Year of Release: 2009
Record Label: Roadrunner
Recommended for fans of: Tool, Opeth, Anathema, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and Massive Attack.
- The Incident 55:15
- I. “Occam’s Razor”
- II. “The Blind House”
- III. “Great Expectations”
- IV. “Kneel and Disconnect”
- V. “Drawing the Line”
- VI. “The Incident”
- VII. “Your Unpleasant Family”
- VIII. “The Yellow Windows of the Evening Train”
- IX. “Time Flies”
- X. “Degree Zero of Liberty”
- XI. “Octane Twisted”
- XII. “The Séance”
- XIII. “Circle of Manias”
- XIV. “I Drive the Hearse”
- Bonnie The Cat
- Black Delilah
- Remember Me Lover
Well, well, well!
I remember when I originally reviewed ‘Fear of a Blank Planet’ 2 years ago thinking that whilst the album was pretty amazing, we only got 6 tracks of ‘pretty amazing’, admittedly one of those tracks was 17 Minutes long; being the epic ‘Anesthetize’.
So what does the band go and do for their follow up release?
They release a double album with the first side comprising of 1 track that is 55 minutes long! Awesome! Sweet! Amazing! You know what’s refreshing about this? If you read on I’ll tell you.
As history as shown since the late 1970’s the album as an art form has declined from the mainstream quite severely, entering the digital age has been both a blessing and a curse. Never before has music been so readily available for the consumer, however I would argue that the download single culture has been to music what McDonalds is to the meal: FASTFOOD!
What Steven Wilson and Co have done here is very brave, and indeed has been praised by the post/progressive/alt rock communities! A massive finger up to the mainstream norm, we don’t want your repetitive churned out nonsense anymore!
Now I don’t expect critics of the album as an art form to be reading my reviews, however I will admit that whilst The Incident is 55 minutes long, and is regarded as a single track, it has been split down into 14 interconnecting suites, all very varied.
The idea for ‘The Incident’ came along when Steven Wilson was driving along the motorway and came across a crash on the way, this got him thinking about how the various incidents happen in people’s lives and that we can feel quite disconnected from certain events if they are not affecting us directly, but nevertheless will be affecting someone else. So there you go, that’s the concept. I don’t want to examine this in any more detail, as I’m a big believer in interpreting music by what it means to you individually.
The Incident opens with the dissident metal thrashes of ‘Occams Razor’ that completely catch your attention, indeed this intro riff is one of the only musical themes revisited later on in the album, a rarity for many concept albums. Any Richard Barbieri fans amongst you are in for a treat as he really shines on this album; listen to the evil ambient synths on the opening track! So if ‘Occams Razor’ sets the scene, ‘The Blind House’ leaves no doubt about the presence of metal influences that PT have started to incorporate more into their music over the last 10 years.
‘Great Expectations’ is a wonderful acoustic led segue into ‘Kneel and Disconnect’ a keyboard led downbeat affair which closes this little trilogy of songs with ‘Drawing the Line’. I must admit that the latter is a song that I didn’t particularly like for a long time; the chorus is quite frankly too poppy sounding for PT! However one day it just clicked, and as part of the suite, ‘Drawing the Line’ is one of the stronger songs on the album.
The album gets a title track next in ‘The Incident’ and oh my gosh, has Steven Wilson been hanging out with Trent Reznor? This track screams epic Nine Inch Nails style electronic merged with PT style songwriting. This atmospheric track is definitely one of the highlights of the album.
‘Your Unpleasant Family’ wins us round next with a tongue in cheek approach to that of nightmare neighbours, a special mention must be made about the sublime slide driven guitar solo on this track, one of Wilsons best solos!
Prior to the epic centrepiece of the album ‘The Yellow Windows of the Evening Train’ showcases Richard Barbieri going all Brian Eno on us, admittedly doing a better job as well! A gorgeous little ambient interlude which leads straight into…
‘Time Flies’, well PT you’ve done it again, written another long belter of a track, whereas ‘Anesthetize’ was a rollercoaster ride through the genres of modern rock, ‘Time Flies’ is a nostalgia inducing mellow-fest! That’s not to say it’s not beasty loud, it has some nice loud guitars in it, but the overall feel is one of bittersweet contemplation. Comparisons have been made to Pink Floyd time and time again with this track, and Steven Wilson has said it is a bit of a PF tribute, and it does contain some nice nods towards PF, certainly tracks on the album Animals in particular.
The song is reflective, time flies so make the most of it, the beautiful middle section is the highlight of this track which is positively screaming in raw ambient emotion – you can feel the time slipping away from your grasp and can do nothing about it! Sheer genius! Extra kudos to Colin Edwin on this track for some well played resonating bass guitar!
‘Degree Zero of Liberty’ is a connecting track that conjures up the raw chords of ‘Occams Razor’ indicating we’ve moved onto the penultimate part of the album. ‘Octane Twisted’ takes things back to basics with some almost classically played guitar and lovely multi-layered singing from SW. Not too much quietness though as Gavin Harrisons drumming enters the fray and the raw guitars are back for the 2nd half of the song, pure electric excitement!
‘The Séance’ is another nice connecting piece, play special attention to the cleverly played acoustic guitar at the end of that segues into ‘Circle of Manias’ which is without a doubt one of the most brutal songs PT have ever composed. Not brutal as in Opeth style death metal, but hard rocking nevertheless. The definite ‘loud’ highlight of the album for me.
The album closes with the curiously titled ‘I Drive The Hearse’, whereas ‘Sleep Together’ on ‘Fear of a Blank Planet’ was a delicious dark electro-rock closer, this time the Lads have decided to close the album with a far more downbeat number. The song fits into the suite perfectly and builds up pace before coming to a classic PT finish.
‘The Incident’ is by no means a perfect album, in complete honesty I actually prefer ‘Fear of a Blank Planet’ as I found it a darker more satisfying experience. However ‘The Incident’ is a 55 minute road trip that you won’t be forgetting about anytime soon, the production is what we’ve come to expect from the London lads and the musicianship is once again 2nd to none.
I was actually lucky enough to see the album performed live in its entirety, an experience I am going to get again later this year in October when they play the Royal Albert Hall for a special gig, and the album works fantastic in a live environment!
I’m conscious this is already an epic length review, so I will be brief in my discussion about the 2nd side of the album. These 4 songs are unrelated to The Incident in theme but were written at the same time. ‘Flicker’ is a wonderfully textured experience with more of that excellent Barbieri ambience that showcased much of the first side. ‘Bonnie the Cat’ is pretty out there, Messuggah style riffage and crazy lyrics abound ‘the cells divide and grow inside you, I know what will be’.
‘Black Delilah’ is a slow spacey balled, my personal highlight of the 2nd disc, it really is quite breathtaking! The 2nd disc closes with the ‘Remember Me Lover’. Ahhh a good old PT love song to bring the double album to a close. Whereas ‘shesmovedon’ from ‘Lightbulb Sun’ was about lost love and ‘The Start of Something Beautiful’ from ‘Deadwing’ about unrequited love, this little opus is about that bitter, pent up angry feeling we’ve all felt at sometime in our lives when things just didn’t work out, and it works quite well.
Porcupine Tree have proven that they can consistently deliver the goods time and time again, whilst this is their 10th album they show no sign of slowing down, in fact I’ll go out on a limb here and predict that just like Rush they will be around for a very long time to come, and I look forward to carry on taking their musical rides until the end!
Steven Wilson: Vocals, Guitar, Piano and Keyboards.
Richard Barbieri: Keyboards & Synthesizers
Colin Edwin: Bass & Double Bass
Gavin Harrison: Drums & Percussion