Review Summary: After two consistently enjoyable albums, Blackfield don't just fail to deliver here; they fail to even try.
Disclaimer for Steven Wilson's sake: Most of the negative reviews of this album that I've seen so far have questioned how Steven Wilson, prog rock's knight in shining armor, could have co-written such an album. Surely it's below the standards he's set for himself in his work with Porcupine Tree, is this the end of his talent, et cetera et cetera. So let's clear that up right at the beginning of this review; ten of the eleven tracks on Welcome To My DNA are written by Blackfield's other half, Aviv Geffen. Regardless of what I'm about to say about this album, Wilson didn't really have much to do with it this time around.
So maybe that's why, quite frankly, it isn't very good. After liking Blackfield's first album and loving their second, I was actually expecting quite a lot from their third effort. The preview clips sounded promising, the cover art is nice enough and the pseudo-concept-album vibe it has going on are all things that pointed to, in the pre-release weeks, a solid follow up to 2007's excellent Blackfield II. But as you can see by that less-than-perfect rating at the top of this review, something did go very wrong here. And the main problem is something that I never expected from this band; it's generic.
I know 'generic' is the kind of buzzword that internet people hate music reviews including, but there's no other way to describe the utter insipid feeling that permeates this album. At only eleven tracks and forty minutes long, it shouldn't be too much of a trek to listen through, but that's exactly how it feels every time I spin it. Whilst the previous two Blackfield albums have had their share of filler, they've normally had the ratio of great tracks to not-so-great at at least 50-50. In WTMDNA, the opener sounds like filler. The second track sounds like filler (and is also a ridiculous lyrical display that wouldn't feel entirely out of place in 'How NOT to write lyrics 101') and so on. It's not until the single track that Steven Wilson wrote, and then the penultimate song of the album, that you get to what should have been happening constantly in the third album of a band that had been consistently improving: good music.
Now, a lot of that criticism might sound a little harsh and, even worse for a review, unfounded. Naturally, I can't explain what I mean by the problem being that the album is generic, but I can at least point to examples of why I think this. The vocal melodies throughout the album lack any creativity or originality whatsoever, and everything from the chord progressions, through to the lyrics, through to even Steven Wilson's normally superb guitar solos, feel absolutely like Geffen and Wilson are going through the motions, churning out filler song after filler for the sake of making a third album. The prime culprit? Track eight, 'On The Plane.' By track eight out of an eleven-song album, one begins to lose hope for a light at the end of the dismal tunnel. On The Plane is essentially the final nail in WTMDNA's uninspired coffin; it features a verse that you've heard before, 'depressing' lyrics that you've empathized with countless times in the past, and, in what is the most resoundingly resigned moment of the album, probably the most dismal chorus that Steven Wilson ever has, or ever will, attach his name to. It's demonstrative of WTMDNA as a whole, in that it doesn't even feel to live up to some promise; it's just one 221 exercise in a complete and utter lack of creativity.
So, how did I even end up giving it a 2.5, based on the above rant? Luckily, there are, count 'em, two enjoyable songs. Steven Wilson's only writing contribution to the album is, unsurprisingly, the only great song, and it's quality is such that it actually wouldn't feel out of place on a Porcupine Tree album. It's called 'Waving,' and the opening chords (reminiscent of the outro of Deadwing's 'Open Car') are the single moment in the album that can elicit any sort of hope for me when I listen through it now. The song features the catchiest (and only original) chorus in the whole album, great music, an excellent driving beat and, amazingly, good lyrics in a sea of mediocrity. 'Zigota' is also enjoyable, featuring an unexpectedly aggressive outro riff that manages to anchor the latter end of the album in some sort of quality.
