Porcupine Tree
Deadwing


4.5
superb

Review

by Vanwarp USER (11 Reviews)
February 8th, 2008 | 17 replies


Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist

Review Summary: What should attract you to this album is the overall quality of the songwriting, the inherent emotion-energy found therein and the good long-winded ambient space-rock moments as well...

Although In Absentia (2003) may very well be the heaviest prog album Porcupine Tree has ever released, Deadwing certainly continues the trend of alternating between the heavier tracks on offer and the more soothing ones. Personally, I think Steve Wilson hit the ball out of the park with Deadwing.

The North American version contains a previously released bonus track, “She’s Moved On” (exclusive to the North American release only) while a 72 page hardback book special edition version which comes complete with a DVD-V 5.1 surround sound (but without the bonus track) which is also only available via the band’s official website:
http://www.porcupinetree.com/
(included here for those who may actually be interested in such things.)

OK, lets focus on Deadwing a little bit. The band really rock out on tracks like “Shallow” and “Open Car” while on other songs they spill plenty of atmosphere all over the place. Many will find some of these long-winded moments annoying, unnecessarily slowing down the flow of the album for them, while others such as myself will simply accept them for what they are. Did I forget to mention that Porcupine Tree is a prog band and that Deadwing is a prog album! When you sit down to digest this prog meal, do it just as you would a Pink Floyd album. This should help put the music in perspective for you, now lets look a little deeper into the album shall we...

1. “Deadwing” - 9m46s - (8/10)

The album opens with a sequencer and some brief special effects before the band quickly move into high gear with an aggressive guitar riff leading the way. Steven Wilson introduces the listener to all the different vocal effects that he pretty much uses throughout the album. This includes whispers and spoken word all the way to the clean harmonies. The track includes several very different guitar solos, the first by Steve Wilson himself and the guitar work near the end of the track is by guest musician Adrian Belew of King Crimson. There’s a slow atmospheric moment mid way through the track with some eerie guitar work. The reason for the lower rating has to do with the overall length of the track and the impact this has on deadening the repeated main guitar riff.

2. “Shallow” - 4m17s - (9.5/10)

This was the US single. As mentioned earlier, the band really rock out here. The main riff is perhaps the catchiest on the album. Matter of factly, Steven Wilson himself described “Shallow” as “the closest Porcupine Tree has come to making a big dumb rock song. It is a very enjoyable track and I appreciate prog bands who can really rock out!

3. “Lazarus” - 4m18s - (9.5/10)

The album immediately moves to the other end of the Porcupine Tree musical spectrum with the mellow and melancholic piano driven “Lazarus.” This was the other single that was only released in Germany. This is the softer side of the band...

4. “Halo” - 4m38s - (9.5/10)

What have we here? A track that is bursting with atmosphere, with a lot of talk about God, with a bass line to die for, with a catchy chorus, with interesting guitar licks that will put a big smile on your face, and some excellent Adrian Belew guitar work. God appears to be responsible for much in the world or is that just an excuse? Sample lyrics:

“God is freedom, God is truth
God is power and God is proof
God is fashion, God is fame
God gives meaning, God gives...pain!”

Compare this to Roger Waters "What God Wants - Part II," and you'll understand the connection I made with Waters, Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree.

5. “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here” - 12m02s - (10/10)

OK, Porcupine Tree finally show their true colors on “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here.” This is classic Porcupine Tree, classic progressive space rock with lots of atmosphere, lots of harmony vocals and lots of interesting music and effects. Mikael Akerfeldt makes a guest appearance on harmony vocals and performs the second guitar solo as well. This is the album’s apogee!

6. “Mellotron Scratch” - 6m57s - (9/10)

Steve Wilson has made it known that he does not like his music to be labeled progressive rock. So, what does he do? He writes a song about the Mellotron, the instrument that is perhaps most closely associated with progressive music. And what does he say about it? Near the end of the track, there are some mixed vocal melodies and although it is difficult to make out everything he’s saying, you can clearly hear the following being repeated: “blow it down, shut it down.” And if you haven’t guessed it already, the answer is "no", Porcupine Tree don’t have any use for the Mellotron.

7. “Open Car” - 3m46s - (10/10)

The stop/start opening cadence of the music and vocals in the verses with the rock like riff is misleading the listener into thinking that this might just be another single until the bridge and chorus comes along. Here the Pink Floydish influences take over for an about turn that will leave most meanstreamers perplexed about the whole thing. But, it’s the combination of the two that makes this track so interesting to me and what to say about the acoustic guitar ending? The other thing I really like is the fact that it is very much a progressive influenced track that clocks in well under the 4 minute mark. That in itself is a remarkable accomplishment! I love everything about this one.

8. “Start of Something Beautiful” - 7m40s - (9/10)

More wonderful bass lines, special effects and simply over-spilling in atmosphere. I like the upbeat rock feel of the chorus but Steve Wilson’s over processed voice takes away from the overall energy and impact here. I would have much preferred a dry/compressed clean approach. Anyway, the lyrics are much better here and there’s an excellent balance between the softer melancholic moments and the heavier ones.

9. “Glass Arm Shattering” - 6m13s - (8/10)

The drawn out spacey ambient Pink Floydish opening moments is classic prog through and through. The track actually ends with about 10 seconds of static noise around the 6m13s mark. There is about 5 minutes of nothing but silence that follows. Now, this is the actual end of the normal version of the album and as such, this album would not have been rated as high as it has. It would have merited a solid 4 stars and nothing more. Not sure why the extended silence, but as stated earlier, the North American version of the album contains a bonus track...

