Well, here we are at last, on the doorstep of a review of one of the greatest albums to grace this Earth since Opeth's Morningrise
. I simply cannot put into words how incredible this album is to me. Maybe I'm just a fanboy, but the result is the same: I would marry this album if it were possible.
Why? Let me tell you. Never have I heard a band anything like Porcupine Tree
. Every single album they release just blows me away, and for some reason, In Absentia
blew me the way the most out of any of them. This is the kind of stuff Progressive is all about. Porcupine Tree simply blurs the lines between genres, and does it so absolutely elegantly. It's the only way I think I can put it into words. One second the song will be on a beautiful acoustic ballad, then the next it'll be slowly merging into a soft electrical one, then the next it will be an assault of heavy, distorted electric.
The album is also innovative in the fact it's a concept album---a very depressing one, in fact. The album is (supposedly, I'm not COMPLETELY sure) about this kid growing up to become a serial murderer. And, to me at least, it portrays this mood not through the lyrics---but more through the mood of the music, which is why it's just so incredible to me.
Sure---maybe a few of the songs on In Absentia
are a bit lackluster compared to others, but I don't think any of them don't shine in at least one way or another. On with the review!
Steven Wilson - guitar, vocals
Richard Barbieri - synthesizers
Colin Edwin - bass guitar
Gavin Harrison - drums and percussion
The album begins with the song Blackest Eyes
, which I think is a very odd song indeed. It begins with a very Opeth-like barrage of heavy, distorted electric, and leads you on thinking it's going to be a heavier song---then, somehow, it changes at the last second into an incredible melodic chorus done with heavy acoustic. It works well. You'd think it wouldn't, but somehow they make the merge perfectly. Maybe I'm just biased... all in all, a wonderful song, and definitely one of the better ones on the album.
Then we move onto Trains
, which is yet another gem. Such a beautiful, beautiful song. It begins with a simple acoustic riff repeated over and over, with Steven singing somewhat hauntingly, then it slowly blends into a medium-heavy electric prog rush with an amazing chorus and an awesome melody. Again, simply one of the best songs on the album. The lyrics are weird and abstract as always, but they portray the mood of the song perfectly. Songs like this are what prog is all about...
Lips of Ashes
. An underrated song if there ever was one. Sure, it's simplistic, and it's also pretty short... but the depth of emotion portrayed through the song... amazing. The acoustic hook played over and over is nothing special---but the dark, haunting, beautiful vocal passages are what make the song amazing up until around 3:25, when you get a really nice solo played along with the acoustic hook. It's simplistic, but like I said... the depth of emotion and the mood are portrayed perfectly. Great song to fall asleep to, as well. Yet another prog gem!
And then we have arguably one of the best, if not the best, song on the album: The Sound of Muzak
. The vocals are odd as always (Porcupine Tree lyrics are always weird) but the musicmanship is OHMYGODORGASMINMYPANTS
quality. I have no idea what instrument, or how heavy the studiowork is in this song, but I *love* the sound of the intro. ***ing catchy as hell vocal passages too.
"It's one of the wonders of the world,
and it's going down, it's going down, I know.
It's one of the wonders of the world,
and no one cares, no one cares enough."
What the hell does it mean? I have no idea, but it sounds great! Awesome song. And it ends with a pretty kickass solo, too... but yeah.
The next song on the album, Gravity Eyelids
, doesn't quite match up to the other songs on the album. But is it bad? No. Not by a longshot. One of the longer songs on the album, droaning on to nearly 8 minutes. Which is probably it's main flaw. It should be shorter. There are just huge stretches of... nothing, for half of the song. But, the chorus, and some of the vocal passages, as said for other aforementioned songs, are just beautiful. And, once more, the lyrics are weird as hell! Good solo and electric work around 4:10, too.
Then we get to the only instrumental of the album, Wedding Nails
. Once more, underrated as hell. This song kicks a lot of ass, even though it drags on a bit too long than it should. It's kind of hard to describe---give it a listen yourself. Wedding Nails proves that Porcupine Tree doesn't just know how to rock---they know how to roll, too.
is another one of my favorites. Similiar to Trains, but without the acoustic introduction. It just gets straight to the meat---the electric. It's a softer, more poppish song, but good nonetheless. The chorus is also excellent. Nothing especially exceptional, though.
The next song, .3
, is a cool song---but... unfortunately, it's quite boring. I guess no album can be perfect, but... .3 isn't really quite on par with the rest of the album at all. It's just the same bass hook played for 5:25. Still, a very pretty song.
The Creator Has A Mastertape
is a ***ing weird ass song. Man, what the hell is this? Haha, it makes no sense! But it's not a bad song, even if it is weird, even for Porcupine Tree standards... in fact, I'd even go so far as to say it's good enough to be REALLY good. It's just... different than the other songs on the album. Fast paced compared to most Porcupine Tree, too. Really good song, another one of my favorites on the album.
Heartattack in a Layby
is a very depressing track, amidst a sea of lighthearted prog. Simplistic, with a sad acoustic hook (and the ocassional short electric burst), this song has a very high mood of death about it, and definately excels at what it's supposed to convey. Decent song, with a beautiful chorus.
Approaching the end of the album, you find the little track Strip the Soul
hiding at track number 11. Catchy. Good lyrics. Good chorus. Good vocal passages. Good musicmanship. In fact, the word "good" basically embodies this song entirely. It's not the best, it's not the worst. An above average track that is just fun as heck to listen to.
And finally you get to the end, and whereas you'd expect other bands to end their albums with a bang, instead you get the song Collapse The Light Into Earth
. Meh. Mixed feelings on this one. I'm a big fan of orchestra-like piano ballads... but this seems kind of thrown together in a rush. It has maybe one melody, played over and over and over and over and over again for almost 6 minutes. Not a horrible song, but probably the worst on the album. Pretty big dissapointment, and a bad way to end the album.
All in all, Porcupine Tree's In Absentia
is a solid album that takes you on one wild prog-filled ride through a billion different sounds and moods. It's very multi-riveted, with every song possessing multiple hooks and melodies that make you think "Wow, they must have really put their hearts and souls into this."
I love In Absentia
, and I'm hoping maybe you'll give it a try if you haven't already---I'm hoping you'll be as pleased as I was.
-- Beautiful. Captures the word in every possible meaning.
-- Very inspired and original---unlike anything else I've ever heard.
-- Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt does some awesome backing vocals and solos.
-- Incredibly melodic and mood-conveying guitarwork and vocalwork.
-- Odd, but well-fitting lyrics.
-- Fun as hell to listen to.
-- .3 and Collapse The Light Into Earth are mediocre at best.
-- Some parts drag on a little too long and become repetitive.
And there you have it. Prog at it's best, folks.
Always the summers are slipping away.