.  Whatever chord changes my brain planned on receiving were not heard.  This is a good thing! The second verse features some higher-energy vocals from Mikey Brown, the chorus floats by, a very hooky B section rolls in and the song is punctuated by a grungy, anthemic declaration.  Boom. Whew.  I listened to the whole album, emailed the band, and I asked if I could write a review.  Not the usual order of business.  Is it the phase of the moon, the certain human vibration we’re all experiencing at this specific point in time, or is Karmatrain, released May 29, 2020’s progressive rock unicorn?

There is a certain neo-prog feel to the production, everything is well balanced, no issues there.  Song lengths are modest; the “epic” is track 12 at just over 8 minutes.  The bands that often pop into my mind include Enchant and Marillion.  Nice variety of feels and tempos but the chorus & hooks bring the composition into focus.  Everything you hear serves the songs.  I have a hard time finding anything to consider an unnecessary moment.  Just a few tasteful guitar solos to be found.  Songs blossom, fully realized at the end, compact but bright.  The flow from track to track and overall arc of the album is excellent.  Drummer Adam Tobeck is tasteful and syncopated, never overplaying yet always supporting the forward motion.  Elliot Park’s bass is solid and very tasteful, jazzy; Bridges is a great example of being both melodic and supportive.

Pieces of melodies float into my consciousness throughout the day, lyrical phrases will come and go.  The lyrics seem to entail a journey, literal and metaphorical, of an individual and of a society.  “The world looks broken when you focus on the pieces; if this isn’t what we wanted, then why are we letting it happen again?” from “The Garden of Light.”

After a dozen spins I’m still identifying the dual guitar parts. Guitarist/songwriter Jonnie Barnard and guitarist Joe Park are very complimentary.  I’ll bet these songs are not based on riffs but are crafted around a foundation.  The real rocking moments are used sporadically so when they hit it feels like a big deal; the “it’s not easy” part of The Ferryman is emotionally and rhythmically heavy.

Another entry into the best last track contest (includes The Contortionist’s “The Parable” & Caligula’s Horse “The Ascent”) is I Am Not The One.  A thrilling, emotionally-charged song, the way the song climaxes is the real deal: vocal harmonies, guitar chords, and the lyrics have a Yes-ness to them and to lay it over a 5/4 time signature it’s a goosebump generator.  And the lamest cliché of them all is 100% accurate – I’m left wanting to come back for another listen.

Rating: 9.5/10


  1. Let Me Go
  2. Blue Dragon
  3. Echoes and Stepping Stones
  4. Bridges
  5. Morning Warning
  6. The Lake
  7. The Garden of Light
  8. Mushrooms
  9. The Ferryman
  10. Pass On The Flag
  11. Om
  12. I Am Not The One

Bandcamp: https://outsideinnz.bandcamp.com/album/karmatrain


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Radio Show Hiatus

As many folks might know, I have a weekly radio show that airs live on Sundays on Metal World Radio. It has been also rebroadcast Tuesdays on Delicious Agony Radio. I’ve decided to put the show on hiatus for now. There are a few reasons for it and since there’s going to be speculation, I decided to use this post to both alert people to the hiatus and clear up the reasons why.

As people know, I am winding down reviews and that has given me a bit of relief. Additionally I am in the process of changing jobs in the middle of a pandemic. High risk, high reward. On Friday Juneteenth, two close friends were killed in a tragic car accident. Both were very supportive of PMP and I met them thru the Facebook page. My last radio show was a tribute to them and it turned out to be the hardest show I’ve done. One of the hardest things to do emotionally.

I actually got up from the mic many times during the music because I was too much of a wreck. So that show was draining. Subsequently, I’ve had an issue with some friends that became somewhat of a final straw. I think if any of these things were spread out, I’d have handled all of this and the show differently. But I can’t do another show now.

I know I come off as this gruff blow hard but to be quite honest, I am over sensitive and use that exterior to block it out if I can. The last show was raw emotion and to try to pick up the pieces whilst having unfortunate disagreements with my inner circle…it’s just time for it.

So that’s the deal. I do love doing the radio show normally. It’s not like reviews that I never enjoyed. But right now, I would resent myself for doing another radio show and that’s not the proper frame of mind for music. I am sure I’ll be back on the air at some point. When? I don’t know. Thank you all for listening to it either live or otherwise.


