Review Summary: Deadwing proves to be the Porcupine Tree's most accessible release to date, yet still can be considered one of the many gems of the band's discography.
About six months ago, I realized something which changed the way I look at music forever. I was about nine minutes into “Meccamputechture” a Mars Volta “epic”. The saxophone was blairing a frighteningly off-key melody, there were random whistle blows occurring in the background, and reversed cymbal crashes and electronic pulsing accompanied a flurry of random string plucking. It was about this time when I realized that technicality means absolutely nothing unless what you’re doing actually sounds good.
Perhaps that what makes Deadwing
such a special record for me. Porcupine Tree
have built a small but loyal following off consistent, catchy, technical prog rock, and still managed to stay near unclassifiable due to the many elements of metal, acoustic rock, and psycadelic rock they incorporate into their distinct sound. Deadwing showcases each of these elements perfectly, yet still remains a cohesive effort.
What’s impressive from the start is how quickly the band manages to change it’s sound. We move from dirty, hard hitting metal riffs in Shallow
, to the poignant and beautiful piano work in Lazarus
, to a creepy, oddly absent bass-driven religious statement with Halo
. Often, the band changes styles right in the middle of a song (Open Car
switches between chunky riffs and ethereal chords many times, yet never loses its direction) The band plays around with both their heavier, metal driven side, and their lighter, more progressive side, and both come off beautifully.
Steven Wilson, the band’s primary songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist, has definitely come forwards with Deadwing, especially in terms of his vocals. His distinct smooth tone has always been great, but he really shows what he’s capable of on the CD. The vocal highlight of the album would have to be Mellotron Scratch
, which has some of the most perfect vocal layering imaginable, especially on the choruses and hair-raising outro. Looking over the entire, no member under-performs. The bass is always doing something interesting, the drums are strong and keep a firm sense of control on the rest of the music, the guitars have plenty of nifty hooks and riffs to keep you interested, and the keyboards are either providing great soundscapes or highlighting all of the other fantastic aspects of a song.
What’s best about Deadwing is just the way it makes you feel. This album feels epic in scope. The best indicator of the true scope of Deadwing is the album’s central focus piece, Arriving Somewhere… But Not Here
. Spanning twelve minutes, and going from spacey and ethereal keyboards to heavy chugging metal riffs within seconds, the song sums up what is a near perfectly crafted album. What's even more amazing is that it never gets tired. Nowadays' it is rare to find a band who uses their time effectively in long songs, and so many end up either overcrowded or repetitive. Arriving Somewhere is neither of these, and is a clear standout.
There are so many reasons to recommend Deadwing
. It’s catchy, it’s technical, it’s heavy, it’s spacey, it’s soothing, it’s huge, and most importantly, it just sounds great. If it weren't for the somewhat lackluster ending piece Glass Arm Shattering
, this might well be a perfect album. The album doesn’t let itself get cluttered with over-pretentiousness, and instead simply brings us a musical experience that can be listened to, no matter you mood.
Arriving Somewhere… But Not Here