Blackfield
Blackfield


4.0
excellent

Review

by Brendan Schroer STAFF
November 19th, 2013 | 11 replies | 1,351 views


Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist


Something that's very impressive about Steven Wilson is that, despite the musical variety of his different bands and projects, his work usually keeps a consistent tone about it nonetheless. His albums always maintain that penchant for moody, melancholic rock combined with many progressive elements. Even in a band like Porcupine Tree whose newer material is heavier and generally more intense, that dark and murky mindset continues to lurk beneath those sonic assaults. So when Wilson's project Blackfield (in which he partnered up with Israeli musician Aviv Geffen) was announced back in 2001, the question was: in what musical direction was Steven Wilson going to carry that melancholic mindset? Well, Blackfield offers a more mellow, alternative sound reminiscent of Porcupine Tree's 2000 album Lightbulb Sun, as shown on the 2004 self-titled debut (and future releases as well).

This album's sound is usually described as a more stripped-down version of Porcupine Tree's music, focusing less on instrumentation and more on simpler songwriting and emotional weight, as well as lots of musical "layers." Since this is a collaboration between both Steven Wilson and Aviv Geffen, you basically get the best of both worlds. There's the progressive, melancholic side of Wilson as well as the poppier side of Geffen. Stylistically, the album is a grab bag of sorts; for instance, "Open Mind" has lots of Pink Floyd influence in the acoustic guitar work and lush vocal harmonies that begin it, "The Hole in Me" and "Scars" sport multiple tempo and time signature changes, and "Scars" has a King Crimson-esque string backdrop to support the chorus. In other words, the album maintains a lot of diversity. Luckily things never get too cluttered songwriting-wise, so time's always being used wisely. The best part of this album, however, is its atmosphere.

Similar to Porcupine Tree's work, Wilson makes sure to coat much of the music in multiple layers of instrumentation; this is particularly effective for atmosphere in certain songs' climaxes. A great example is the end of "Cloudy Now"; for the most part, the song is a very somber ballad. Out of nowhere, the song just explodes near its conclusion; distorted vocals come in to chant that "we are a f*cked up generation." Meanwhile, a giant wall of sound is backing the vocals as the guitars and drums collide. As mentioned before though, it doesn't get out of hand; the band know when enough is enough. Another instance of heavy musical layering is with the aforementioned "The Hole in Me." The chorus in this song is absolutely gorgeous; there are soaring vocal harmonies, guitar chords that compliment the vocal melodies perfectly, the works. The chorus wouldn't be nearly as effective or crushingly melancholic without the heavily multitracked vocal work or the thick layers of vivid musical imagery in its instrumentation.

As I said before, there's also a very stripped-down side to all of this. "Lullaby," "Summer," "Glow," "Cloudy Now," and the title track all have many moments of isolation at varying degrees. Whether it be the simple yet effective C Major piano line of "Lullaby," the moody acoustic strums of the nostalgic "Summer," or the completely depressing synth-and-string combination that makes up most of "Glow," there are many ways in which the band express different forms of musical simplicity. That kind of stuff is what makes this album work; the album is so fueled on emotion that it's pretty fascinating. The lyricism follows suit, going for themes of love, depression, happiness, and other broad emotional topics. The big downside to things is that the music does start to run together a bit after a while. The stripped-down aspect gets slightly old and you'll sometimes be waiting for climaxes to get more, well, climactic. Also, the lyricism can get a bit too simple; the band rarely leave the topics mentioned above, so there's not much variety there.

Other than those minor flaws, this album is pretty damn great. The emotion and elegant songwriting are really what pull this album through. While some may consider this a second-rate Porcupine Tree record, it's certainly much more than that. It shows what two completely different musicians can really do when coming together as one cohesive force. This is definitely recommended, especially for fans of early 2000s Porcupine Tree and alternative/pop rock.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
FiveLeavesLeft
Staff Reviewer
November 19th 2013



7838 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This was from my OhCarrots account back in September, so I'm reposting it with this account to keep things organized. And no, I'm not bringing that Avenged Sevenfold review here as well :P

Rowan5215
November 19th 2013



20025 Comments


Really nice review, would pos
Never listened to Wilson's work outside of PT and solo but this sounds pretty great

FiveLeavesLeft
Staff Reviewer
November 19th 2013



7838 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks man. Yeah, this is definitely reminiscent of PT's alternative years but with even more of a pop edge, in a good way though :P

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
November 19th 2013



9468 Comments


Nope. The only account I used for a good chunk of my ban was OhCarrots

Digging: Koan Sound - Dynasty

FiveLeavesLeft
Staff Reviewer
November 19th 2013



7838 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The only reason I named my profile OhCarrots was so I could justify having a carrot with a dick as my avatar :P

SitarHero
November 19th 2013



4008 Comments


I want to like this album, but it's a bit boring. I get that they're going for a moody atmospheric prog sound but it gets a bit monotonous.

FiveLeavesLeft
Staff Reviewer
November 19th 2013



7838 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Well, more like alternative rock with prog hints, but I definitely understand where you're coming from.

Jethro42
November 19th 2013



12030 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review, great album.

SitarHero
November 19th 2013



4008 Comments


Yeah, it's definitely more straightforward alt rock than most of Steven Wilson's work, but like you said, it's got his fingerprints all over it.

FiveLeavesLeft
Staff Reviewer
November 19th 2013



7838 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, sort of a mix. I really enjoy the lushness of the sound, it's quite beautiful

emester
March 23rd 2014



745 Comments


just got tickets to a show at best buy theater

Digging: Triptykon - Melana Chasmata



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