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Porcupine Tree - Closure/Continuation CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

3.89 | 195 ratings

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4 stars In the 90s, Prog rock was in their sorta Wild West days. The 70s was the Renaissance, the 80s was the age of uncertainty, but the 90s really was a new starting ground for artists. Many hit the scene, mostly Prog metal bands but others liked to take it like how it was back in the 70s. It was a time where old pillars that were King Crimson, Genesis, Yes, ELP, and Pink Floyd subsided down to old stones of their former glories, new pillars rose from the earth to bring new legends into light for a new generation of Prog fans to love and appreciate, which still continues to today, albeit with newer and bigger names coming into the swing of things. In this time everything was a time of exploration of new ideas and new concepts. Prog Metal made sure to continue the legacy older bands left behind, Retro Prog bands decided to celebrate the past, Neo Prog groups made adjustments and combinations to the genre with new musical movements going around like grunge and indie rock, but some?some decided to get weird. One such band was Porcupine Tree.

Porcupine Tree is unlike most bands during the time. They were trippy yet heavy, almost depressing, but they had a sorta colorful aura around them. They had a strange mix of psychedelia and heavy metal instrumentation and impressive singing on Steven Wilson's part. Each album they seem to evolve their style, soon ditching their psychedelic routes to a more metal sound, obviously not backing down on making their songs feel almost trippy, but not in a dreamy sense, but as if it were a weird limboing nightmare. Classics like Lightbulb Sun, Deadwing, and Fear Of A Blank Planet pushed the band to higher focus in the public's eyes and they soon became one of the top dogs in the modern Prog greats. However after 2009 with the release of The Incident and 2 live albums, they just stopped, and went on hiatus with Steven Wilson pursuing his solo career with good to mixed results. That was when they started to lose interest with many Prog fans, they simply did not know or if their favorite weird heavy band would show up again with something new, so they looked towards newer acts that were sprouting up and gaining some serious popularity. However loyal fans waited, knowing one day their favorite boys will come back together to make one more brand new work of art for everyone to love. 13 years later after the release of The Incident, the wishes and surprises of everyone came about with an announcement that Porcupine Tree would come back with a new album, titled Closure / Continuation, which was revealed to be the potential last album the band would produce.

A surprise but definitely to be expected due to the band's history of things not working to well, however bands before it wasn't a surprise to see giants rest after long years of pulling their weight, in fact just this year the magnum giant, Genesis, had done their last show due to the health of Phil Collins, so while bittersweet, Porcupine Tree possibly ending too wouldn't be to bad due to their long track of good albums that some may consider to be modern day classics. So I decided on my own behalf that I shall review this new release from the band. So will Porcupine Tree end with a whimper, a bang, or maybe something else?

The album begins with a pretty well known and great single, Harridan. Not only is this song dark sounding, yet goes to the point where it almost feels like a reminiscent song of the past, like the band traveled back in time to the 90s and found their psychedelic former selves and recorded a song with them. The main riff is almost wooden like, yet has a potent feeling that makes you feel like your ears are being slammed shut by splintered jesters from the woods. While the word harridan refers to a bossy old woman, the song instead reflects upon a 'gold man' and a 'cold man' who seems to be missing someone or something, despite their hardships. In the factoid of this song, it may be about dealing with loss of a loved one who for years you had a love/hate relationship with, but after they left this mortal coil, you realize how much you missed them by your side. It showcases Steven Wilson's subtle yet very depressing lyricism that never bogs the song down to a shell of sadness, but rather a wailing, soulful body.

And as Harridan ends with a soulful acoustic, the next song, Of The New Day relishes in the feelings Harridan spent exploring. Of The New Day not only makes due with the ideas previously, but full on dives into those feelings of loss, but also explores the feelings of change. While Porcupine Tree loves to dive deep into the psyche with inconsolable lyrics, it isn't uncommon to see them step back and showcase a sunnier side to the band, one that tells you that despite the hardships, the good times will come around. It feels raw and unfiltered. The entire flow of the song may be a little pop like though, with a clear structure that seems to be stretching a bit to the mainstream, but that is merely my only minor complaint on the song, and it doesn't damper its greatness.

