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Porcupine Tree - Deadwing CD (album) cover

DEADWING

Porcupine Tree

 

Heavy Prog

4.08 | 1493 ratings

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maani
Special Collaborator
Founding Moderator
4 stars Having admittedly not heard anything between Signify (which I reluctantly gave two stars) and Deadwing, I do not know the internal "progression" (in the literal sense) of the band over the past nine years. However, when I heard Deadwing, I felt I was listening to a totally different group. True, the Floyd and quasi-Crimson influences were still there, though much better channeled. However, on Deadwing I hear influences ranging from heavier groups like Arena, Ark and IQ to The Church (and even a subtle nod to the Red Hot Chili Peppers). Indeed, some parts of Deadwing straddle (quite succesfully) the line between psychedelic/space rock and (intelligent) prog-metal. / The album opens with the quasi-prog-metal "Deadwing," a terrific rocker with touches of Floyd (3:45-4:15, 5:45-7:30) and IQ (5:15-5:45), as well as some neat guitar dissonance from guest axeman Adrian Belew. Next we get "Shallow," a solid, fairly straightforward rocker in the Arena/Ark vein (it even has a Zeppish touch - one can only imagine what Plant would do with it), and a short jam at 2:40-3:15 that brings to mind recent Crimson. This is followed by "Lazarus," a beautiful ballad that sounds suspiciously like something we've heard before. Still, it holds its own. "Halo" is an almost unclassifiable piece, with more Beleweirdness at 3:20-3:40. Which brings us to "Arriving Somewhere But Not Here," the most extended track. The opening brings PT back to their PF roots, with a Gilmour-esque guitar figure, and Floydian melody and vocal echo. There are nice harmonies in the bridge, and two really neat breaks, an Arena/Ark/IQ-type jam at 6:30- 8:10, and a beautiful guitar break at 8:45-9:45. The overall effect of the piece is PF as channeled by The Church. "Mellotron Scratch" gives us a deceptively simple arrangement through 4:30, followed by a heavier jam. There are also some really nice layered harmonies in the chorus. (And where have I heard that opening theme before?...) "Open Car" is a simple, neat rocker: indeed, how many groups could write a really good prog-rock "hit" that comes in at under 4 minutes? "The Start of Something Beautiful" is the other extended track. Simple but effective, it plays subtly with 9/8 and 10/8 time signatures. "Glass Arm Shattering" closes the album with a shamelessly Church-esque composition. With the exception of a brief harmony passage at 4:00- 4:30, the entire piece could have appeared on any of The Church's albums from "Hologram of Baal" to "Forget Yourself": here are Kilbey-esque vocals, and the kind of heavily textured arrangement that is practically a Church trademark. Still, the composition is quite good, and holds its own. / As I have noted previously, the success of any post-seminal group is determined primarily by how well they channel their influences, and how interesting, new and even compelling the result is. On Deadwing, Porcupine Tree does a superb job in this regard. They also use studio effects well in some of the intros and outros, and Steve Wilson's lyrics are consistently interesting and well-supported by the music. / Two final comments. First, I would bet dollars to donuts that PT was listening to (or are at least serious fans of) The Church (especially AENT and FY) and Skeleton Key, particularly their most recent album, "Obtanium," the approach of which shows up in "Shallow," "Halo" and "Open Car." Second, although I believe I am being a bit generous in my rating (the album probably deserves 3.5 stars), I gave the album four stars because (i) I am just so happy to see how much PT has matured since "Signify," and (ii) as my friend and musical co-traveller Dusty Wright said when he insisted I hear this album, "You're gonna like it despite yourself." Thanks, Dusty: I do - very much.
maani | 4/5 |

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