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Rob’s Recommendation Roundup: Volume 21


Long Distance Calling – “How Do We Want To Live?”
Label: Inside Out Music
Release Date: June 26, 2020

One of the best instrumental bands out there is Germany’s Long Distance Calling. I should probably call them “mostly” instrumental since they always have had vocals on each album. Sometimes it would be one track with a guest vocalist like John Bush, Vincent Cavanagh or Jonas Renkse. A couple of albums featured a full time band member on vocals for about half the album.

The band have since gone to a full on instrumental approach for their last album “Boundless” and the current one “How Do We Want To Live?” but there are still voices to be found. Another thing the band have always done is use samples of various voices to make their point. “How Do We Want To Live?” veers a bit overboard with said samples. I don’t mind SOME but when the opening track is basically dialogue, I am inclined to skip it.

I know what you’re thinking. “I thought this was a recommendations column?” Well despite those reservations, LDC still deliver another quality album. Perhaps it’s not as stellar as their self titled album or “TRIPS” but this band know how to write a riff and use the space in between the notes as well as anyone out there. The main difference with “How Do We Want To Live?” is that it sounds more like a soundtrack to a non-existent movie than their previous works.

I think that they are a band like Mogwai for example that should be doing soundtracks. The songs paint pictures without needing vocals. Though as I’ve mentioned that they have used vocals and were just as potent with them as without. That sort of talent should not go unnoticed. Long Distance Calling are a dependably great band who are a band that if I am not sure who I want to listen to, I can put them on and always enjoy myself. “How Do We Want To Live?” is a fine addition to those “go-to” albums.



Voivod – “The End Of Dormancy EP”
Label: Century Media
Friday, July 10, 2020

I love everything that Voivod does so this recommendation is a no brainer for me. What is this EP? “Collectible limited edition 3-track 12” Vinyl and Digital EP featuring a special “Metal Section” version of the title track “The End Of Dormancy” with added trumpets, saxophone and trombones” PLUS 2 live version of “The End of Dormancy” and “The Unknown Knows” recorded at Montreal Jazz Fest 2019!

This EP stems from that performance at the Montreal Jazz Fest when Voivod became the first metal band invited to play there. So they brought a horn section for some of the songs. Those songs are part of this EP along with a horned-up studio version of “The End Of Dormancy.” All of this shows just how otherworldly the music of Voivod is. NO ONE sounds like them. And as it turns out they can adapt to whatever situation they are put in.

If you are a fan of the band, you need this. If you don’t know Voivod, this is as good a way as any to be brave and join us.



Morse/Portnoy/George – “Cover to Cover Anthology (Vol. 1-3)”
Label: Inside Out Music
Release Date: July 24, 2020

Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy and Randy George have done a ton of albums together over the years. And since Portnoy loves doing covers, they have always recorded some as deluxe edition bonus tracks. Eventually, they released them as part of 2 installments: “Cover to Cover” and “Cover 2 Cover.” Now they have added a third round called appropriately “Cov3r to Cov3r.” And the label has packaged all three together (remastering the first two) as “Cover to Cover Anthology (Vol. 1-3).”

The key to these releases are the songs. The band have very good taste in music and are willing to take chances when it comes to song selection every now and then. They do tend to stick to the original arrangements though. While that might be a safer option, if you can play a song like “One More Red Nightmare,” why on Earth would you fuck with the arrangement?

I always loved “Cover 2 Cover” a little more when it came to the first 2 releases because of some of the chances they took. “Lido Shuffle” is one of my all time favorite songs. And if you have the balls to do “Crazy Horses” by the Osmonds (which is a great song), you are cool as hell. Plus they nail King Crimson’s “Starless” and what can you say about that really?

The third album has some great choices. “Baker Street”has added balls to it and they do such a great job on TWO Squeeze songs: “Black Coffee in Bed” and “Tempted.” While I’ve never been keen on Lenny Kravitz’s “Let Love Rule” (he has a lot better songs), they still do a fine job on the song. Plus it’s a message we ALL need right now!

All three albums are a lot of fun and worth owning. It’s even cooler that they come as a 3 disc package for folks they may not have purchased them to this point. Neal Morse is still a musical jukebox and both Mike Portnoy and Randy George have a great chemistry together. Don’t expect these versions to be BETTER than the originals (although some are) but instead just put it on and forget about life for a while.

