Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Porcupine Tree - In Absentia CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree

Heavy Prog

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
5 stars PT get better & better. This is a must have release, but saying that virtually all PT albums are 'must have' buys. Usually this is for the quality of songwriting & intriguing arrangement within the songs, but each album does sound different to the last. Roll on the next !!!
Report this review (#15923)
Posted Wednesday, December 17, 2003 | Review Permalink
5 stars Excellent example of the way music should be. Hideing behind the emotionless, disturbingly repulsive jargon that is played over the modern day air waves, PT's music defines the extravigant tones that pump into my ears and through my veins. Full of feeling, pure art... though, it's a shame Chris left. I know it's been awhile, but come back to us man! heh In my opinion, Porcupine Tree have gained a very respectable background, and are on their way to becoming one of the greats.
Report this review (#15924)
Posted Monday, January 5, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Until a couple of months ago, I had never (due to lack of exposure) heard of Porcupine Tree. "In Absentia" is my new favorite cd!! It's one of those rare albums that I bought without knowing what to expect & now can't seem to get enough of it. The sound quality (mixing) is 2nd to none. The writing (lyrical & melodical) is brilliant as well as the compositional layout. I found it obvious that these guys had been around a while. Nobody is this good & refined having just sprung up out of nowhere. This is a mature rock band that masterfully combines progressive, hard, & acid rock with elements of ambient music. I'm now looking forward to discovering the fairly extensive library of music these guys have been putting out since the 80s as well as what's yet to come.
Report this review (#15925)
Posted Saturday, February 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars not as good as Signify. It's parbobly my third favorite cd of them (after Signify and Metanoia) Gravity Eyelids is one of thier's best song, Collapse...and Strip The Soul are about 2 minutes too long. The album wpuld also carry better without .3. Overall a good album, but not something to live for.
Report this review (#15926)
Posted Monday, February 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars As good as the previous studio album Lightbulb ( I don't agree with the band's commercial policy of flooding their fans of those weird compilations or other releases so I only discovered the full fledge albums and will dicuss only those). I saw them doing most of this album in their last tour and I must say that this stuff has a life of its own on stage.
Report this review (#15927)
Posted Tuesday, February 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Wow!.Now this album is a real stonker. I have loved PORCUPINE TREE for a long long time now and have pretty well everything they have released but I must keep saying that these guys get better album by album. "In Absentia" is a step on the harder side with some real "crunchy" guitar and mid section work. For those who follow PT then you will know that this album features their new drummer "Gavin Harrison" who delivers some real awesome chops throughout. As you would expect this album is still full of that PORC TREE- psychy mise-en-scene but just this time around takes a more guitar centric approach. Stylistically "In Absentia" still embodies the mystical-psych aspects layered over crisp percussion, bass and spacey keyboard work. On "Lightbulb Sun" I really noticed the vocal harmonies and this has continued with this album with the awesome voice of Steve Wilson. "In Absentia" takes the harder edges of "Signify" and "Stupid Dream" and layers ontop of songs not unfamilar from the "Lightbulb Sun" era. I can only hope the world opens their ears to this masterpiece which embodies all the goodness one could ever ask for in a band! This is really an amazing album.
Report this review (#15929)
Posted Saturday, March 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars A very solid record, sadness everywhere, perfect timing and nice arragements, the weird time tables get lost in the geat performace and continuity of their music, the opening track reminds an older times, and "gravity eyelids" is a fine example of qhere th progressive rock is going, also the artwork of the record is outstanding.
Report this review (#15930)
Posted Monday, March 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Porcupine Tree has always had the ability to produce records that require alittle bit of growing before you can appreciate them in full. While In Absentia is no exception once it's on you it's stays there. Tracks like Blackest Eyes, Gravity Eyelids, and Strip the Soul are attention grabbing at the least filled with their own twists and turns. Other tracks such as Trains, Prodigal and Heartattack in a Layby show a different side of them with acoustics and grabbing melodies to further the pleasure. There are, however, tracks that many underrate. These being .3, Wedding Nails and Lips of Ashes but they are all great in their own respect. In all this album is definitly worth owning for any real fan of music that loves a good cd that can be listened to from start to finish.
Report this review (#15931)
Posted Friday, April 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Wow! It's for sure the best piece of PT. It's so heavy, so powerful, dark and emotional. Of course it has been influenced by the Swedish band Opeth who Steven works with. It's a must for every prog-rocker who inclines into some heavier sounds.
Report this review (#15935)
