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Porcupine Tree - The Incident CD (album) cover

THE INCIDENT

Porcupine Tree

 

Heavy Prog

3.67 | 1560 ratings

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Antennas
4 stars Steven Wilson's 10th official offering under the flag of his main band, Porcupine Tree, and well, one might well say the bloke's apparently endless sources of inspiration surely haven't yet ran out. Barely six months after the release of his solo-album Insurgentes, here's yet another piece of astonishing music. 76 minutes of it, to be exact. And like with almost all of his work, I barely know where to start to describe it.

This is not just a mere follow-up his previous work. While it's still very Porcupine Tree, any fan of the band knows that Mr. S.W. is not in for repeating himself and making the 'same' album over-and-over again. His work is PROGRESSIVE in the true meaning of the word and it shows again on 'The Incident'.

Lyrically, this album sounds much more 'personal' than its predecessor FOABP, of which the central theme, however important - in short, a rant about the shallowness of the lives of modern society kids being completely focussed on cheap thrills and easy fixes, if necessary 'aided' by the appropriate chemicals - more often than not came across as somwhat cold and distant, at least to me. For 'The Incident', Mr. S.W. chose to write all the lyrics in the first person, which allows the listener to get attached to the unfolding dramatics a lot easier, and for me, it works as a charm. The central theme of the album is how a 'minor incident' can completely change, if not downright destroy, a person's life. If I got that right, that is.

And now for the music!

Disk #1 fully consists of 'The Incident' - a 55 minutes epic consisting of 14 distinctive sections, varying in duration from 1:26 minutes to well over the 11 minutes mark. These shorter sections are absolutely necessary in order to glue the whole thing together, but don't mistake them for fillers, as they most definitely aren't.

Occam's Razor comes in with a BANG, evolving into The Blind House - starting off as a 'traditional' PT song, with its characteristic heavy guitars and harmony singing, it evolves into a trippy rythmic/spacey intermission and towards the end, it brings you to Great Expectations - only 1:26 minutes long, but containing some lovely singing by Mr. S.W. as well as some excellent drumming by Gavin Harrison. Kneel and Disconnect is the next of these shorter songs, based on a soft acoustic piano part.

Drawing the Line is most definitely one of my favs on this album. Airy-fairy keyoards, fierce drumming, fretless bass work, guiding Mr. S.W. lovely voice - warm and emotional, here. This song, 'catchy' and very accessible, however, has that moody feeling underneath it, reminding me of stuff from In Absentia and Stupid Dream (which two albums I happen to consider PT's best). Steven himself does one of his best singing jobs in the chorus,

"I'm drawing the line, the line of my pride I'm taking controll, may I save my soul I'm shunning you out, and I have no doubt" - where he not only sounds very passionate, but even vulnerable. The song ends with a great guitar riff.

The Incident - title track - PT goes industrial! Heavy guitars embedded in a layer of equally heavy drumming, trippy synths, whispered vocals, a steady dark groove, reminescent of FOABP's Sleep Together. Towards the end, the mood changes, to finish off in an ecstatic manner. The lyrics of the song form the key to the album's theme - how disgusted Mr. S.W. was to witness a car crash, with possible casualties involved, being done away with by the police as 'an incident' - making him think more of how the media in general blow up minor incidents to being events of massive proportion, whereas things that really affect peoples' lives are put away on page 13 in a short message - all for the sake of 'selling out', which makes him shudder. A very common theme in Steven's work, to which I can relate very well indeed. The song evolves into

Your Unpleasant Family - "... smashed up my car - how uncalled for..." - a typical PT- 'cynical understatement'-text, very reminding of the lyrics on Stupid Dream, both in atmosphere as in musical approach. Great guitar solo to end it off. It evolves into The Yellow Windows of the Even, a lovely, ambient keyboard piece accompanied by earie chorales - sounding almost as if it was made in the early 1970's, including the typical 'rumble' of an LP. If I have one complaint about this piece, it's that it barely hits the 2 minutes mark - far too short. What follows hereafter is

Time Flies - clocking in well over 11 minutes, I don't think I'll be the only one saying this is the album's absolute masterpiece! This one is back to Stupid Dream- and In Absentia- quality, top-notch. Like the latter's Drown with Me, the first three minutes are in 3/4, to thereafter completely change back to a dark, melancholic, and very FLOYDIAN mood. Do I hear some hints towards Pink Floyd's 'Animals' and 'Time'? I surely think so, as well as some hints towards Anathema, a band with whom Mr. S.W. has worked together as well, in the treatment of the underlying acoustic (rhythm) guitars. Can't say that hurts, not at all. The song then becomes heavier-and-heavier - fantastic drumming by Harrison! - culminating into a blistering guitarsolo. Thereafter back to the original theme, back to the Floyd influences, etc. Can't wait to watch Mr. S.W. torture his guitar strings live on this song, only one month waiting time from now on.... The melancholical lyrics about aging are very enjoyable as well, "... I was born in 67, the year of St.Pepper and Are You Experienced..." "... After a while you realise that Time Flies - and the best thing that you can do, is take whatever comes to you... 'cause Time Flies..." This is 'The Incident''s Even Less, no less!

