Review Summary: Mikael Akerfeldt and Steven Wilson unite their talents to craft an eerie and ethereal world containing only the vaguest remnants of their past works.
Even upon their first meeting, there have been talks between Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth and Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree of a collaboration of some sort. Since then, the two have become close friends with both of their bands signing to the same label and each contributing to work of the other. After about a decade and several more albums from each band, Akerfeldt and Wilson finally started writing for the project, eventually named Storm Corrosion. The album of the same name was written and recorded sporadically over the course of 2010 and 2011 at Wilson’s home studio (after sessions of wine drinking and trips to record stores). The end result was a body of music more minimalistic and dream-like than anything either musician has produced before.
“Drag Ropes” opens with a slight cinematic grandiose before winding into something much more bizarre and almost unsettling with creeping, dissonant keyboard accompaniments, only to cede the docile, comforting folk stylings of the album’s title track, its effortless beauty hanging on the subtle interplay between repetitive acoustic guitar and gentle, dazed vocals. Storm Corrosion
greatly favors simplicity to the technical wizardry the duo can be often associated with. Arrangements are sparse with just enough layering to create a loosely bound sufficiency. The majority of “Hag” embodies this by utilizing just a few ominous descending bars of piano mimicked by Wilson’s voice before energetically erupting into a distorted drum solo, compliments of Gavin Harrison, amidst sinister chords of guitar and piano, exuding a very “Grand Conjuration”-esque vibe.
The album’s most admirable strength, however, is perhaps the fact that it hardly resembles anything put forth under the Opeth or Porcupine Tree monikers at all. Each track is noticeably devoid of any strong percussive foundations or traditional rock or metal structuring, progressive or otherwise. Instead, the songs roam, not sure of destination and deliberately indifferent to one altogether, rather celebrating the beauty of the unhurried journey that’s sprawled out before the listener. The collaboration seems to serve as an outlet for influences that would have less of a place in the two musicians’ other projects, influences like krautrock and early avant-garde that culminate here in a wholly unique sound but derive a slight welcoming familiarity from the pair’s vocals and Akerfeldt’s distinctive lead guitar work.
While many of the musical devices employed are nothing new for either party, Storm Corrosion
takes on an atmosphere completely removed from its sibling endeavors. The album plays out like a fantastical dream, sometimes foreboding and sinister but always beautiful and mystifying. “Ljudet Innan” closes things out with some soulful crooning from Akerfeldt before droning on in a tranquil sea of synth and eventually returning to a bit of light percussion, bluesy guitar licks, and some similarly soulful pining from Wilson. The lush and lilting vocal melodies induce such peculiar wonderment, often tearing away at the aperture separating soothing from haunting, while overarching synths, strings, and distorted vocal backdrops serve to erect the towering weightlessness of the captivating reverie.
The album will likely birth opinions spread across the board from Opeth and Porcupine Tree fans alike, the spacious nature undoubtedly boring some while bewitching others, ultimately boiling down to one’s own musical exposure and palate. And though Storm Corrosion as a musical outfit isn’t really the progressive supergroup many were likely expecting, it’s nice to see two good friends and talented musicians that respect and admire one another coming together to push themselves creatively. Really, a fifty-fifty mixture of the two bands’ sounds would have just been a complacent copout, regardless of quality. While it’s unclear whether or not the twosome will follow up this effort, their eponymous debut stands as an impressive offering that may take repeated listens and an open mind.