Posted Wednesday, April 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Lost in a world of 'S-Club's' and 'Busted's', rock music was keeping me occupied rather than blowing me away. In Absentia was the album I had been waiting for. My introduction to Porcupine Tree led me to go in search of the whole back-catalogue. After a year of listening to Porcupine Tree, In Absentia is my favourite album, and not purely for sentimental reasons. There is tremendous variety in the song styles, precision and clarity in the way the songs are played, and emotion and intelligence in Steven Wilson's lyrics. Combine these with SW's growing ear for production, and you end up with one of the most exceptional and underrated albums of the last decade. Each time I listen to the album I have a new favourite song. I do not have to reach for the remote to skip any tracks. It is just masterful rock music. To experience the album in it's prime, buy the DVD-Audio version and enjoy all 12-tracks + bonus tracks in 5.1 DTS Surround Sound. Glorious. Simply glorious.
Report this review (#15937)
Posted Friday, May 7, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album reflects steven wilson opinion about progressive rock. Each album is one of a kind and In absentia is coming to verify this. They take the group one step further each time they release a new album. Buy this album, and search out for the european version, is coming with 3 bonus tracks : Drown with me, Chloroform and strip the soul (video edit). Favourite songs: Blackest eyes, Trains, prodigal, Lips of ashes, Strip the soul and Drown with me (from the bonus disc).
Report this review (#15955)
Posted Saturday, May 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is one of the really masterpieces in rock music ever. Ingenious Steven Wilson definitelly have a essencially place in music of 20th and 21st century! My favorites from this album is: The Sound Of Muzak, Lips Of Ashes, Blackest Eyes, Strip The Soul. Beautiful atmosphere, nice harmonies, ambiental keyboards, Steven's brilliant vocal/guitars works and new fresh and unordinary drumming ideas . . . for me, "In Absentia" is the best album of year 2002/03.
Report this review (#15957)
Posted Monday, June 14, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Really wonderful work from PT. The several atmospheres developed from them are magistrally milded. Wedding nails a powerful strong sound, Collapse the light... amazing and what can we do beside trains and lips of ashes? Nothing else than feel the PT soul.. MASTERPIECE wherever you look!!!
Report this review (#15959)
Posted Saturday, July 31, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well after reading all the other reviews, I had to hear what all the fuss was about. "WOW!" is a pretty good description. It seems to me that Porcupine Tree always puts their best track first. "Blackest Eyes" is their best song EVER! In fact, the first 4 tracks flow perfectly, but then a couple tracks later remind me a little too much of Nine Inch Nails. The song "3" is another GREAT track . . . "Heartattack in a Lay by" sounds a bit too much like "In Every Dream Home a Heartache" by Roxy Music . . . "Strip the Soul" is INTENSE . . . and it all ends with another superb classic "Collapse The Light Into Earth. This album does seem to surpass "Lightbulb Sun" and "Signify" by a hair. Any new listener should start with these 3 albums first, in my opinion. I found that much of their other stuff is good, but inconsistant. Steven Wilson is a TRUE ARTIST. He probably doesn't really care what I think!
Report this review (#15961)
Posted Tuesday, August 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Porcupine tree is this kind of rare band that goes better and better at every album...and with "In Absentia" they have reached perfection! This is a true classic of neo prog! Heavier than the previous albums,it gives the band's sound what it was missing on the previous ones. I just loved "Signify" "Stupid Dream" and "Lightbulb Sun" they are such great albums that you learned to love at every listen, but with this one, it is a perfect album! It"s smooth, heavy, melodic, dark, pop, prog, rock! Don't hesitate and buy it! Stéphane Thuot Quebec Canada
Report this review (#15965)
Posted Wednesday, October 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Whenever I try to bring one of my friends to the "Prog Side" of music this is invariably one of the records I play them. PT Has evolved their sound alot through time and this is what they have become. Every aspect of PT sound is in this Record from the heavier meatal sound to the darker melodic stuff. So when trying to convince your friends that they are missing out just throw this on and if "Blackest eyes" doesn't convince them move to "Gravity eyelidsl" or "Strip the soul". And if you really want to make a statement play "The sound of Muzak" : )
Report this review (#15968)
Posted Wednesday, January 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is dark and disturbing in places, with Wilson showing the influences from Nine Inch Nails on some tracks. Overall, it is a work that displays Wilson's complex genius and an essential acquisition for PT fans.
Report this review (#15970)
Posted Tuesday, January 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars A frequent reminder of the sounds of vintage PINK FLOYD can make you comfortably numb, at least it does for those of us that have appreciated the group over the years. Going away . the impact and influence of that band on so many artists is beyond compare. PORCUPINE TREE takes a page out of their book but they have also managed to create a rabid following and maintained an awareness of developing their original sound unlike few artists that are actively recording today.

