Porcupine Tree
In Absentia


5.0
classic

Review

by Nick Mongiardo CONTRIBUTOR (84 Reviews)
July 7th, 2013 | 243 replies


Release Date: 2002 | Tracklist

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.

In Absentia 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.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
SitarHero
July 7th 2013


4679 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

What's up with the summary? It doesn't connect to the review in any way...




Artuma
July 7th 2013


13489 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this seriously needed another review...

good review overall anyway even though i disagree Lips of Ashes and Creator having anything of a standout track. also your summary consists of probably the blandest lyrics of the album

Digging: Indian Summer - Science 1994

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
July 7th 2013


16026 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Muzak solo is awesome, nice review

Digging: iamthemorning - Belighted

KerfuffleinaHussle
July 7th 2013


764 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Ever wanted to delve deep into the mind and psyche of a serial killer for one day?"

Not particularly

Good review but this album is nothing special imo

And the lyrical content is all over the place

Mongi123
Contributing Reviewer
July 7th 2013


10382 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

My summary is to show that it's amazing music and the song that it's from is about how Wilson thinks
music has no passion anymore. I know that line is bland, but the point was to prove him wrong. Could
think of a better summary if it's that stupid haha

And as for my opening sentence, some people are actually really fascinated by the psychology of why
they commit their acts. Wilson certainly was. Not actually being one though lol I've personally never
understood it, but I kinda understand it better after listening to this personally.

TheNexus100
July 7th 2013


2533 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

album stinks

Digging: Carrion Spring - A Short History of Decay

IbenizGEO1
July 7th 2013


2258 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

you stink

TheSpaceMan
July 7th 2013


2402 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I think this is PT's most overrated album. I prefer a lot more of em to this one

KILL
July 7th 2013


71856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

lyrics are prob the worst part of the album yea but gd review

Digging: A Guy Called Gerald - Black Secret Technology

KerfuffleinaHussle
July 7th 2013


764 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The lyrics just don't really make any sense

One minute he's on about serial killers and then his gfs and breakups and shit, I don't see the link.

Musically this is cool enough but still there's a few lame/average cuts here. Lightbulb Sun, Deadwing, The Sky Moves... and Signify are my personal favourites.

Artuma
July 7th 2013


13489 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Lightbulb Sun, Deadwing, The Sky Moves... and Signify are my personal favourites."

just replace TSMS with this and you'll have my top 4

aggelosm
July 7th 2013


470 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

but guys.. fear of a blank planet!

Artuma
July 7th 2013


13489 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

is 6th best

KILL
July 7th 2013


71856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

stupid dream bitches

KerfuffleinaHussle
July 7th 2013


764 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Ohhh and Recordings is awesome

Mongi123
Contributing Reviewer
July 7th 2013


10382 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I liked Deadwing but I gotta listen again. Only heard it once.

@Kerfluffle What songs do you think are about break ups? None of them strike me as break up songs but what songs in particular do you think are about break ups?

Artuma
July 7th 2013


13489 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Collapse the Light into Earth is about a break-up

Mongi123
Contributing Reviewer
July 7th 2013


10382 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Hmm idk I really get the feeling that it's about something more, but everyone has their own interpretation.

KerfuffleinaHussle
July 7th 2013


764 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Heartattack in a Layby

"(She waits for me. Home waits for me.) /I guess I should go now /She's waiting to make up /To tell me she's sorry /And how much she missed me... /We'll grow old together"

Collapse the Light Into Earth

"And I won't forget you when we part /I won't try to change your mind /But I wouldn't stop you if you wanted to stay"

And then all of a sudden he's on about beating his wife and kids and getting hard-ons over girls crying and stuff, like um what

Mongi123
Contributing Reviewer
July 7th 2013


10382 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Well Collapse might be I'll give you that. However Heartattack I believe is definitely about someone in the process of dying and atoning for sins he and his dead lover committed or something along those lines.



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