Porcupine Tree
In Absentia


4.5
superb

Review

by Jorn van Schaïk USER (172 Reviews)
April 9th, 2007 | 1960 replies | 79,321 views


Release Date: 2002 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A concise summary of rock music spanning the bridge between psychedelia, Britpop and the modern progressive metal movement in one convincing package.

18 of 18 thought this review was well written

Porcupine Tree used to be a moniker for a one-man band comprised only of Steven Wilson. His earlier outings were marvellously psychedelic, revelling in Floyd-esque techniques to lure the general public to his music. But as his influences grew and Porcupine Tree began to have more full-time members, and quit being a Wilson solo project, the band slowly changed towards a more rock and progressive sound that would dominate their later releases.

In Absentia is one such release and it showcases a lot of variety. The Pink Floyd influences are not altogether gone from the scene, they definitely have remained, in such Pieces as Lips of Ashes or .3, but Steven Wilson's genre has become more refined and explored different types of music. In Absentia truly has metal riffs, which can be attributed to his work with Swedish metal giants Opeth, and some other riffs (like the one in Blackest Eyes) are very reminiscent of Tool's staccato guitar techniques as well. Many bass lines in songs seem to fit in very well with Awake/Falling Into Infinity era Dream Theater, parts of Strip The Soul being very reminiscent of New Millenium. The band somehow manages to combine those harder influences, with the Pink Floyd sound already mentioned, and mixes in some Oasis and Coldplay touches for good measure. Trains is very reminiscent of Wonderwall in its guitar sound and songwriting (not in the riffs, it just generally fits in with that song), and the album's closing track Collapse The Light Into Earth is nearly plagiarising Coldplay's The Scientist and Politik.

However, despite the various influences of the band, the whole album holds up as coherent and solid without Steven Wilson managing to look like a thief. The core elements of the Tree sound are still there, and despite the band leaning towards a more rock-sound in general, there are some excellent quiet moments on the record. Heartattack in a Layby is a beautifully arranged, yet eerie and creepy ballad, haunting in its scope and just scary overall. Trains is despite its clear Oasis overtones a very catchy and solid track overall, and Collapse The Light Into Earth achieves what Chris Martin never could: a solid, coherent and beautiful emotional piano ballad. Coldplay's songs have never convinced as a whole, but Porcupine Tree really sound more honest overall. Plus the violins add a serene touch to the song, something Coldplay never would have thought of.

Another slab of evidence that Porcupine Tree are never going to change to a mere commercial whim is evident on the track The Sound Of Muzak. As Wilson croons about how "one of the wonders of the world is going down", and nobody cares enough, he subtly underlines that the music industry despite all its influences on the people is a stealing and lying bitch, cheating you behind your back with the mass-produced songs it has released over the past. Without being a political statement or sounding like a gruff punk band without any sort of nuance, the band has chosen clever criticism and subtlety as its methods of attack, which is commendable, as they can keep their heads down in public and still know there is the satisfaction of a job well done.

Next to these softer sounds Porcupine Tree also display they are also worthy of being ranked next to the big names in prog metal these days, due to the fact that Wedding Nails, a gripping instrumental with some clearly metal riffs, and The Creator Has A Mastertape, of which the vicious guitar barrages in the chorus recall Nine Inch Nails' best moments, are qualitatively comparable with the best work of bands such as Opeth or Dream Theater. Musical variety and songwriting skill is not something the band is short on. .3 contrasts these riffs with some haunting bass lines and Pink Floyd-esque ambient background music. Gravity Eyelids, despite going on for way too long, also achieves those haunting background layering qualities with grandiosity, again sounding like a modern and evolved Pink Floyd, albeit lyrically a little different (the song seems to be about sex.)

This means that overall the band has done a great job with this effort. It manages to combine old 70s psychedelic ambient music with modern exponents of the progressive metal movement without sacrificing an inch of catchiness and remaining listenable at almost all times. You don't need any Pink Floyd records or Opeth songs anymore. With this disc, you can have them all summarised in one, sweet, seventy minute long musical orgasm. What would you want more? Finely crafted, this may well be one of the best pickups in modern rock possible. Do yourself a favour and get this, it's worth every penny.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Dragon_Prince
April 9th 2007



272 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is one of my favourite albums. And you summarized it well. I don't really like comparisions between Dream Theater and Tool, because they are nothing compared to Porcupine Tree. I agree that some of the slower parts have some infuence of the britpop ballads, but it works well. This album is near perfection, and I hope some day Porcupine Tree will release an album that would blast them into fame. An album that will do the same as DSOTM did for PF.

And some notes for the review, maybe you could have focused a bit more about how they grew from their older albums, this album really was style changing, mainly because Gavin Harrison joined this album I guess.

Altmer
April 9th 2007



5652 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I'm not really into their older stuff, I know the basics yeah but I mainly focus on what this album sounds like, I am either recommending or dissuading people from buying this album which is why this is the key focus.

Riziger
April 9th 2007



316 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album is pretty damn awesome. So many good songs on here. Heartattack in a layby, blackest eyes, sound of muzak, 3, trains.

This along with deadwing got me into PT and was in my player for quite some time.



Confessed2005
April 9th 2007



3314 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Awesome review.

Cannot wait for their new album.

Angmar
April 9th 2007



2689 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Great review, this album is probaby in my top 5 of all time.

HotSalvation
April 9th 2007



258 Comments


if they've worked with opeth I'll listen to it

Cravinov13
April 9th 2007



3854 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

They work with Opeth all the time, listen to any Opeth CD past Blackwater Park before Ghost Reveries and Steven Wilson contributes to it in some way. Mike Akerfeldt was even in Deadwing I believe.

Altmer
April 9th 2007



5652 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yes, Wilson has produced BP, Deliverance and Damnation, and contributed vocal harmonies to them as well I believe.

Mikael was on Deadwing, vocal harmonies and guitar solo.

Cravinov13
April 9th 2007



3854 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Steven also did most of the keyboard on Damnation.

Altmer
April 9th 2007



5652 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

right, I forgot that.

pulseczar
April 9th 2007



2385 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

I find they watered down and overproduced too many of their influences here, could've been much better.

trustxdialect
April 9th 2007



1502 Comments


so um i should get this y/n

Doppelganger
April 9th 2007



3124 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yes, you should.

This review is also really, really good. Personally, I prefer Deadwing to this.

JAD
April 9th 2007



200 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

One of my all time favorite albums, you did it justice. Trains, Sound of Muzak, .3 Heart Attack in a Layby and Collapse the Light Into Earth are increadably good. I've always liked Prodigal, too. Can't wait for Fear of a Blank Planet.

riobravo1023
April 9th 2007



274 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review. This is one of my favorite albums.

Angmar
April 10th 2007



2689 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Although its pretty short by PT standards, Blackest Eyes is my favorite song of theirs, everything about it is just amazing.

Phil
April 11th 2007



1473 Comments


Stevo it goes for 68 minutes. As for the review, you compare other artists too much. Also I don't really think they have too much similarities of these artists but I know people get different things from different songs/artists.

SynGates
April 12th 2007



2467 Comments


Just picked this up not too long ago. Can't stop listening to it, its great!
Didnt Steve Wilson do some vocals on Bleak or something?This Message Edited On 04.12.07

Altmer
April 14th 2007



5652 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yes. He did vocal harmonies I think. Or they traded vocals, not sure since that is one of the two Opeth albums I do not have the retail version of.

Phil
April 14th 2007



1473 Comments


He did the backing vocals, the whispery/whimpier vocals on Bleak.



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