Tag Archive: Porcupine Tree



 

 Genre: Rock\Metal

Year of Release: 2009

Record Label: Roadrunner

Recommended for fans of: Tool, Opeth, Anathema, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and Massive Attack.

Track Listing:

DISC 1:

  1. 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”  

DISC 2:

  1. Flicker                                                     
  2. Bonnie The Cat                                    
  3. Black Delilah                                         
  4. Remember Me Lover                        

Review

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!

CD 2

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!

Lineup:

Steven Wilson: Vocals, Guitar, Piano and Keyboards.
Richard Barbieri: Keyboards & Synthesizers
Colin Edwin: Bass & Double Bass
Gavin Harrison: Drums & Percussion

4/5

D.P


   

 

Genre: Rock\Metal

Year Of Release: 2007

Record Label: Transmission\WHD\Peaceville

Recommended for fans of: Tool, King Crimson, Anathema, Opeth, Robert Fripp and Nine Inch Nails.

 Track Listing:

  1. “Nil Recurring” – 6:08
  2. “Normal” – 7:09
  3. “Cheating the Polygraph” – 7:10
  4. “What Happens Now?” – 8:23

Review

This will be my last Porcupine Tree review for a while, with the addition of this one, I’ll have the last 4 releases done and dusted. The PT back catalogue can wait for a while whilst I concentrate on other bands and artists from my collection. I feel like a swan about to take up flight and spread his wings!

First off ‘Nil Recurring’ is not a full album, a brief look at the track listing above will tell you this! What ‘Nil Recurring’ is, is a mini-album containing 3 tracks that were written during the ‘Fear Of A Blank Planet’ sessions, and 1 track that was originally going to be on the album, but later dropped in favour of ‘Way Out Of Here’.

This is not a bad thing though, these tracks are not ‘rejects’ at all, its just they didn’t fit onto the 50-minute conceptual album that became ‘FOABP’. Instead of letting the tracks rot away in some dark corner of Hemel Hempstead, the band decided to show them off in this E.P release! Quite rightly so!

There is no messing around either, the title track ‘Nil Recurring’ which is entirely instrumental, starts off with some nice guitar-work. Robert Fripp, [who also guested on ‘FOABP’] plays the lead guitar in his instantly recognisable style, whilst the rest of the band plays around his licks. The metal riff sounds a whole lot of fun, and the layering of the instruments is very well done. The quieter middle section, which features Colin Edwin’s groovy bass playing, is almost a nod to the bands improvisational days last witnessed on ‘Metanoia’. The track ups its ante for the last 2 minutes and finishes on a high, one of the better instrumentals the band has produced!

The next track ‘Normal’ is almost like a companion track to ‘Sentimental’ from ‘FOABP’. In fact the chorus is almost identical, however I actually prefer this track to the effort on ‘FOABP’. It has lots of energy, a typical ‘lets catch the listener off guard’ section before some thrash metal is injected into the mix. The vocal harmonies in this song are almost as good as the ones in ‘Drown With Me’. The guitar playing is quite complex mostly because of the tempo, lets just say that Steven Wilson had a little trouble playing the part, so much so he rang Robert Fripp up for technique advice!

‘Cheating The Polygraph’ was originally debuted with the rest of the ‘FOABP’ material on the fall 2006 tour, yet wasn’t as well received by both the fans and the band. ‘Way Out Of Here’ ultimately replaced it on the final edit of the album, which was a good choice. Not that ‘Cheating The Polygraph’ is a bad song at all; it’s just its like biting into more chocolate cake, after you’ve already eaten too much. It’s terribly sweet on the old ears, the guitar solo whilst initially sounding awesome goes on for too long, and everything is just drawn out for too long. The main riff sounds like ‘Futile’, a PT song that I’m not exactly thrilled about. It all adds up…

However despite my criticism, ‘Cheating The Polygraph’ fits very nicely onto this E.P instead of being forced onto ‘FOABP’. A brilliant decision to include it really!

