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


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

4.25 | 2367 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars 4.2 stars

The highly anticipated album from Porcupine Tree had not disappointed the music world and Wilson's fan base, resulting in Porcupine Tree's first step toward fame and success (album sales were surprisingly good). According to Wilson, this is the heaviest Porcupine Tree album so far, which tended to cause some concern as he is friends with Opeth's mastermind. While I agree that some sections are heavier than anything they've done, this is also perhaps their softest album in the same sense, with passages in most songs being very mellow and tranquil.

This album deals with the troubled youth in today's world. While the lyrics say that today's technology is a cause of teenage breakdowns, "Xbox is a God to me, My finger on the switch, my mother is a bitch ... " this is not necessarily an album that merely attacks technology, just the lifestyle that these kids choose to take. In my opinion, the topic is very interesting and its lyrics help make the music moody and very emotional. It is an album focusing on a single concept, but don't expect the "50 minute long song" it was claimed to be. All songs stand on their own and rarely have musical references between them.

Fear of a Blank Planet is Porcupine Tree's most sophisticated album yet. The melodies tend to be more accessible and memorable than the typical prog band though, and are as good as they've always been in the past. As done in the past, Steven uses his clean vocals and his trademark processed ones which have a distant sound to it. The bass guitar playing is professional, though it doesn't require much attention as it doesn't have the neat bass lines that were all over their "Stupid Dream" album. The guitar performance is overall excellent, having very heavy metal riffs, Deadwing style riffing, gorgeous acoustic passages, and a solo here and there, one from the guitar player of Rush. The keyboards are mainly on the background as always, and are essential in creating the atmospheres that make Porcupine Tree's music so pleasant to listen to. Finally, the drummer possibly has outdone himself here, especially in his tribal rhythms of the introduction of the long song.

All songs are at least good. The opener and title track opens in a similar manner to the band's previous studio album. It begins with an aggressive acoustic riff and the music builds into a very entertaining fast-paced rocker with desperate sounding vocals from Wilson and very catchy choruses. Later, the music changes its pace and becomes acoustic, giving way to "My Ashes", a symphonic ballad with pleasant melodies. After the lengthy song (Described in the next paragraph) finishes, the song that stirs my emotion the most, "Sentimental", is next. It has odd-time piano playing, gorgeous choruses, excellent melodies, and perfect subdued instrumentation. It is their best short song since In Absentia, and talking about that album, there is a musical reference to Trains near the end. "Way out of Here" features creepy soundscapes from Robert Fripp (King Crimson) and very depressing atmospheres, with lyrics such as "I can't take the starting, the symphathy, and I hate the questions: 'How do you feel, How is it going at school ...'" The choruses are brilliant, they change the slow song into a very fast and loud section with the vocals sounding very distant. The rest is a combination of the soft, the heavy and the desperate. Finally, Sleep Together finishes the album with a very electronic/industrial feel, driven by a synthesizer loop and gloomy musical arrangements that ends with a deep emotional climax with an orchestra or mellotron (can't tell) solo.

Anesthetize is the centerpiece of the album, being nicknamed "The Beast" due to its intensity and length. It opens with tribal drums and a very spacey atmosphere, which have one of the most chilling vocal harmonies in the choruses. The second chorus is even more effecting, using a distorted 'static' effect that gives me the chills. Afterwards, Lifeson plays a tasteful guitar solo that leads way to a more industrial rock with a guitar riff that sounds like a machine going through your speakers. After that, the music turns heavy and vocals resume. The choruses in this section are very poppy. Later, the music have tension and keep building up in odd-time signature rhythms until it explodes into a musical chaos that is one of the loudest and heaviest things I have ever heard in prog. After that, the chorus plays again and fools you into thinking the chaos will resume but instead the following five music are some of the softest sections of music the band has ever done. It sounds dreamy and focuses on vocal harmonies.

The album is not without its flaws however. I find that the title track takes a while to get started, and there is a guitar tone used on the heavy riffs that just don't sound good at all (present in Anesthetize and Way out of Here). Also, I find Way Out of Here a bit directionless in the second half, though the great music redeems that flaw a bit.

1. Fear of a Blank Planet (A-)

2. My Ashes (C+)

3. Anesthetize (A)

4. Sentimental (A+)

5. Way Out of Here (B+)

6. Sleep Together (A-)

Recommended for everyone except people who don't enjoy Porcupine Tree's music. I doubt this album will change your mind as it generally sounds like a Porcupine Tree record.

Zitro | 4/5 |


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