With "In Absentia" their 2002 release, and first major label recording, they have proved that they are amongst the elite in rock music today. If you find the cover of this CD disturbing, that is only the beginning of what you will find in the music that is underneath the picture. While their music can be beautiful and full of pop polish with layers of instruments, it can also be dark, disturbing, and vicious. To me that is the beauty of what they are. Within one track, you will hear savage electric guitar licks tearing you apart at the seams, acoustic guitars strumming with lovely keyboards that will put you on a fluffy cloud, and then all at once it changes. Like the peeling of an onion, each layer of your sub consciousness mind unravels methodically with the music as you discover what has been lurking beneath those bubbling emotions. What you show on the outside shell of yourself is what everyone sees, but is it the truth? The music coerces you to find a truth even if it has to claw its way out. You see, this band does not care about making hit music, they are interested in art, music that makes a movie unfold in your mind, writing a song rather than banging it out with an expectation and sameness that sells records, and finally . evolving with each recording they make. They do all of that and come up with a classic for the ages along the lines of something that GABRIEL era GENESIS, MARILLION or YES was known for.

My god, were do I start with all these great songs? Every one is. "Strip The Soul" is undoubtedly the most prolific, and after you listen to it a few times then watch the bonus video that illustrates the song, you will be . disturbed. The theme underlying the music's premise is the story of a serial killer, a cancer, or a sickness of a collective family. What I think they are pointing to is the human race in general, not just one particular deranged individual. Let's face it, society, as an entity, is dysfunctional. The music is simply sensational throughout this album, and the fact that they delve deeply into the human psyche and are able to set it to such provocative and completely organized mayhem in their music is a stroke of pure genius. This is music about you and I, who we are and where we are, and where we could be. Our thought processes, which are often filled with dark places that we would rather not talk about, can be visited thanks to brilliant artists like Steven Wilson. I tip my hat to him for having the courage to let the monster within loose for a while to play inside the music. Perhaps if we all unleashed that part of ourselves in a creative positive force like this band does with their music the world would then be a better place.

Music and bands like this are popular and respected for a reason, they have an important message to share and their music is the most expressive vehicle for transmitting their thoughts and emotions. The most beautiful thing about the entire formula is that they are willing to share it all with us. Listen and enjoy.

Report this review (#15971)
Posted Saturday, January 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is simply wonderful. Some songs are making you sing, some got the power to hipnotize you, and some just makes you dream. Steven Wilson voice ,now at is top, makes me close my eyes on each of these deep notes... Im now listening to the last track, Collapse the light into heart, I'm just frighten, Im going to sleep then. And tomorow, ill collapse the light into heart.

And Excellent album of music. Deep music, true music. Thanks to you Porcupine Tree.

Report this review (#15972)
Posted Monday, February 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is one of those albums I've been rather ambivalent towards since the first time I heard it, and I still haven't been able to decide exactly what I think of it, just as it might be hard to decide how to react to the weird cover art (I hope to God that was done in Photoshop). This is my first PORCUPINE TREE album, and I do have to admit the band has got some strengths...but I find myself wondering now if I chose the wrong starter album.


Although this section is a bit shorter than the Cons section in length, bear in mind that these are serious, very important Pros, and things I really cared deeply about when I heard In Absentia. So, don't decide this album has more bad than good just because of the length of these sections in comparison to each other.

All of the instruments are played quite well, the production is superb, and STEVE WILSON's voice is extremely soothing and pleasant to listen to, especially when he sings in harmony with himself. With the exception of a single song, I find that it flows beautifully to listen to. "Trains" does something very interesting, seeming almost like two different songs, and musically, the section with the strange banjo-like playing and "hand-made percussion" (for lack of better words to describe it!). Another real favorite of mine is "Lips of Ashes", which is perhaps the softest song on the entire album. It's incredibly difficult to resist singing along with the gorgeous harmonies, and that reverb-soaked stringed instrument (a hammered dulcimer?) is mesmerizing. But perhaps the best moment in the song is when the guitar solo kicks in during the wordless vocals...this is the kind of musical moment that can almost bring one to tears.

