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Porcupine Tree - In Absentia CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

4.26 | 2619 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars I've been slowly trying to go backwards into the Porcupine Tree discography to catch up on what I had been missing out on before I got into prog rock. IN ABSENTIA was the launch pad for many to discover the group, and it's not hard to see/hear why fans of the album have latched onto the band ever since.

What IN ABSENTIA is, is a carefully blended mix of pop (mostly of the indie and dream variety), prog rock (mostly Floyd-isms), and heavy metal. Frontman Steven Wilson mentions (briefly in the thank-yous of the liner notes) getting into Opeth and Meshuggah around this time, and the result is mostly in the volume of the heavier tracks. Those heavy tracks like ''Wedding Nails'' and ''The Creator Has a Mastertape'' are indeed heavy.

Much more of the album is reliant on catchy pop hooks, jangly acoustic guitars and near straightforward arrangements. New drummer Gavin Harrison doesn't sound like the Harrison that can't say no to any proggy metal project just yet. There are parts of the album (like in ''Gravity Eyelids'') that have a 5/4 metre sound almost forced, as if the song would be just fine without the random odd time in there; this is in contrast to the flow that ''The Sound of Muzak'' provides in seven.

The attempts at making longer songs unfortunately get tiresome. ''Prodigal'' and ''Trains'' outstay their welcome on second five; neither riff sounds inviting nor neither carry the length weight that they do. ''Strip the Soul'' is a better stab at it due to the bassline. Even the instrumental (or near) attempts get tiresome mainly due to repetitiveness or the band not quite sure how to extend the song length.

One other huge aggravating gripe I have is Steven Wilson's voice; it may work with his lyrics, on the quieter tracks and on the indie stuff, but he hasn't quite figured out how to incorporate his voice into the harder stuff yet (see BLANK PLANET for where his voice does work). Overall, he lacks dynamic power, as if his voice is completely nonchalant.

Oddly enough for my tastes, the ballads/softer tracks are the best ones. ''Lips of Ashes'', ''Heartattack in a Layby'' and ''Collapse the Light Into Earth'' are tear-jerkingly moving, and the spots on the album where Wilson's voice is meant to work well.

I must have had a better impression of IN ABSENTIA when I first listened to it with the heavy song and ballad song contrast really impressing me. I now find too many nitpicks to highly recommend this. That, and its near seventy minute length is about overkill.

Sinusoid | 3/5 |


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