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Porcupine Tree – Deadwing

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There are two camps in the British progressive rock scene. In one corner are those unashamedly retro bands that seek to recreate the sounds of the halcyon days of the early 70s before the dark ages of punk. In the other corner stand those bands who combine the spirit of that era with a more streamlined, modern sound. Steve Wilson’s Porcupine Tree are definitely in the latter camp.

I read a review of Deadwing in The Times (London) that described Porcupine Tree as “now sounding like a regular indie band,” which made me fear the worst, as the last thing Britain needs is yet another generic indie band. But my fears proved unfounded; this album is far more metal than indie.

Deadwing’s predecessor, “In Absentia” was notably heavier than earlier PT albums, and this one takes things still further in that direction. Wilson’s work with Scandinavian death-metallers Opeth has rubbed off; indeed, Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt contributes some guitar, as does King Crimson’s Adrian Belew. But it’s not all thrashing guitar riffs; there are also some decidedly non-metal ballads and plenty of Floydian textures to offset the heavier parts.

The nine-minute opening title track starts as the band means to go on, with its powerful guitar riff and driving bass line. The instrumental breaks contrast Wilson’s liquid guitar solo with guest player Adrian Belew’s distinctive angular style. The production is clean and crisp, as you’d expect from Steven Wilson. High spot of the album is the kaleidoscopic 12-minute epic “Arriving Somewhere (but not here),” which manages to go through all the musical styles of the album in a single track; spacey atmospheric intro, gentle ballad building to the fluid guitar solo, then a thrashing death-metal segment, before it all drops away for an acoustic flamenco solo.

The heaviest track is the US single, “Shallow,” with its Zeppelin-style riff. The most indie-sounding songs are probably the excellent bass-driven “Halo,” the UK single, the piano-led ballad “Lazarus,” which doesn’t do a lot for me, although Coldplay fans will probably love it, and “Start of Something Beautiful,” with the beautiful piano solo towards the end.

Overall, this album reminds me very much of the last couple of Marillion albums; if you liked “Anoraknophobia” and “Marbles”, or indeed, Porcupine Tree’s own “In Absentia”, I can definitely recommend “Deadwing.”

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About Tim Hall

  • Nice review. My first intro to Porcupine Tree was via the great In Absentia. If this one is in the same vein as that, then I can’t wait to hear it. Oh, and Akerfeldt really owes Wilson, big time, for what he did for the last couple of Opeth albums.

  • Another positive review – I’m very much looking forward to Deadwing.

    Tim, did you notice if your copy had a bonus track of, I believe, “Shesmovedon” (a new recording, I think)? I keep seeing different reports on which version of the album will and will not get this track. (There’s a 72-page book version with the Dolby 5.1 surround DVD accompanying the CD.)

  • No, the album I’ve reviewed is the European retail edition, which doesn’t have the bonus track ShesMovedOn (which I believe will appear on the US retail version). The 72 page book is a special deluxe edition evailable only direct from the band’s website (and costs a fair bit more than the retail version).

  • Sean

    Sounds like an interesting album. I’ll be sure to check it out. Can’t say I agree with Wilson’s influence being a major deal for Opeth. I doubt that I would be alone in saying that while Opeth’s last few albums have been solid, they wither in comparison to the amazing MAYH and Still Life.

  • Um, though you won’t likely get this Tim,

    I posted your review to Advance.net which collectively is read by hundreds of thousands per week. The link there is just to the Cleveland site.

    – Thank you for the post. Temple Stark

  • Apocalípticus

    The entire Cd is a definitive prog rock masterpiece, but “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here” and “The Start of Somthething Beautiful” are simply… exquisite.