The E.P closes with ‘What Happens Now?’ that features a frequent collaborator of SW, in the form of the very talented Ben Coleman. Fans of this song might want to check ‘No-Man’ one of SW ‘other’ bands! Mr. Coleman features quite prominently on a lot of ‘No-Man’ material. Whilst this song has some lyrics in, its largely instrumental and it closes the E.P off quite nicely indeed. Richard Beriberi’s talents are used alongside Colin Edwin’s during a wonderful elevated middle section that almost seems to make you float along with it! Echoes of ‘Anesthetize’ appear soon after, which is a nice nod to the epic centrepiece of ‘FOABP’ before the song finishes with a rather crushing melody and disjointed sound effects. It would seem at the moment, gone are the days of ‘Stop Swimming’ and ‘Feel So Low’ type album closers, rather the band are finishing heavily and abruptly. Loving it!

Now, recent scouring round the old internet has shown me that ‘Nil Recurring’ has been getting very positive reviews everywhere; [for an E.P that’s tremendous] I don’t want to upset anyone with my score for this review, but it might be slightly lower then you expect it to be. This is because:

  1. I don’t want to get into the habit of giving every PT release top marks, just because they are my favourite band.
  2.  It’s an E.P not a full album so should get scored accordingly.

Ok, so that’s the disclaimer out of the way! ‘Nil Recurring’ is a worthwhile addition to your PT collection, and if you were going to pick up a copy of ‘FOABP’ I’d get ‘NR’ as well, because they complement each other very nicely. Very nicely indeed…

Lineup:  

Steven Wilson – vocals, guitars, piano, keyboards
Richard Barbieri – keyboards and synthesizers

Colin Edwin – bass guitars

Gavin Harrison – drums, percussion, tapped guitar on “Nil Recurring”

 

Guests:

Robert Fripp – lead guitar on “Nil Recurring”
Ben Coleman – electric violin on “What Happens Now?”
 

Score: 3.5/5.0 

D.P


      

 

 

 

Genre: Rock\Metal

Year Of Release: 2007

Record Label: Roadrunner

Recommended for fans of: Tool, Opeth, Anathema, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and Massive Attack.

 

Track Listing:

  1. “Fear of a Blank Planet” – 7:28
  2. “My Ashes”– 5:07
  3. “Anesthetize” – 17:42
  4. “Sentimental” – 5:26
  5. “Way Out of Here” – 7:37
  6. “Sleep Together” – 7:28

Review

 

This is possibly my most listened to album at the moment [as of early 2008] and I guess I’m going to give it a rest for a few months or so; therefore now is the best time to write the review, seeing as I’m retiring it for a while! Now the clever ones amongst you will notice that since it has been my most listened to album lately, then it must be a good one. It is, in fact its that good that it’s the first review I’m going to give full marks for on this site, and believe me when I say that I won’t be handing out full marks that often. 

Before ‘Fear Of A Blank Planet’ was released, it was probably the most eagerly anticipated Porcupine Tree album yet, the fact that the band were playing the album in its entirety live during autumn 2006 added to the excitement. I was present at one of these ‘preview’ gigs, when the set was divided into 2 parts, the first part was ‘FOABP’ albeit in a pre-studio form, and the 2ndset comprising of mostly stuff from the previous 2 albums [Deadwing and In Absentia] with some classics thrown in.  I have to say on hearing the material in its early form, I was both overwhelmed and delighted, the freshness and complete unfamiliarity with the material was fantastic, and fan reaction was very favourable. So after this batch of tour dates, PT went into the studio and recorded the penultimate versions that you hear on the final album, and what an album it is! 

Now, ‘FOABP’ is a concept album, I don’t want to go too in-depth about the concept, rather add little slithers here and there when I see fit. SW was heavily inspired by the novel ‘Lunar Park’ by Bret Easton Ellis. The novel is written from the perspective of a father, what SW has done is turned things on its head and made the story in ‘FOABP’ from the fathers sons point of view. That of a terminally bored kid with little to do other to sit in a darkened room playing playstation games, watching hardcore pornography whilst being addicted to prescription drugs. The album is very much ‘this’ kids view on his life as he see’s it.  If you need further clarification, all you have to do is read the lyrics. What is equally as important as the lyrics, is the music, this album is one of the best albums for production and musicianship I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to! 

So the album opens up with the title track ‘Fear Of A Blank Planet’after what sounds like someone typing on a computer keyboard [the kid, possibly googling for pornography] a vibrant fast paced guitar enters which is soon joined by Gavin Harrison’s immense drumming. If you though GH sounded good on ‘Deadwing’ you’re in for a treat, his drumming on this album is fantastic. The song is joined with some great rhythmic singing from SW, which opens up the song and sets the scene for the next 7 minutes. The song features some nice playing by all the band members, and it’s a fantastic album opener which draws you in from the very start, the metal section mid-song is awesome, and the outro section bringing a change of pace for the next song. All the tracks on ‘FOABP’ merge into one another, SW has said that he wanted the album to be heard as one continuous piece of music, the transitions are wonderfully done.