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An Update from Rob

I’ve decided to scale back even more on writing reviews with the goal of stopping them. I just don’t have the time and, quite frankly, the interest in writing them. There are so many sites and blogs out there that write reviews and do a much better job than I do. I’m not a journalist and don’t enjoy writing in general. I was an English major in college and had my fill of writing paper after paper. That killed any desire I might have had.

Writing reviews also effected how I listen to music in general. Instead of just listening to something, I am judging what I hear right from the first note. I do love music but this has really twisted things for me. I don’t like that. The mission of PMP was for me to just make suggestions to other people. “Hey, check this out!” And that was supposed to be it. But it became more than that.

So what does this mean? Well of course the Facebook page goes on as it always has. That is my “home.” Even if I do less there, I can handle it okay. The radio show goes on. I do enjoy doing it even if my audience is small. It’s dedicated audience and what more could you want?

But for this website, there will be less. I’m going to take it one release at a time and be more picky than ever. Eventually, I plan on stopping. I’ll just post some things here when it strikes me. It’s strange that indie bands still try to submit albums for review to me when I stopped that quite a while back. Now I will just stop.

There are 3 InsideOut releases coming that I will review after that…I guess we’ll see.


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Frost* – “Others” EP

othersFrost* are back! And the good news is that this is actually just the beginning. “Others” is an EP of songs left off their last album “Falling Satellites.” The songs weren’t completely finished, but now they are. This EP will be released digitally on June 5, 2020 and will be released as part of the limited “13 Winters” anthology-artbook physically later this year. Also, the band are currently finishing the 4th album right now and it should be released in September!

Mastermind Jem Godfrey has always tweaked the band’s sound just a bit album to album but this EP definitely feels like a part of “Falling Satellites.” It’s very up front and modern sounding. This is definitely not rooted in the classic 70s sound. Granted, Jem has never been too interested in being a nostalgia act. Frost* walk that line between heavier prog rock while stopping just short of being actual prog metal. It’s always interesting. This EP is no exception, though a mixed bag.

The pounding synth laden “Fathers” makes for an awesome start to the album. It is a relentless track with an outstanding hook and Jem’s synths really drive this one. The second track “Clouda” is very…modern sounding. For me, it does veer very close to sounding overly processed. The percussion is electronic which isn’t bad necessarily, but it is a tad harsh. The off-setting acoustic guitar parts are nice though.

“Exhibit A” is the first single from “Others” and has the trademark noisy synths. There’s a group chant vocal in the track that I really don’t like, otherwise I suppose the song is good. “Fathom” is a welcome respite from the clatter of the opening tracks. It’s a Frost* ballad, with strings and an excellent vocal from Jem. My favorite track for sure.

“Eat” is a bit annoying. It’s creative. But the use of voices as instruments drives me nuts. It’s too mainstream pop sounding and lacks any sort of depth. The EP ends with “Drown” which is another mellower song with a lot of atmosphere. It’s a pretty sounding song that reminds me a bit of ELO (who I love). My second favorite track.

“Others” works as a stop-gap which is what it is. I can see why some of these songs didn’t make the last album while others deserved to be heard. 4 out of 6 are decent songs with two clunkers. Decent odds I guess. It’s not a new album but I am curious how much this EP will impact the direction of the next album. We shall see.

Rating: 7/10

1. Fathers
2. Clouda
3. Exhibit A
4. Fathom
5. Eat
6. Drown

Label: Inside Out Music
Release Date: June 5, 2020

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Rob’s Recommendation Roundup: Volume 20


Hail Spirit Noir – “Eden In Reverse”
Agonia Records
19 June 2020

I hadn’t heard of Greece’s Hail Spirit Noir prior to this so I had no expectations coming into this. From what I read about them, they were more rooted in psych rock with a bit of black metal and now they were experimenting with an 80s style. In listening to “Eden In Reverse,” I don’t really hear anything 80s sounding. Hmm ok so I went back and checked out their last album “Mayhem In Blue.” This was completely different.

