Review Summary: All the pages torn
Steve Wilson once said that he finds the psychology of why serial killers and rapists do the things that they do to be quite intriguing. This masterpiece is essentially his interpretation of this content and its sinister atmosphere provides the perfect setting for these dangerous thoughts. The listener begins to truly understand their torments a lot more and In Absentia
actually manages to make you feel guilty for loving some of the material on it. In the intense, disturbing, and sometimes serene atmospheres of the album, there is something quite sinister lurking in the lyrics. Steve Wilson managed to create something that makes you feel powerful emotions of pain and suffering that not many albums are able to pull off. This album is truly something special for achieving such a level of emotional depth to it.
has recurring themes that deal with the thoughts of serial killers, rapists, and even criticisms of society. The album opener "Blackest Eyes" sheds light on the loose concept as it kicks off with an aggressive guitar riff that is extremely catchy. However, the song unexpectedly changes it's mood from progressive metal to a pop sound as Mr. Wilson sings about all of the secrets that the killer has in his mind, under his bed, and in his garden shed. The verses and choruses are so upbeat that the dark themes are sometimes overlooked, but then it becomes aggressive again with the same guitar riff being repeated. These unexpected shifts in sound on this song alone suggests that the listener will not be able to predict where the album will go next.
The amount of diversity on the album is absolutely staggering because it cannot be classified into one genre. "Gravity Eyelids" is ambient, dark progressive metal that really cuts to the core of you. It's spooky drum effects in the beginning are sinister, the instrumental climax in the middle is intense and the lyrics bring to mind a victim being drugged and raped. It's truly dark stuff and "Trains," a Porcupine Tree fan favorite, directly contrasts "Gravity Eyelids" with lovely acoustic guitar and a totally different pop sound. These two songs easily represent the light and the dark going on in the serial killers head with the perpetrator wanting to recall fond memories, but at the same time, still wanting to do terrible things.
The musicianship is absolutely breathtaking with Wilson on the guitars, Colin Edwin on bass, and Gavin Harrison on drums. Wilson's guitar playing is phenomenal on "Wedding Nails" and the same can be said for Gavin's drumming performance. His drumming is awesome on "The Creator Has A Mastertape" and his performance is the true highlight on that masterful track. It is always appealing when a band actually uses the bass as an instrument and Porcupine Tree is no exception. "Strip The Soul" uses the bass as a driving force and it really pays off. Colin's bass provides the perfect foundation for more of the terrible darkness going on in the killers head as he settles down with a new life, but relapses and feels the urge to abuse his muse. As for Wilson's vocals, he never really aims to hit any high notes on the record, but that is not needed for him to get his point across. His vocals are dark, sinister, and appropriate for the atmosphere of the album.
Every song on the album has something amazing to offer, but the true standouts of the album are ".3," "Heartattack In A Layby" and "Lips Of Ashes." Lips Of Ashes is a soothing and somehow touching look at the serial killer that Wilson is singing about boasting a calming atmosphere, masterful harmonized vocals, and simple yet complex guitar work it really gives you goosebumps. Completely opposing this song is "Heartattack In A Layby" with an incredibly hard hitting look at pain and atoning for your sins. Another acoustic song that features the same harmonized vocals in the end, but there is something about this song that really makes you appreciate your own life. Every time I listen to it, it inspires me to live for today and love my life. It's a truly stunning vision Wilson created in the song and it really makes you wonder if Wilson suffered like the protagonist in it. However, the one song that stands high above them all is Wilson's songwriting cornerstone known as ".3" and this atmospheric journey is one hell of a ride. It essentially takes the listener on a wavy soundscape by means of ambient guitar riffs, beautiful strings and a charismatic bass riff to contrast the light. The brief lyrics really bring the horrifying thought of WWIII as the song quickly climaxes into a wave of trippy guitar work and soaring strings. It's a breathtaking way of making an overall crippling subject matter sound so beautiful.
Porcupine Tree created an album that not only manages to thrill, but it also makes us feel unexpected emotions of regret, inspiration, and even fear. Perhaps "Collapse the Light into Earth" is the best way to end an incredibly bleak and sorrowful journey like this. It quickly turns the entire mood around with basically saying that everything will be alright. In Absentia
proves to be a modern progressive masterpiece that will live on for decades and decades without question and for this very reason it's not to be missed.