"3", though, is the absolute highlight of In Absentia. Again one of the mellower songs on the album, this one pretty much has it all. The best part is the string section, which lends an amazing intensity to this song that you can hardly even manage with the blaring metal-style guitars found elsewhere on the album--yet simultaneously with a delicate touch. The lyrics are simple...but it may be the simplicity that spares this song the lyrical trouble that the other songs on this album have. And they are, of course, sung beautifully. The bassline, repeated in a variation in "Strip the Soul" is particularly catchy.

Other notable songs include "The Sound of Muzak", "Gravity Eyelids", "Blackest Eyes", "Collapse the Light into the Earth", and "Strip the Soul", though I have a few caveats for the first two I mentioned. And now on to that stuff...


The sense that this album is somehow derivative of other works has a tendency to get on my nerves as I listen. While people definitely do take influences from other bands, the trouble with In Absentia is that I keep hearing it way too often, to a point where I find myself wondering if PORCUPINE TREE even has a style of its own, or if its ideas simply come from rehashing other bands' works. I know the OPETH resemblance is a bit touchy to point out, considering that WILSON did indeed work with that band--but he first started collaborating with them before the release of In Absentia, so I found myself wondering if he took even more from them than he gave to their works. In fact, his drummer seems to be copying quite blatantly from the style of OPETH's MARTIN LOPEZ.

"The Sound of Muzak", "Gravity Eyelids", and "Strip the Soul" are the ones where the OPETH influence is the most "suspect"...while they're good songs, they seem quite derivative. There are some other blatant instances as well--"Gravity Eyelids" seems to have taken a major influence from PETER GABRIEL. Perhaps it was just an unfortunate accident, considering that both albums were released in the same year, but it sounds an awful lot like "My Head Sounds Like That" from Up. And "Wedding Nails" seems to rip off PINK FLOYD in a serious way, copying SYD BARRETT's guitar technique from "Interstellar Overdrive" to a T. "Lips of Ashes" seems a bit similar to Crosby, Stills, and Nash's "Guinevere", although the two songs are quite distinct from each other. And unfortunately, "The Creator Has a Mastertape" seems to have borrowed from the absolute worst that RADIOHEAD has to offer; with its abrasively distorted vocals and guitar tones, it almost grates on my nerves as badly as RADIOHEAD's "Myxomatosis" or the B-side "Transatlantic Drawl". The song was, to put it simply, irretrievably ruined. Even the best song on the album, "3", seems to have taken a bit from the non-prog band Afrocelt; when I hear it, I am reminded of "Sure-As-Not".

The other real con is that the lyrics are depressingly nihilistic--and not even very good in the first place. One is advised not to pay attention to them in order to avoid the urge to slash one's wrists.

Overall...a 3? A 3.5? I'm not sure, but given the number of problems I've listed, I'll go for a 3 here.

Report this review (#15973)
Posted Thursday, February 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is the second album from Porcupine Tree I bought, the first being ...On the Sunday of life. And wow In Absentia is amazing. The album is full of emotion. I got the Europian special edition cd so I got a second cd with another 3 tracks on it. 1: Drown with me. 2: Chloroform. 3: Strip the soul (video edit). Drown with me has some very cool vocals in it. For me Prodigal is at this moment the best track on the cd, there so much power and emotion in it. Collapse The Light Into Earth is one of the most beautiful tracks I've ever heard and is a perfect album closer. If you're into Porcupine Tree and you don't have this album, go buy it now!
Report this review (#15975)
Posted Wednesday, February 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A Great Space / Psychedelic Music!

