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

FEAR OF A BLANK PLANET

Porcupine Tree

 

Heavy Prog

4.23 | 1893 ratings

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Pnoom!
4 stars Rating: A-

As today's most famous not-a-prog-band (if they are to be trusted to label themselves), every Porcupine Tree release is sure to earn attention, and, as recent releases have shown, such attention is fully deserved. Though Deadwing disappointed after the largely excellent In Absentia, Fear of a Blank Planet shows that not only are Porcupine Tree not declining, they are undeniably rising: Fear of a Blank Planet is their best yet. Evolving from a heavily Pink Floyd influenced space rock band to an alternative metal band that mixes crushing riffs with ambient pop beauty, Porcupine Tree has found a niche where they are kings, and Fear of a Blank Planet establishes that once and for all.

Unlike In Absentia and Deadwing, which are complete entities in their own rights but are nevertheless each comprised of multiple songs, Fear of a Blank Planet is really one (not-a-prog-) song in six parts, and what a glorious song it is. The opening title track immediately grabs the listener with a heavy yet catchy riff and a chorus that is somehow even catchier. It gets blood pumping, shows that Fear of a Blank Planet is for real, and displays tremendous songwriting - all in one blow. Then, of course, there are the excellent lyrics, which deal with the technology obsession Steven Wilson (lyricist, vocalist, and guitarist for Porcupine Tree) sees in the modern generation.

This album is no one-trick pony, however, as "My Ashes," the second track, clearly shows. "My Ashes" has to be by far the most beautiful of Porcupine Tree's softer tracks, showing real maturation in that arena, which I had previously found to be one of Porcupine Tree's weakest. And then, of course, there's the highlight of the CD, the (not-a-prog-) epic "Anasthetize," which might just be Porcupine Tree's best song to date (or, I guess, part of a song). Alternatively serene, crushing, beautiful, and energizing, "Anasthetize" is an epic done right: no bombast, no pretension, just pure songwriting talent. Every chorus ranks among the best they've written, every riff among their most memorable, every melody among their most beautiful, every vocal harmony among their most sublime. Needless to say, after such a tremendously powerful epic, the rest of the album has a lot of living up to do, but it manages it.

"Sentimental" is another ballad, similar to "My Ashes," this time incorporating some well-placed electronic elements with its beautifully simple keyboards and simply beautiful vocals. It's heartfelt and touching, giving it a personal and approachable feel that's entirely appropriate after the endless dynamics of "Anasthetize." This leads to the lyrically depressed but (almost) musically upbeat "Way Out of Here," which, over the course of seven minutes, transforms from largely atmospheric to hard-hitting metal. The first few minutes sound a bit too similar to Animals era Pink Floyd at the beginning, but once it shakes this off, it stays true to the quality of the rest of Fear of a Blank Planet, and, while probably the weakest track on the CD, it's certainly no slouch.

And then, suddenly, somehow, we're already at the closer, "Sleep Together," whose seven and a half minutes fly by just like the CD's first forty-four. With one last burst of energy, Wilson and co. conclude Fear of a Blank Planet just how it began: phenomenally. With no major weaknesses and filled to the brim with good ideas, Fear of a Blank Planet is by far Porcupine Tree's best yet. I almost wonder if it's time for another change of sound from Porcupine Tree, since I find it impossible to imagine them ever topping this masterpiece with the style of music they are now playing. One thing is certain however: wherever they go from here, they have guaranteed themselves a well-earned legacy with In Absentia and especially Fear of a Blank Planet. One of the most essential releases of 2007.

Pnoom! | 4/5 |

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