Degree Of Zero Liability, a piece very alike Occam's Razor in the beginning, which heavy guitars-sequence could well have come directly from Deadwing, evolves into Octane Twisted - starting off with mellow acoustic guitars, some fantastic vocal harmonies, developing into some real HEAVY METAL with awesome drum work. Haunting guitar solo midway as well. Reminds me a lot of Opeth. Great instrumental. Hereafter, The Seance - a piece mainly built on acoustic guitars, and do I hear a Minimoog, here? It's the perfect introduction to Circle Of Manias, wherein PT goes Heavy-Opeth-All-The-Way, quite close to genuine death/math metal. The groove reminds me of FOABP's Sleep Together, once again. Not that I mind, that happens to be one of my fav songs from that album. And then for the perfect conclusion -

I Drive The Hearse - PT back to its most mellow and lovely. A beautiful melody, vocal harmonies, and lead singing by Mr. S.W., for sure one of his best jobs on this album. The tune reminds me of Blackfield, most notably Christenings. Perfect drumming, keyboard (effect)s and guitars, this song is enchanting and alluring. Heartbreaking lyrics as well - "...Silence is another way - of saying what I want to say - Lying is another way of hoping it will go away..."

Disk #2 contains four stand-alone songs: Flicker sounds like an old-school, atmospheric, very dreamy PT song. Some Beatles- influences here, if I'm not mistaken, together with the omniscent Pink Floyd-influences. Strangely enough, the 'la la la'-vocals remind me of Yes' South Side of the Sky!

Bonnie The Cat - by FAR the most experimental tune on 'The Incident'. Its groove reminded me of 'Mother and Child Divided', heavy and rhythmic, only this isn't an instrumental. Both Gavin Harrison and Richard Barbieri go 'all-the-way' on this song. Freaky at times even creepy stuff!

Black Dahlia - ah, back to the loveliness. Is there any band in the world being able to switch moods and styles that fast, and still being capable of sounding as the same band? I think not. A perfect electronic piano-based tune with great melodies, and that guitar solo in the end - Blackfield-like. The lyrics are very interesting as well, dealing with the modern obsessions of youth with 'becoming famous' whatever it takes, ending up with having to deal with the damage due to failing ambitions. Heartbreaking. "There is nothing for you here under the sun..."

Remember Me Lover - ah... very melancholic and moving. I get the impression that I've heard some of the melodies incorporated in this song before on Steven's Insurgentes, but does that mind? Not at all. Great heavy organ/guitar parts exchanging subtle guitar sequences. Yep, another hightlight of 'The Incident'. The song contains perhaps the most personal lyrics I've ever heard from Mr. S.W. He's made songs about the Grand Theme of 'failing relationships' before - Hatesong from Lightbulb Sun comes to mind - but this one is very, very different. Here no distant cynism at all, but rather, pure heartfelt disappointment and sadness set into perfect words. "It's so hard to get along!"

Well, as for a conclusion: this is a perfectly produced album (what else did one expect from a project of The Magician Mr. S.W.?), with quite a few amazing songs around. For any fan of Mr. S.W. work, this is a Must-Buy. Most notably, imho, are Wilson's vocals, which are more passionate than ever before (I trust you already know his credits on the guitar), Gavin Harrison's truly otherwordly drumming, Richard Barbieri having opened his complete magic box of tantalizing sounds, and last-but-not-least, Colin Edwin's as-always very solid job on the bass. Most amazing about 'The Incident', I think, is that here the ultimate mix of extreme moods within the music - from dark, bone-shattering heaviness to heartfelt, acoustic, sweet melodies, changing faster from the one extreme to the other than I ever thought possible - actually WORKS here. Mr. S.W. already had a (good!) try at this on his solo-album Insurgentes, but in all honesty, I didn't think he was consistently succesful in doing so on that album, but here, he IS.

Four-out-of-five stars for now. Might well become more, but well... I need my time to fully appreciate this masterpiece to come to an ultimate conclusion. Shouldn't be all too surprising, as this is not actually 'easy stuff' - but I trust a genuine ProgRocker doesn't do 'easy stuff', eh?

Sorry for this LONG review folks, but at times, one needs quite a few words to fully express one's appreciation!

Antennas | 4/5 |

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