My prog mates talked about this album long time ago and for some reason I could only get this album just last year when IQ released "Dark Matter". Because I got a lot of CDs to spin, I spun this CD only occasionally. It's an interesting album, especially I like the quality of sound produced because the version that I purchased is a DVD Audio with DTS surround 5.1 technology. I never regret to purchase this DVD Audio as it fulfills my expectation, you know ., Steven Wilson is a master in sound and recording technology; so any album of Porcupine Tree must have had excellent sound exploration. And when it is put in DVD Audio technology it would produce a remarkable sound. Yes! I'm extremely satisfied with this. The only problem with DVD Audio is that I can only play at home because it requires DVD player that I don't have it in my car or office or laptop (pity me, mine is the old Toshiba since 2002!). Fortunately, my good prog met mate, David, lent his hands to make a CDR copy of his double CD version. Thanks, David! Now, I can enjoy it everywhere I go; that's why my appreciation grows. But whenever I'm at home, I play it LOUD with my home stereo set. Ugh man .. What a superb sound! I still recommend you to buy the DVD Audio version because it's worth it: you get good music with superb sound quality! Buy it now man ...!!!!

About the Music ..

"Blackest Eyes" kicks off the album with an ambient guitar work followed with full stream of music when drum sound starts to roll! It shocked me with the fact that I turned my amplifier volume high in order to get great sound production of nice guitar opening. But when drum enters, the music sounds too loud. Never mind, I enjoy it very much. It's a very dynamic opening, I would say. The music flows in an up tempo style with obvious drumming sounds and guitar rhythm. Vocal enters very smoothly in a style of distance singing accompanied with and acoustic guitar rhythm and drum / bass guitar. In the middle of the track, there is a nice soft riffs that by way of beats reminds me to foxtrot style followed with a quieter passage. Excellent track and well positioned to open this album.

It flows almost seamlessly to "Trains" with a simple acoustic guitar work followed with vocal line and some augmentation of keyboard work. After two paragraphs of singing, drum enters the music with keyboard (soft) and bass guitar in medium tempo. Acoustic guitar solo fills in the transition piece nicely. One thing I like most and it's sort of unpredictable to me is the inclusion of short piece in the middle of the track where acoustic guitar solo takes place in a simple melody accompanied with a hand clapping - what a nice piece man! The music returns to its original form and melody until it ends.

"Lips of Ashes" starts ambient and spacey with a simple acoustic guitar sound augmented with keyboard effects in mellow style. The voice enters nicely in solo and followed with a duet; it's a very nice singing. Yeah, it reminds me to Pink Floyd - in a way. The electric guitar in a long sustain notes is very cool. No drumming in this track.

"The Sound of Muzak" has weird time signatures especially if you listen to the drum beats - it seems there is a gap between guitar rhythm and the drum beats. The voice enters with a main rhythm of acoustic guitar. The bass guitar sound that follows has become a trade mark of Porcupine Tree as it reminds me to their previous song "Waiting", for example. The interlude is filled in with a stunning electric guitar solo. Excellent track!

"Gravity Eyelids" opens with a catchy keyboard solo followed with a music sampling in the vein of Peter Gabriel's music. Very atmospheric and very nice! The voice line enters the music in a style of Radiohead singing style. The bass guitar line reminds me to Tony Levin's work in Peter Gabriel's albums. The keyboard department still plays its role as filler at the background and provides a spacey nuance of the track. When drum enters, it makes the music much more beautiful. In the middle, there is a soft guitar riffs augmented with piano touch and it flows in full swing with keyboard's sound effects. Oh man, this part is wonderful! It's killing me ... I have no problem if this track is made longer even though with the existing 8 minutes duration I'm already happy and satisfied. Wonderful track! Great sound exploration!

"Wedding Nails" brings the music into more energetic mood with an upbeat tempo music started with an electric guitar work. The music flows dynamically in relatively fast tempo with great drumming, guitar rhythm and solo, atmospheric keyboard. Each instrument produces various sound textures that enrich the overall composition of this track. It has a simple structure but the combination of various sounds have made this track enjoyable. Wow! This track is SUPERB!!! I cannot afford not to increase my amplifier's volume when enjoying this track. Fantastic!

"Prodigal" is a mellow and bluesy rhythm song composed in relatively flat melody but overall it produces an excellent music. Electric guitar provides its sound at background while the voice department shows his duty in singing. It has a stunning guitar solo and great drumming. What's interesting then is the follow up with the next track ".3" when simple bass line enters followed with a spacey keyboard and long sustain guitar work. Bass line is the key for the overall rhythm. Keyboard sound increases gradually and until it reaches certain point it stops and continued with an acoustic guitar rhythm. The vocal then enters the music accompanied with acoustic guitar work. The music then returns with bass line as main rhythm accompanied with simple drum beats. The orchestration at the end of the track provides an uplifting mood.

