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Porcupine Tree - In Absentia CD (album) cover

IN ABSENTIA

Porcupine Tree

 

Heavy Prog

4.24 | 2388 ratings

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Bonnek
Special Collaborator
Prog Metal Team
4 stars In Absentia is the album that drew many new fans to Porcupine Tree. Steve Wilson had just finished the production duties on Opeth's Blackwater Park and a part of that fanbase followed along to check out the music of that Wilson guy that had upgraded their band to the best on the planet. Older PT fans were of course curious to hear which effect the collaboration with a "Death Metal" act would have on PT's sound.

Actually, the difference with the two preceding albums isn't all that big. There's still a focus on verse-chorus rock songs with lots of acoustic guitars and superb keyboard atmospheres. If there's any difference at all, it's in the guitar sound. Mike Akerfelt must have shown Steve how to crank up the distortion gain of his guitar amplifier and rock out! The guitars are a lot louder and the riffs are much heavier then ever before. It brings an extra dimension in PT's sound that does magic where it works, but that falls short of PT standards where it doesn't.

I'll abstain from a song by song overview here, there are too many of them and I'm too lazy today. Let's just pick out a few.

Lips of Ashes is an often overlooked track. As far as I know they haven't even played it live. It's quite similar to the atmospheric tracks at the end of Anathema's A Fine Day To Exit and an obvious favourite of mine.

Wedding Nails is a bit of an odd PT instrumental, taking influences from industrial and math metal. Meshuggah comes to mind during the guitar solo, and the spooky atmosphere can sure be traced back to Wilson's admiration for industrial bands like Nine Inch Nails. An interesting experiment.

Drown With Me. This track was referred to the 2CD special edition of this album. I really cannot understand that choice. It's one of their strongest cuts of the entire album. Love the forceful bass guitar that drives this song forward.

In Absentia is a very long album and it falls prone to the typical missteps on such endeavours: average tracks. Prodigal is an ok song but has rather dull verses and the chorus is too much of a Pink Floyd ripp-off to be fun. The album would have been stronger without it. The same goes for .3, which is a lengthy improvisation on the bass riff of Strip The Soul, which is by itself already a too lengthy Tool exercise, where the constant use of heavy guitars doesn't reach the usual versatility of Porcupine Tree songs.

In Absentia marks an important step in PT's evolution from freely flowing space rock to meticulously structured heavy rock. I believe PT kept improving this style on subsequent albums so In Absentia isn't an essential album of modern prog, but it's sure a very good one and it makes for an excellent introduction to the band.

Bonnek | 4/5 |

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