This review might well have come off as sounding overly harsh, but that's probably just because I'm disappointed; Blackfield are better than this. Hell, even Aviv Geffen's solo stuff is a lot better than this, and that didn't even has Steven Wilson's midas touch to help out. Coming from a band that have released a good album and a great album, it really is just depressing to hear them churn out such a mess. It's also not really what I'd have expected at all; I knew that Blackfield could be bad, sure, as some of their ideas might not quite come off, or some riffs or progressions might grate a little, but I never thought they'd be quite so... resigned, uninspired, insipid (I've run out of synonyms by now, as you might be able to tell) as they are here. And that's why WTMDNA isn't just disappointing; it's pretty damn insulting. Avoid.
I know this review is probably too conversational as always from me, but that's just how I write I guess, so please don't neg for that, at least. Feel free to neg if it's terribly written though, which might well be the case.
Didn't realise you'd started writing regularly on here...you should've told me!
Surprised...you were even more negative about it as I was in my stereoboard review of it! Don't tell the DTFers eh...
One thing about the review that immediately struck me was that 2.5 is actually quite a high rating for something that only has 2 enjoyable songs...unless the songs are REALLY amazing, which I don't believe you think they are.
Aha thanks, I've gotten kind of addicted to reviewing on here, so I've probably been posting too many.
And true, we actually seem to be the only two that dislike it so much, which surprises me a lot.
I was debating going between a 2 and a 2.5, but I felt like 2 might be getting my disappointment get in the way of my objectivity a little too much (although now listening to Blood again, I feel a 2 might have been more apt...) But I think you're right, a 2 fits what I said in the review better probably.
You write much better than when I started for sure.
The reason we're the only two that dislike it so much is that there are certain bands/musicians on DTF that you're not really allowed to criticise and I think Blackfield (read here SW) are definitely one!
I would get rid of this chunk right here, it really doesn't lend anything to the review, but it does cause me to question the legitimacy of your opinion.
"Now, a lot of that criticism might sound a little harsh and, even worse for a review, unfounded. Naturally, I can't explain what I mean by the problem being that the album is generic, but I can at least point to examples of why I think this. "
and yeah, this reads a lot like a 2. But I really enjoyed reading it. Seriously, great write man. POS.
I agree this is bland at times and not as good as their first two, but I still like it. I'll be using it for background music sooner than intensive listening, but for that purpose it's still very enjoyable. The 3.5 is slightly generous, it might drop a notch.
As for the review, as you pointed out yourself it is indeed too conversational/personal, which I would advise you to move away from. Grammar- and structure-wise it's all fine, definitely a lot better than way too many new(er) user reviews I read here. Some pointers:
This review might well have come off as sounding overly harsh, but that's probably just because I'm disappointed
This first line of the conclusion is the kind of thing you really should avoid. We, your readers, are really not interested in how dissapointed or satisfied you were with an album on a personal level; after all, we can already see what you thought just by reading the review. You could perfectly replace the sentence with 'This might all sound overly harsh, but Welcome To My DNA is a real dissapointment', for example.
His creative absence may well be the reason why, quite frankly, it isn't very good. Blackfield released a great first album and an even better second, setting high expectations for their third effort. The preview clips certainly sounded promising, the cover art is nice enough, and the pseudo-concept-album vibe it has going on are all things that pointed to a solid follow-up before it was released. Unfortunately, something did go very wrong here. Welcome To My DNA is rather generic, which is a problem we'd last expected from this group.
This is how I would redo the second paragraph. You should do it your own way, of course, but this is just to show what direction you should be working towards. Hope it helps, I think you could definitely write great reviews with more practice.
Just bumped this down to a 3. Yeah, i think i can probably say, this is the worst thing i've ever heard from Wilson.
It's not bad, but i haven't listened to this at all since the first time i listened to it. And even though i didn't care for their debut a lot, at least there were tracks on there that i remembered after the first listen. This album has jack shit that i remember.
this album aint that bad...there are a couple of really good tracks...waving, far away, rising of the tide, DNA and the super-pop sounding oxygen...but wilson should just stop with tracks like go to hell[especially with the lyrics]...sounds terrible.