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Porcupine Tree - In Absentia CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

4.26 | 2778 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars In 2002 it was announced that the latest Porcupine Tree effort would be a bit of a heavy metal affair and this worried me as I didn't want one of my favourite bands to be turned into a metal band. By then the previous effort of the band of Steve Wilson wasn't what I would call a great record even if other prog lovers believed it was. "Lightbulb Sun" wasn't bad as a solid melodic rock album but the progressive influence was getting too thin to my humble opinion. It was obvious the band was heading for a more accessible direction in order to broaden their audience. To listen to "In absentia" for the very first time was kind of a relief. Sure the album has a rougher edge than previous PT releases with the guitar chords on the front of the sound. Overall the sound of the band stays pretty much the same even more than it did on "Lightbulb sun". In some ways I would call this a return to form but not too much. Apparently we had to wait till the release of "Deadwing" to accomplish this task completely.

The opening chords of "the Blackest Eye" do suspect this is heavy stuff but soon it is clear it is not. This track has lots of memorable melodies to offer. On the background one can notice lots of acoustic guitars and atmospheric keyboards. "Trains" is just a little lovely pop track and could have been included on "Lightbulb sun" : light, pop and harmless but I never would consider playing the record for hearing this song. "The sound of muzak" is another track to have an enjoyable melody. The dubbed sound of the vocals on the chorus are characteristic for the latest Porcupine tree albums. This aspect of their music is often reminiscent to The Beatles and off course Pink Floyd. "Lips of ashes" must be the oddest track of the bunch thanks to the use of some interesting sounds. This intimate track holds excellent melodies and sounds like a fairy tale. On "Gravity Eyelids" you'll find the best of what this band has to offer. Like an opening flower which opens gradually the sound of this song is growing bigger ; near the end it becomes a large landscape of guitars, keyboards and stunning vocal melodies. Like other highlights of the PT catalogue this track could be used as a soundtrack for a moment in a science fiction movie where a giant saucer is slowly launched into space. This track justifies the buying of this album. On "Wedding Nails" you can figure out why some reviewers found this version of PT too heavy. This instrumental track is driven by metal guitar chords. In essence this is just a natural evolution from the point where Wilson released "Up the downstair". All typical PT ingredients are still present under a sauce of heavy guitars. The atmospheric keyboards still are awesome to listen to. "Prodigal" makes up another excellent track. It starts off quite laid back with guitar lines which do remind me on those on "Dark side of the moon" and that's also the case for the vocals. In the second half of the song, the powerful chorus shakes the atmosphere and turns this track into something even more exciting. The strings take the leading role on "3" which gives the track a dreamy mood. To the end the pumping basses and guitar lines add some power to it. Definitely one of the highlights of this album. I found myself very fortunate to notice the band rediscovered its qualities in creating fascinating instrumental sections. Wilson's vocals are alright but there's so much to discover in the instrumental side of this band that most of the tracks hardly needs vocals. Like on Deadwing, Wilson uses a lot of sound effects for the vocals but it's not annoying it even adds some mystery. An artist got to adapt his sound to the time he's living in. Wilson may not have the most powerful voice in progressive rock but I always liked the sound of it : sometimes whispering, sometimes pastoral, sometimes harmonic. On "Strip the soul" the band creates a sinister atmosphere once again. The mood gets interrupted by violent guitar chords of the chorus. The elaborate guitar melody which is gradually developed is most enjoyable although this is one of the heavy tracks on the album. The closing track is a closing track in essence. You almost can hear Wilson singing goodbye if you're not listening to the lyrics. The orchestral strings are emphasizing the emotion which is quite odd for a band who is constructing its music very technical way.

It's been 3 years since this album was released and I still listen to it every now and then. For me this is the proof that this is a decent album which concludes some highlights worthwhile of checking out. As I said for me this album meant a welcome back for the dark and spacey atmospheres of their first albums. Although it is obvious PT has become a rather conventional progressive band when compared to the obscure material from the past. Every sound you hear has been polished by 2002 studio techniques and this gives "In absentia" a better production. And now for the low points. Some tracks seem to be more of the same and don't add nothing new although not one track is weak, just less memorable. Another thing I regret is that the symphonic sound is not explored a lot more than it is. My final point of critic is that the album lacks a real long epic. But these are just minor critical points. Still I would choose this album above some other PT albums like "signify" or "Lightbulb Sun".

Fishy | 4/5 |


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