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Porcupine Tree - Fear Of A Blank Planet CD (album) cover

FEAR OF A BLANK PLANET

Porcupine Tree

 

Heavy Prog

4.26 | 2572 ratings

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LakeGlade12
5 stars 4.8 Stars. Their most progressive and forward thinking album.

FOABP was produced right in the middle of PT's metal phase and at this point the band had become fully conformable with their new and very distinctive style. All the band needed was a strong concept to build their next album on and this came about through SW reading Bret Easton Ellis' novel Lunar Park. This book inspired him to focus on the current social issues present with 21st century western youth culture.

Each song on the album highlights different aspects to being a teenager and the pitfalls that are so easy to fall into thanks to how materialistic and shallow media culture is. Most of the stories have an air of depression and gloom where the kids cannot break out of their boredom and detachment to real life. In a way to escape this boredom they fill their lives with sex, drugs, video games and gangs which only adds to their problems. This concept can be claimed to be overly negative and that SW is far too old to be an accurate judge on today's teenagers. However as someone who was in the right age bracket when the album came out I can see some truth in the picture he paints. If a teenager lacks direction and is easily influenced then these problems highlighted are very real and easy to slip into.

Focusing on the music this is one of SW's heaviest and dramatic record. Their is a lot of very raw emotion to be found in each song and the music have been perfectly chosen to match the mood. The drama actually intensifies over the album and reaches boiling point on Sleep Together where the teenager cannot handle any more of this life and commits suicide along with a friend/partner. The classic PT sound can be found on this album, but with significantly more pounding drums and harsh electric guitars to give a more metal edge. But the instrument palette is much wider than that found on most metal albums, with a full orchestra being used in some songs to add much more depth. Also Wilson's electronic skills can be found in the quieter moments.

"Fear of a black planet" sets the scene for the album and begins quite fast and aggressively. There is a lot of angst and swearing in the lyrics as a young moody teenager slags off his parents and shows his love to shallow things such as his Xbox. While this may make the song sound trashy (and to be fair it is my least favorite song on the album) it is instrumentally strong and at the end of the song things calm down as the listener gets to the heart of the child's issues and we can finally make a emotional connection.

"My ashes" is a very slow and gloomy track. Here the band show their ability to use very modern production and sounds to great effect. However they are able to also use strings at the end of the track perfectly to add drama to this already very emotional song. The lyrics are based on the end of Bret's book and make for a great tribute to the novel that inspired the album.

"Anesthetize" is the big 17 min epic of FOABP and has a fair amount of metal in it. However the band take their time before things get heavy and allow the song to gradually develop at its natural rate. This is musically their most complex work here and it may take a bit of time to appreciate the song structure for the first 6 minutes before the metal really gets started. Once things are in place the band show their full musical abilities with very impressive instrumentals from all the band members.

Its important to mention that the band are careful not to make the metal part a full blown Prog Metal noodle-fest and show a mature level of restraint that most Prog Metal bands lack. The final 4 minutes calm down the mood and lets the atmospheric side of the band shine, while also showing off their great harmonies.

"Sentimental" carries on the mood present at the end of the last track and has similarities to My ashes. The lyrics are however more desperate and the music a bit faster paced than that song. There is also a more powerful instrumental at end of this song which perfectly leads to the next 2 songs which really make the album a masterpiece for me.

"Way out of here" is what I consider the perfect example of a Prog Metal track done right. Like with Anethetize the song is allowed to buildup at its own natural rate before exploding into full blown metal. While the band do get the chance to show off their skills their is no overindulgence or fat in the song. Everything is kept tight and tense which matches the overall mood of the album. One of the best PT songs.

"Sleep together" takes the tension found on the last song and multiplies it several times. Literally every second is charged with tension which at any point could explode. The orchestra also comes back and is what makes the song another masterpiece. Instead of going into traditional heavy metal the orchestra drives the heavy parts of the track to create a very unique and powerful climax.

FOABP shows the band at the height of their powers. They have produced one of the most well written and concise Prog albums this decade and it has almost no borrowing from 70s Prog. Unlike In Absentia there is also minimal pop as well which makes FOABP probably the most forward thinking Prog album out there. Anyone new to PT should start here, its just an essential album.

LakeGlade12 | 5/5 |

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