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Porcupine Tree - Fear Of A Blank Planet CD (album) cover

FEAR OF A BLANK PLANET

Porcupine Tree

 

Heavy Prog

4.22 | 1780 ratings

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ergaster
5 stars 5/5

Buy this album. Get it now.

Okay, maybe I need to go into a bit more detail here. It's like this. Every once in a while I take a few minutes, and ponder over that eternal and burning question: if you were going to be stranded on a desert island and could only take ten of the greatest albums in your collection, which would they be?

Now, why we believe these albums are masterpieces--why they touch us so deeply--is another, far trickier question, and one could easily wander off into an extended exposition on musical taste and the value of rating systems...but I won't do that. I'll only say this, for context: I do not assign "masterpiece" status lightly. Such an album must have something more than, say, excellent writing and inspired performance: there has to be a quality where, upon listening to it, the emotional resonance makes the universe seem to shift just slightly. Yes, I set the bar pretty high. And I think it should be set high, otherwise we risk devaluing the notions of genius and masterpiece.

That said, among those rarest of five-star gems is Porcupine Tree's Fear of a Blank Planet. It is also the newest entrant into that august list, in fact it is remarkably recent given the average age of what I consider to be the truly great prog (and other) albums that I own. But after many listens it became clear that the album really does merit the description "unqualified masterpiece", at least according to the arcane and mysterious biochemistry that drives my personal musical taste.

Porcupine Tree was well into its "metal" phase when this album came out, a phase that began with In Absentia and was well underway on Deadwing. Steven Wilson had immersed himself in the metal gestalt with the production of an Opeth album, and brought those ideas over to Porcupine Tree. A lot of long-term fans did not seem to like this new and heavy aspect of the band, but to my mind it represents the very best and most creative phase of Porcupine Tree's long and varied existence.

Fear of a Blank Planet is a transcendent piece of work. Each individual track is exceptional and compelling, and there is a lyric thematic arc of teenaged isolation, angst, and social disconnect that unites all the songs, but even beyond that, when the album is listened to from first note to last, it transforms into an organic, immersive musical experience, reaching a level of artistry and inspiration that far exceeds the sum of its parts.

It is difficult to pin down exactly why, but I suppose that is part of the magic of a truly masterful creation. I know this: for the first and only time on a Wilson release that I am aware of, the choice and order of tracks is flawless. Each song leads perfectly into the next; the ebb and flow of mood and feeling evoked is absolutely authentic. And the performances by everyone involved verge on collective genius--it is hard to see where anyone puts a foot wrong.

I'm not going to examine the tracks themselves, there has been plenty written about them already, and really--what can be said about that astonishing, 17-minute monster of a song that is "Anesthetize", that has not already been said? It is widely considered to be one of the great epics of modern progressive--or any--rock music, an extraordinary achievement the like of which was supposed to be the purview of the mythic prog giants of the past. Clearly that is not the case--just listen to the damned thing.

It seems somehow petty to point out that this is not in fact a perfect album. There are brief moments, such as the sag between the second and third parts of "Anesthetize", when we are reminded that mere mortals created it. But the experience in its entirety elevates the album so far above the average that a few minor flaws can in no way detract from the experience of hearing it.

So why should you buy this album? Fear of a Blank Planet represents Porcupine Tree at the height of its powers; it is the culmination of Wilson's huge creativity and never-ending absorption of ideas, and the sheer virtuosity of the band behind him implementing those ideas. It is an incandescent legacy that will remain even if they never record another note as Porcupine Tree.

ergaster | 5/5 |

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