Blackfield
Blackfield V


4.0
excellent

Review

by Ben Kuettel STAFF
February 4th, 2017 | 72 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Blackfield sound more focused and consistent than they have in years by allowing a surprisingly optimistic vision shine through a blissful concept album.

Blackfield is the most accessible band that Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree fame has been involved in, despite maintaining the melancholic tone present in his main projects. The group has been an outlet for him to shift away from progressive rock and metal in favor of a straightforward brand of art rock, while still retaining the emotional weight present in his music. V marks a return of equal songwriting credits between Wilson and collaborator Aviv Geffen, the latter being more accustomed to this style in his solo material. The previous two albums were more comprised of his vision while Wilson focused on his own solo albums. This latest from Blackfield returns to the strengths and compositional focus seen on their first two records, despite the expected somberness being largely absent this time. Hallmarks of the more upbeat Porcupine Tree era are notable, with many tracks recalling the more mainstream nature of Stupid Dream and Lightbulb Sun. Those wishing for more of that sound from Wilson will likely not get anything closer to it than this. Blackfield sound more optimistic and focused than they have in years, with Wilson and Geffen allowing a surprisingly optimistic vision shine through their soaring, blissful concept album.

Wilson’s songwriting has never sounded as content, or as straightforward, as it does on V. Blackfield was always the least abstract project he’s written for, and V comes as the most easily digestible album of his career. For the most part he is able to return the project back to its former glory, while bringing the band’s sound to more hopeful territory. Tracks like “We’ll Never Be Apart” and “Life is an Ocean” function as straightforward chapters in the concept of V and exude hypnotic qualities. They, along with a few other tracks, might feel more like interludes than fully fleshed out songs upon first listening. Many of them resemble brief, yet satisfying musical vignettes, which might in fact be their actual purpose. This is after all meant to be more of a complete listening experience from Blackfield than before, being a loose concept album centered on the ocean and cycles of life. These lofty themes are given weight by the variety of sounds produced in V, lending to the deceptively simple nature of it.

There is plenty going on instrumentally despite the more straightforward approach, with lush compositions making for a dreamy listening experience. “Undercover Heart,” for example, features swelling violins and beautifully intertwined male and female vocals, making for an incredible build-up and climax by its end. Hearing diverse instrumentation like violins and mellotrons will come as no surprise to those familiar with Wilson’s work, with V also gleaning from other boundary pushing modern rock music as well. The gorgeous instrumental “Salt Water” recalls “.3” by Porcupine Tree, while strings reminiscent of those heard in A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead come up in “October.” A possible nod towards David Bowie, specifically his declarations of "I'm a blackstar..." from the monolith track “Blackstar” comes in the form of the robotic chanting, "I’m a lonely soul," in the titular track. It’s possible that Wilson and Geffen experienced a surge of personal inspiration during this album cycle, given the climate of excellent, forward thinking rock music from the past couple years.

The sublime qualities of V are made possible from a variety of creative decisions, including a fully realized presence by Wilson, as well as the production and mixing. As a special treat for the listener, Wilson and Geffen are joined by legendary producer Alan Parsons of The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd to work on the three lead singles, “Family Man”, “How Was Your Ride?,” and “Sorrys.” V is able to maintain a consistent, dreamy feel with how the sounds are mixed, similar to the rich qualities of Currents by Tame Impala and Wilson’s recent solo material. Despite the personal connections that could be drawn to other modern music for certain listeners, V is not a derivative record by any means. It sounds very much like its own creation, fitting snugly into the Blackfield canon and being their best work in nearly a decade. V is a welcome return to the consistency of I and II, being an elegant return to form for Blackfield while brightening their sound just enough to remain recognizable.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
February 4th 2017


15781 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Three song suite/preview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFKBA_TsgWw



Full album officially drops on Friday. The three songs from the video are also currently available in full on Spotify.

Digging: Steven Wilson - To the Bone

Tunaboy45
February 4th 2017


15158 Comments


Forgot this was coming out after the delay, I'll have to pick it up.

bloc
February 4th 2017


42067 Comments


Was pretty surprised by how enjoyable this was tbh

Digging: Kylie Minogue - Fever

Mythodea
February 5th 2017


4044 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Wanted to write sth about this album, but never got around to it. Excellent write up. I agree, though I'd like you to explain me more the comparison between ''Lonely Soul'' and ''Blackstar''? I adore both, btw, ''Lonely Soul'' is my favourite off this.

SowingSeason
Moderator
February 5th 2017


24084 Comments


Nice write up. I'll return to this for a feature a little closer to the release date!

Digging: Manchester Orchestra - A Black Mile To The Surface

ChoccyPhilly
February 5th 2017


11567 Comments


Hmm... I'm tempted now

Digging: Sun of the Sleepless - To The Elements

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2017


15781 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Yeah I know a lot of fans were ready to write this off given how WtMDNA and IV turned out, even though I liked a fair amount of songs on each, but this more than lives up to the first two and should be given a chance by Wilson fans.

Thanks Sowing, sounds good!

Myth I feel the same way. It's probably a stretch for every listener to agree, but at least to me the first time I heard the way he sings the song title in "Lonely Soul" sounds a lot like "I'm a Blackstar, I'm not a pawn star, etc. etc." section from that title track. Some of the instrumentation of it also reminds me of the Blackstar album in general.

Mythodea
February 5th 2017


4044 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Hmm, a bit stretched, but ok. Song is one of their best. The bass lines are so simple and gentle.

Flugmorph
February 5th 2017


16435 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"you cynical bastard"

that line always cracks me up hehe

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2017


15781 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Yeah good stuff. The lyrics here are very solid for the most part, if a bit simplistic at times, but very good given how unreliable Wilson can be in that regard.



Which reminds me, I'm tired of facebook.

Azertherion
February 5th 2017


423 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

" Which reminds me, I'm tired of facebook."



Let's hope he gets rid of this one for Art's sake. Funny how he can write interesting and beautiful lyrics the morning (such as Heartattack in a Laybay) and clunky stuff the afternoon (Don't Hate Me for example).

Mythodea
February 5th 2017


4044 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Not fond of the Facebook lyric either, but the part sung by Ninet is wonderfully written.

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2017


15781 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Yeah I still have high hopes for the new solo album given how fantastic HCE was, but first hearing that lyric in the album preview was a bit disconcerting. I hope Wilson gets complaining about modern life/technology out of his system on the next one, and then go back to writing ghost stories or something else.

Dewinged
February 5th 2017


4548 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

New album!? I had no idea!! Damn, nice surprise for a monday morning.

Digging: Elegi - Bnsull

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2017


15781 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

This has been leaked for a while. It was supposed to come out last year, but they pushed the release date back a few months for whatever reason.

Dewinged
February 5th 2017


4548 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I live in a fucking cloud.

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2017


15781 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Haha yea me too, wasn't trying to make you feel self conscious

Dewinged
February 5th 2017


4548 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

lol no worries Talons, it's weird. Even if I am trying to pay more attention this year to new releases as a new year's resolution, a few things still go under the radar. Glad that Sput is always there to track them.

Mythodea
February 6th 2017


4044 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

hmm, if you think about it, HCE was a bit of a ghost story, now, wasn't it?

e210013
February 6th 2017


1345 Comments


I need to pay more attention to this Wilson's project. Nice review, man.



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