They basically lost their black metal roots for their new album which were VERY present on “Mayhem In Blue.” “Eden In Reverse” is very 70s prog rock mixed with psych rock and is really amazing too! Honestly the band has made a major change between these albums and yet it doesn’t appear to be noted anywhere. This really is perplexing. I wouldn’t call them a metal band now and that’s fine really. It’s like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon.

The album starts off with the somewhat brief and very strange “Darwinian Beasts.” I love it! It’s all about the various keyboard sounds on this track, very cool and trippy. Things get louder with “Incense Swirls” which HINTS at the band’s metal past but this is more like Goblin with vocals. So it’s edgy but I wouldn’t call it metallic really. Another psychedelic freak out. “Alien Lip Reading” is along the same lines though I bit less relentless. One thing to note is the vocals are very…Nick Cave like. Not a black metal shriek to be found.

The first single from the album “The First Ape on New Earth” has plenty of organ, synths and pounding drums. It’s a great choice since it makes for a solid representation of the album as a whole. And it make sure it’s a prog album, it has the necessary 10+ minute closer in “Automata 1980.” If you love vintage keys mixed with solid melodies and a dark vibe, then you will love this song. Hell, you’ll love the whole album as I do. Hail Spirit Noir have ARRIVED and “Eden In Reverse” needs to he heard by prog fans around the world! So I guess they aren’t black metal anymore.



Shaman Elephant – “Wide Awake but Still Asleep”
Karisma Records
29 May 2020

I could just say, “if you like Motorpsycho, then you’ll like Shaman Elephant.” But that doesn’t help folks who don’t know Motorpsycho. Yes you should know them. Norwegian prog rock seems to share the same overall DNA, which is probably why I love it.

“Wide Awake but Still Asleep” is the band’s second album and starts off with the title track. The song, like the album, builds up and features a classic 70s vibe and I started to think, “wow, a cool instrumental!” And then 5 minutes in, VOCALS! The song gets a little jazzy which is where the Motorpsycho vibe comes it.

To be clear, Shaman Elephant know how to ROCK as well. I am sick of prog rock bands that forget the rock part of the genre. “H.M.S. Death, Rattle and Roll” kicks some major ass and damn they can jam out. You want cool riffs? The oddly titled “Steely Dan” has a cool guitar riff, along with great keys. VERY Motorpsycho sounding vocally. And I love that they remind me of them since I love that band as well.

But Shaman Elephant are not a clone. Tracks like “Magnets” are very much their spin on prog, mixing old and new sounds. Plus, these are great songs! It’s fine that the band can play (and they can!) but you’re nothing without good songs and “Wide Awake but Still Asleep” is full of them! And yes there’s an epic of course. “Traveller” is the big track and it’s a complete showcase for this amazing band!

I have no idea how so many bands are on Karisma Records but it’s a credit to the label but more to the great country of Norway. The country gets overshadowed by Sweden and many other countries but for me, bands like Shaman Elephant make Norwegian prog as good as any prog out there.



Airbag – “A Day at the Beach”
Karisma Records
19 June 2020

Airbag can do no wrong as far as I am concerned. It’s been a while since the last album but the good news is that they still sound like Airbag, a mix of Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree…but perhaps wearing those influences less prominently. Airbag have honed those influences into their own brand of modern prog. It’s melodic and powerful for sure.

“A Day at the Beach” is the fifth release by Airbag and yes, they have done it once again. The throbbing synths slowly bring the opening song “Machines And Men” to life. Even though it’s definitely Airbag, the band show they can do different things. The song (like the album as a whole) is more electronic than anything they’ve tried in the past but it doesn’t stay that way. Rather, it’s a way to set the mood for the song itself.

Another favorite is “Into The Unknown.” Again, the song builds slowly. Airbag know how to arrange a song and let it breathe. And if you’re wondering, what about the guitar solos? Bjorn Riis has an amazing solo on this track. “Sunsets” has a bit of an 80s vibe to it. The keys are more abrasive here. That tends to be the overall sound of “A Day at the Beach.” The key is that Airbag still balances it with their classic sound. Like on “Sunsets,” it’s the chorus that brings back that old Airbag sound.

Where does “A Day at the Beach” rank with the rest of the band’s catalog? It’s hard to say at the moment. Each time I hear it, I hear more things that I don’t recall from the last time. It’s layered, yet not overly so. Subtle but infectious. Sounds like Airbag! They have indeed done it again! BUY IT!

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