After the heartfelt ballad, Rats Return brings back those itchy feelings Harridan smacked us with at the start and makes sure to double up those sentiments with an almost djent feel of metal. The main riff is super hard hitting and rhythmic, almost like if someone turned a drum into a guitar and played it with a box of nails. It's hauntingly, but brilliantly done. But like the previous song, I can definitely feel an almost pop-like sentimental feel of this song. While I would not say it dampers anything really, I cannot deny that this is turning out to be one of the more accessible Porcupine Tree albums, heck more so than In Absentia or Stupid Dream. Again, not a bad thing, if anything I am more or less praising the band for going a little out of the Prog sphere and trying to hit a mark for mainstream audiences, but at the same time this is the band that gave us The Sky Moves Sideways Phase 2 and Anesthetize. I feel like they can be a tiny bit more bold for what may be their last album. That tangent aside, this song is positively, nail bitingly great and possibly my favorite song off this album by a large margin, and it's all thanks to that amazing riffage of Steven Wilson's guitar. The lyrics are also not half bad, though it does strip away from the more relatable and personal qualities of the last two songs, which is a shame, but even then it still isn't that bad when you get down to the nitty gritty of things.

After something so spookily great, we get into Dignity. Think of this as a combination of the psyche of their early years and the acoustic ballad of Of The New Day came together to form a completely new work of art. It almost gives me some vibes to their first album, On The Sunday of Life, specifically Radioactive Toy. It certainly feels nostalgic, like going back in time to a period I never experienced but always scrutinizingly wondering about. In fact it almost seems like the whole concept of this song is nostalgic memories with symbolism of a boy being bullied at school and parties but still having a sense of pride in him, which in turn goes into the meaning of dignity. It is a song that explores what dignity truly means and shows that one should be prideful of themself, but too much pride can turn to delusions of oneself and they may find themselves in a position that can only be described as a messiah complex. While the song itself isn't heavy instrumentally, the themes in the lyrics truly set it apart as not only a great Porcupine Tree melody, but also one that is almost poetic. A nostalgic song for a time lost ago.

Afterwards we get into another single from the album, in fact the junior third single of the album (the second one being Of The New Day and the last and also fourth one being Rats Return). Herd Culling feels like they are rekindling the sparks from their early 2000s days, going for heavy yet spacey riffs and crescendos. If I may break kayfabe for a moment, this album definitely has a good balance of songs so far, however they feel a little lacking in the original sound scope. I do feel like if you attached these songs to any album from probably a good margin of the band's discography, bar a few albums like Voyage 34. Now I do think this could be a bad thing looking at it critically. Not only does it create a sense of 'living in the past' so to speak for the band, but it also makes these songs feel less than thou in grand scope against a ton of the band's work. HOWEVER, I do believe that this could be possibly the best introduction to the band's work, with each song representing their evolved styles through the years. Heavier songs show the band's Metal focused songs while there are also softer, more experimental and weirder songs that show the band's earliest routes. It is definitely a wonky balancing act, but I do think that this may be the best fit for anyone who wants to get into this really great band, so I applaud them for taking minor strokes to showcase their broader ones.

No Porcupine Tree album isn't complete without a little weirdness, in fact this album has plenty of it, but even so Walk The Plank definitely shows a far out version of Steven Wilson's general style. Going for a little bit more of an Electronic and cool synthy industrial vibe, this song feels both chill in instrumentation, but cold in the vocal harmonies, but to its benefit. The vocals perfectly contrast with the lyrics of dead men being hung and people being thrown off ships, almost like a depressed ghost is singing about their last moments of their life to you. It's super surreal and weird, and I am all for it. It perfectly encapsulates the elation Porcupine Tree usually gives me as a band. Too bright to be gloomy, yet too dark to be happy. An almost perfect Yin and Yang of feelings.

The ending to this work comes as Chimera's Wreck. What a great way to close this album, combining every aspect of each song's tones and feelings to create not only a good closure for the album, but possibly for the band as a whole. Instruments are tightly knit around in multiple themes and structures, but still encapsulates what makes this whole experience work well. It also is long enough for you to reflect on your own feelings on this album while still jamming out to some great tunes. I'll say this, no matter the faults the band has, they are still one that I am glad I spent my time listening to, and I am glad they lived up well in both pop and Prog culture alike, so this closure being as good as it is makes me happy to be a Porcupine Tree fan.

I do have problems with this album. It feels stuck in the past, it's a tad accessible for my liking, and some of the song lyrics are not that interesting to the entire whole of the album, but if you look past that, you'll find a great album waiting to be listened to. If this is how the band will go out studio wise, then I am very accepting of this effort, and I cannot deny that this work of art not only exceeded my expectations, but also delivered on a ton of fronts. I bet if I genuinely enjoyed this album, so can you.

Dapper~Blueberries | 4/5 |


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