Review Summary: Is this the end of the road for Porcupine Tree? Is “The Incident” their swan song?
“The Incident” is the tenth studio album by Porcupine Tree and was released in 2009. The line up on the album is Steven Wilson, Richard Barbieri, Colin Edwin and Gavin Harrison.
In recent years, Wilson and his band mates have been exploring the metal side of the progressive music and their last albums have had a relatively heavy side. On “The Incident” the band transcends metal and produced something that combines metal, acoustic, prog and rock elements, in a very intelligent way. It consists of two discs, the first one being the continuous 55 minute song cycle “The Incident” and the second disc with 20 minutes of unrelated band’s compositions. The final four songs appear on a separate disc to emphasize that they aren’t related to the main concept.
“The Incident” is a concept album based on one Wilson’s idea. The original idea appeared when he was caught in a motorway traffic jam driving, when he passed a road accident. He thought that an accident is something so traumatic and destructive for the people involved, that he decided to make a concept album about it. Therefore, he decided to search other type of accidents reported in the media. So, the album is about several types of accidents, like a car crash, a drowning in a river, or a religious cult in Texas. He decided to call the album “The Incident”, not “The Accident”.
Unlike the angst of “Fear Of A Blank Planet”, some of the songs on “The Incident” are uplifting, even with the sombre subject matter. The style is no doubt a return on Porcupine Tree’s previous works, seeming to be almost a mixture of their last three albums with some darker elements of “Fear Of A Blank Planet”, some lighter touches of “In Absentia” and the heavy grandeur of “Deadwing”. Wilson seems adamant to give each song its own individual feel, despite being only one theme. The sound is often reminiscent of the “Signify” days with elements of the art/progressive rock that Porcupine Tree are known for, with the recent metal touches from “Fear Of A Blank Planet” and a twist of industrial influences on the Wilson’s solo work, “Insurgents”. “The Incident” is a magnificent escape into Wilson’s musical world, and once again, it ticks all the points of how to make a truly good album.
As “The Incident” is a whole work, I only want to detach one of its songs, “Time Flies”. “Time Flies” is a wonderful autobiographical Pink Floyd flavoured song, probably the best song on the album, with its open line “I was born in 1967”, which was the year when Wilson was born. 1967 was also the year of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” of The Beatles and “Are You Experienced” of Jimi Hendrix. But musically, Wilson’s head seems to be more in tune with “Animals” of Pink Floyd, and specifically the song “Dogs”, than with The Beatles or the Hendrix music.
The second disc has 20 minutes of music that you can consider a bonus disc within the official release. The band decided to place these four songs on a separate EP and release it with the main album instead of a later EP release, as happened with “Nil Recurring” of “Fear Of A Blank Planet”. The content is relevant to the release, since the songs are inspired by some other “incidents” that in one way or another left a strong impression in Wilson.
“Flicker” is the band mixing of some of the elements of their sound, in the same way that has worked for them for the past ten years, and where the lyrics and the music are good. “Bonnie The Cat” provides an “In Absentia” feel, with insidious lyrical content. “Black Dahlia” has a memorable vocal work. “Remember Me Lover” seems to combine all of the elements that Porcupine Tree was experimenting on this album.
I had the privilege of be present in one of the concerts of the live tour of “The Incident”, in my country, Portugal. The only thing I can say is that I became astonished with the entire concert. Porcupine Tree is really a wonderful live band. That night, when I returned home and I was listening to the album again, I maintained my first impression. “The Incident” is better played alive than on the studio version. Alive, it has a much faster rhythm and is quite heavier than on studio. However, I must confess that the more I listen to the album, better it sounds to me.
Conclusion: “The Incident” is a great album, more acoustic and less heavy than their last ones. The first CD is really an ambitious and excellent musical project. However, the second CD doesn’t explore the same line of the first. It shows the more experimental Wilson’s side. “The Incident” is the most autobiographical album by Wilson and it has that distinctive sound that Porcupine Tree has created all over the years. The overall sound is less metal than the usual on their last albums and is somehow a return to the past. The first disc is fantastic and the fourteen parts flow one into the next in an excellent way. However, the second disc has four nice songs but only “Remember Me Lover” can reach the quality level of the first CD. Anyway, “The Incident” is another solid release from one of the best prog bands, nowadays.
Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)