So when ‘My Ashes’ appears next you are ready for it. This could be described as the ‘Lazarus’ of ‘FOABP’, with lush acoustic guitars and SW’s soothing voice leading the way. What I like about this song though is the soundscapes provided by Richard Barbieri, they really add a punch to the song in creating a delectable atmosphere. This song works really well in luring the listener into a false sense of security because the next track is possibly the best Porcupine Tree song ever created, at least in my opinion.  

Before the album tracks were officially named, the 3rdsong on the album was affectionately known my fans as ‘The Beast’ and quite rightly so. ‘Anesthetize’ is one hell of a 17 minute ride. Now I don’t initially dismiss long songs  as being pretentious, or overly bloated like many people would do, that’s not to say that some aren’t. ‘Anesthetize’ certainly isn’t, it could be described as being divided into 3 distinct sections, the 1stsection features Gavin Harrison’s drumming at its best, a georgous chorus plus a fantastic guitar solo provided by Alex Lifeson. [Rush] The 2ndsection comprises of a lengthy instrumental part followed by a vocal part that’s so full of texture and hidden depth it comes bursting out of the speakers by the bucketload. The talent displayed by each band member during this section is a delight to hear. The 3rd section is what could be best described as total sweetness for the ears, completely contrasting the other two sections that came before it. The vocal harmonies are out of this world, and overall I couldn’t possibly think of a better way to end the song. Perfection.

 The rest of the album is still fantastic, although nothing comes close to beating the 17 minute centerpiece, the next song ‘Sentimental’is sort of a companion song to ‘My Ashes’. It has some wonderful piano in it, and even manages to give a sly wink to ‘Trains’ off of ‘In Absentia’. The only thing that I didn’t like about this song at first was the weird Banjo solo [if it is indeed a Banjo] that is played over the ‘Trains-like’ riff. I’d hate to listen to the song without it now! 

‘Way Out Of Here’is a little bit of a anomaly, you see this song wasn’t originally debuted with the rest of the album back on the 2006 fall tour. The reason being that a song called ‘Cheating The Polygraph’ was in its place. SW either decided that ‘CTP’ wasn’t good enough to make the final album or just didn’t fit in very well, so the band got together and wrote ‘WOOH’ to fill the void. Good choice because its miles better then ‘CTP’ which actually ended up on the ‘Nil Recurring EP’. The song also contains some rather inspired soundscapes by none other then the legend himself Robert Fripp [King Crimson] who is actually a very good friend of SW. These soundscapes fit lovingly into a section of the song before a big chunky metal riff comes in and rips everything apart. I love the interplay on this song, and the outro features some fantastic bass work off of the wonderful Colin Edwin. 

The album closes on ‘Sleep Together’. One of the best PT album closers yet, normally a PT album closer is a fairly downbeat affair such as ‘Stop Swimming’, ‘Feel So Low’ or ‘Glass Arm Shattering’. Not in this case, what could be best described as Nine Inch Nails meets Massive Attack meets ELO is the meal of choice. I’m an absolute sucker for dark electronica, more-so for strings, you meld the two and oh boy what a result! The outro section is one of the most memorable pieces of music I’ve heard in a decade. 

‘Fear Of A Blank Planet’ is without a doubt the best PT release yet, only one other PT album in my opinion would score the same, that being ‘In Absentia’, and I’ve not reviewed that one yet! If you like to lose yourself within the dark corridors of your mind for 50 minutes, and indulge yourself in a reverse ‘Lunar Park’ then I can highly recommend you order this work of art immediately. You won’t be disappointed. 

Lineup: 

Steven Wilson – vocals, guitars, piano, keyboards
Richard Barbieri – keyboards and synthesizers
Colin Edwin – bass guitars
Gavin Harrison – drums  

Guests: 
Alex Lifeson (Rush) – guitar solo on “Anesthetize”
Robert Fripp (King Crimson) – soundscapes on “Way Out of Here”
John Wesley – backing vocals 

Score: 5.0/5.0 

D.P