10. “She’s Moved On” - 5m02s - (10/10) (bonus track)

The intro to this track reminds one of the opening moments of “Open Car.” But this is a very different track altogether. It’s moody, it’s catchy, it’s one of the highlight’s found on an earlier album released in 2000 entitled Lightbulb Sun, one of the bands true high points. To include it here was a very smart move as new North American fans just getting into the band will know exactly what they are getting into if they go looking into Porcupine Tree’s back catalog, especially the last 4 albums anyway. ;)

Concluding Remarks:

The album is an enhanced CD that can also be played on your computer. The liner notes state that the Windows Media version required to view the video is ONLY supported by Windows 2000 and higher. The video content is not all cohesive and perhaps a little scattered but it is additional information that is usually not shared or made available by many artists today.

The booklet does not contain any lyrics, instead it is filled with scattered images and thoughts with the exception of the last few pages which includes the usual pertinent facts about the album and of course - the list of thank you’s. For instance, you learn that Paul Northfield and George Schilling both made guest appearances on guitar but it is not revealed where exactly? Another important piece of information you learn from reading the liner notes is that Deadwing was based on a screenplay written by Steven Wilson and Mike Bennion. Bennion is also credited with the artwork and montage. And for all you music equipment buffs, “this recording makes extensive use of Line 6 modelling guitars, effects, and amplifiers, and software by native Instruments.” Interesting indeed!

I was never a big Porcupine Tree fan as they hadn’t really released anything truly spectacular to me, always good quality music, always above par but always missing a little something to take it to the next level, to take it over the top for me. In Absentia and Lightbulb Sun were both so close, yet I still found that “something” was missing or lacking. With Deadwing that “little something” finally found it’s footing for me. Steve Wilson went further than he ever has and in directions that many would have thought he’d never go. This risk taking attitude has helped Steven Wilson create and produce one hell-of-an album, truly one of the better prog albums of 2005!



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user ratings (2152)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Geedrummer
February 8th 2008


607 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

First comment

i love this album.

i read most of the review and will say tht it is very good.

Vanwarp
February 8th 2008


86 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thank You...


Yazz_Flute
February 8th 2008


18819 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Pretty good TBT, this is probably my favorite PT album.

But dude, the title track is damn near flawless, second to Arriving Somewhere but Not Here. Shallow and Lazarus are definately not 9.5s either, but thats just me.


Digging: Ne Obliviscaris - Citadel

Altmer
February 8th 2008


5652 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ok for a TBT.

Arriving Somewhere and Lazarus are my favourites on this album, Shallow I like but not as much as Open Car. It's a good, consistent PT album (like any PT album.) I still like the new one and In Absentia more, mainly because the second half isn't as interesting to listen to.

BattleOfSerenity
February 8th 2008


186 Comments


Very good review.
And you managed not to pointlessly underrate Mellotron Scratch like alot of people do.
Kudos!

Two-Headed Boy
February 8th 2008


4527 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This album is really over-rated.
Then again, all of the Porcupine Tree albums I've heard are over-rated.

Geedrummer
February 8th 2008


607 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Your over-rated

Porcupine tree are fan-fukin-tastic

McP3000
February 8th 2008


3941 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

im a huge PT fan, but this album doesnt really standout like their others.
Lazarus is pretty much amazing though.

Sound
February 8th 2008


3904 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

What BattleOfSerenity said,

Arriving Somewhere followed by Mellotron Scratch has one of the album's finest and also PTree's moments in general tbh. And Deadwing as said is near flawless and a killer opener.

You should have left out Shesmovedon as that one belongs on Lightbulb Sun and has really nothing to do with the overall score of the album.

This Message Edited On 02.09.08

willfellmarsy
February 8th 2008


3849 Comments


Want to get into this band. What is a good album to start with?

Geedrummer
February 8th 2008


607 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

In absentia, this , stupid dream or the new one imo

Sound
February 8th 2008


3904 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Get their new one Fear of a Blank Planet, and then go back in order of discography if you're hooked.

VicariousIntent
February 8th 2008


1596 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ahaha, I really enjoy this album. Something about the overall atmosphere...it's really quite enjoyable. Good review too.

Yazz_Flute
February 8th 2008


18819 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Am I the only one that thinks this is their best? And likewise, am I the only one that thinks Lazarus is easily the worst on this album?

Deadwing>In Absentia>Stupid Dream>FOABP

Which album should I get next? I've been thinking of getting TSMS, because I can't find Lightbuld Sun anywhere (is that album out of print? The cheapest I can find it on amazon is 75 dollars $_$)

EyesWideShut
February 8th 2008


3182 Comments


this might be my fav PT album but its really hard to pick cause Absentia is right there with this. Deadwing has a good mix of all heavy, prog, and mellow elements PT does so well. This is the album to start with, FOABP focuses to much on concept for first timers to get into.

Vanwarp
February 9th 2008


86 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks all for your comments. "ShesMovedOn" is a bonus track on my North American copy of Deadwing and that is why it is included in my review (I think I already explained that but since one of you mentioned that I should have left it out, I thought I'd say it again).

As for what album should someone just getting into PT listen to first, well I'm with bodominflames: start with "Deadwing", go to "In Absentia", then "Stupid Dream" and "FOABP"...



Altmer
February 9th 2008


5652 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Lightbulb Sun is out of press but will be re-released in april.

It's better than TSMS tho.



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