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Porcupine Tree - The Incident CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

3.66 | 1444 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars PORCUPINE TREE's tenth studio album is the climax of everything the band has been working towards in the last decade. 'The Incident' gives us liberal doses of the stellar songwriting abilities STEVEN WILSON has developed since the early days, combining heavy prog with a metallic edge (as featured on 'Fear of a Blank Planet'), the prog-tinged alt-pop found on albums from 'Signify' through to 'In Absentia', and even some of the Floydian space-rock from as far back as 'The Sky Moves Sideways' and 'Up the Downstair'. In other words, this 55-minute song cycle is a summation of PORCUPINE TREE's career.

An initial skeptic, I have found myself increasingly convinced by this album. It's not only the many musical highlights that convince me this is a masterpiece of modern prog, but also the integrity of the song cycle itself: how it coheres both musically and lyrically. This piece is by turns beautiful, raw, thought-provoking, bleak and ultimately disturbing. And make no mistake: this is one song cycle, not fourteen songs tacked together.

The album begins with 'Occams Razor/The Blind House', two tracks to bludgeon the listener. The theme of the second track begins during the first, tying them together, presaging the heavy riff that packages this section of the song cycle. The song finishes with an even more powerful version of the riff, it that is possible. 'Great Expectations/Kneel and Disconnect' are two shorter tracks that on first listen are tempting to regard as segues, but these are strong tracks on their own, reminiscent of material from 'In Absentia'. They lead into 'Drawing the Line' with its simple but effective chorus, the raw emotion taking the listener's breath away. The band employ their instrumentation skills to great effect to build tension, raising the stakes as the cycle reaches the title track.

'The Incident' drives a stake through the heart of this album, laying out a post-modern manifesto in which rubber-neckers get to consider the reality of their own lives. The music is unutterably brilliant, the monotonous whispering and mechanical drums providing an industrial backdrop for the accusatory lyrics and that jagged, discordant guitar. The band succeed in that most difficult of all challenges: to combine music and lyrics to create something greater than the sum of the parts. 'Your Unpleasant Family' is a short, whiny segue into 'The Yellow Windows of the Evening Train', a beautiful, shimmering piece that perfectly evokes the dreamy, hypnotic sense of the title.

While the title track may be the conceptual heart of the album, for most prog listeners 'Time Flies' will be the centerpiece. For better or worse, WILSON decided to pay homage to (some will inevitable say 'rip off') PINK FLOYD, specifically elements of the album 'Animals'. The near-twelve minute track begins with a riff reminiscent of the initial riff from 'Dogs' and also highlights a riff from 'Sheep'. Other nods to PINK FLOYD can be heard throughout the song, not least in the central solo (though it is more tonal and less melodic than anything GILMOUR did). And, of course, the lyrical content owes a great deal to the message so carefully packaged on 'The Dark Side Of The Moon'. That said, the song grows its own personality once listened to a few times. Though simple in structure, it is so strongly executed it has become a favourite listen for me.

The song cycle now begins to fold back on itself, with 'Degree Zero of Liberty', a variant of 'Occam's Razor', emphasising the message of the previous track. Clever, so clever. 'Octane Twisted' grows from this track, a superb almost-instrumental, its lyrical guitar line repeated in 'The Seance', which is really an extension. 'Circle of Manias' brings in some crushing riffs before letting us down into the coda, 'I Drive The Hearse'. This is perhaps the most beautiful track on the album, a poignant way to finish the cycle and, like many of PORCUPINE TREE's earlier albums, is unspeakably bleak.

Most satisfying.

Oh yes, that's right, there's a bonus EP of four other songs written around the same time. They are all of exceptional quality, and to my mind far superior to the 'Nil Recurring' EP the band released in the wake of 'Fear of a Blank Planet'. Most albums don't have four songs as good as these, yet this is a mere bonus. Overall, with album art factored in, this album is an outstanding package that easily merits 'masterpiece' status in the context of modern prog rock.

russellk | 5/5 |


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