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Porcupine Tree - Deadwing CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

4.10 | 1917 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars An interesting but ultimately non-essential three-star album that garners a fourth star because of the attention to detail.

By 2005, PORCUPINE TREE have had two clear phases to their career. When the 'band' was made up of STEVEN WILSON and no-one else, a side project of his main band NO-MAN, the focus was on psychedelic rock, delivered with a growing confidence. On WILSON's switch to focus primarily on PT in the mid 90s, he acquired a band and immediately put them to work remodelling his sound. He incorporated elements of NO-MAN compositional structures to his psychedelic atmospherics and set about producing simple music with exemplary arrangement, musicianship and production values. This second period comes to an end with this album.

'Deadwing', then, represents a transition from the PORCUPINE TREE of 'In Absentia' to something else. In 2005 we didn't quite know what it was - though now, in 2007, the shift to WILSON's OPETH-influenced brand of progressive metal is much clearer. However, what was clear even in 2005 is how much simpler - and ultimately less satisfying - this album was than its predecessors. There are far fewer hooks, very few moments where the band soars, and very little cohesion between songs. That said, the songs themselves are very fine in the context of modern music, just not up with PT's best work.

I'm at a loss to fathom the title track. It has a muscle-bound riff - on this albums riffs seem to take the place of WILSON's lyrical, heart-rending guitar solos - but stumbles to an indeterminate conclusion. 'Shallow' has at its heart another fine riff, but does not have the dynamism of a track like 'Blackest Eyes'. 'Lazarus', the outstanding track on the album, is an extraordinarily beautiful soft-rock track, and might have been a hit for BREAD or CHICAGO in the 70s. I don't mean this disparagingly; I'm trying to give you a sense of the song's gentle charm. 'Halo' asks important questions, but has the feel of an undeveloped track - the bass and rhythm reminding me of early NO-MAN. 'Arriving Somewhere' is supposedly the prog track, but though it is 12 minutes long, it's really a short song with a riff-laden central section added. The excellent, if somewhat puzzling, 'Mellotron Scratch' follows, with a short homage to GENTLE GIANT to conclude. The last three tracks draw the album to an underwhelming conclusion. 'Open Car' reminds us that for all his nerdish looks WILSON can be jolly disturbing, and 'Glass Arm Shattering' might almost have commanded a place on 'In Absentia'.

In hindsight, this album sees PORCUPINE TREE shrugging off their alt rock vocal/lyric focus in favour of a more metal approach. My honest opinion is this is an all-too well-travelled road, and abandoning the majesty of their earlier work for this is not my idea of progress. Nevertheless, I recognise that there's a fair amount of personal taste in this: PORCUPINE TREE have filled a niche no other band could, and now they've gone elsewhere. I feel bereft. Perhaps going in this direction is keeping WILSON interested, and I'd rather he pursued his interests than made music to suit the likes of me. I'll get over it.

Nice packaging, great sounds, but the compositions are but a shadow of previous work.

russellk | 3/5 |


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