"The Creator Has a Mastertape" is probably the funniest song of this album. It starts with a combination of electric guitar effects and bass guitar with energetic drumming. It produces a funny music but it's very enjoyable. When the bassline and drum work together to provide rhythm for the vocal, the music seems so empty but it then followed with a blast of full music exploring the guitar effects, bass, drum and keyboard in a distorted fashion.

"Heartattack In a Lay by" is a mellow song with nice acoustic guitar and keyboard / bass guitar line. It has a nice melody and sung excellently. Keyboard sound provides a spacey nuance. It's a kind of break after upbeat tempo track.

"Strip the Soul" starts with a dynamic bass guitar work augmented with spacey keyboard sound followed with ambient singing. When drum enters the music, the mood lifted up and the music seems having a weird time signatures where the drum beats do not sound "in sync" with other instruments. It produces brilliant sounds to my ears, really! It reminds me to Bill Bruford drumming style. The guitar solo performed shortly and it alternates with rhythm section and spacey keyboard work. It's a great track.

The concluding track "Collapse the Light Into Earth" opens mellow with a piano work that features vocal line. Keyboard sound fills at the background and it provides an excellent sound textures. The orchestration with string section enters gradually at the end of singing part. It ends up the album in a sad mood.

The bonus contains "Strip the Soul (video edit)" and two bonus tracks.

It's a highly recommended album. It has a tight composition with excellent sound exploration even though the music itself is not very complex. There are elements of space and psychedelic in its music. So, if you like both, you will enjoy this album. - Keep on progging!

Yours progressively,

GW - Indonesia.

Report this review (#15977)
Posted Sunday, February 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars Very boring music from a "progressive snob" point of view. Not much development happening, and nothing that really stands out, either good or bad, and that's BAD in my book. Something should stand out, otherwise I throw it into the "unremarkable" or "boring" category. Another criticism is that most of this music sounds like "indie" or "alternative" crap that one just cannot get rid of these days. Sorry, this goes against many other reviews, but what the heck...
Report this review (#15979)
Posted Wednesday, February 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
Tristan Mulders
4 stars Porcupine Tree - In Absentia

Before I purchased this album by British space rockers Porcupine Tree, I only knew the few songs that were available here on ProgArchives to listen to. This might be the very reason I was quite surprised when I first listened to In Absentia; the songs available here were all very atmospheric and relaxed, whereas right from the start, In Absentia is characterised by its heaviness.

Although I was quite surprised by this, it did not scare me off. Already listening to quite a few metal bands at that time, I enjoyed this new perspective of Porcupine Tree's music. In fact, I loved it all so much that I decided to check out the earlier albums and piece-by-piece I collected all available releases by this unique band.

I guess the more metal-orientated approach is a result of Wilson's collaboration as a guest-musician and producer with Swedish progressive death metal band OPETH. This album has quite a few of the trades that Opeth is famous for. For instance the heavy guitar riffs accompanied by the drum fills. But Porcupine Tree is not copying Opeth's style, they simply adapt a part of it. The music is a mixture of in-your-face metal sections altered with ambient or even acoustic interludes.

There's not one song included that I would give lesser than a three star rating, if you could rate the songs individual. Although there are of course some standout tracks. For instance the experimental The Creator has a Mastertape, which is a rock song with spaced-out keyboards and a omnipresent bass guitar. The chorus consists of bone crushing guitar fills.

But not only the heavy songs are great. There are several mellow songs included, alike the piano ballad Collapse the Light into Earth, which is the album's closing track. This song is very uplifting regarding the overall dark mood of the album. The addition of a string section is rewarding. By far the most emotional song Porcupine Tree have written is the sombre ballad Heartattack in a Layby. This song is the most quite track on the album and at the same time a warm break after the frenzy that is The Creator has a Mastertape. The multi-layered vocals are great and totally fit the fairly depressing but beautiful lyrics.

There is one song included on the bonus disc with the European Version of In Absentia, which harks back to the music Porcupine Tree used to make around the Signify-era. This is the song Chloroform. This mainly ambient song features great percussion and a well-played guitar solo.

I have read somewhere that In Absentia actually is a concept album relating to the phenomenon that is "serial killers," but I do not know what exactly is the concept. although it does explain the quite evil video clip for `Strip the Soul (which is included as an enhanced portion on the bonus disc to the European version of In Absentia).

Report this review (#15980)
Posted Friday, February 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The best PT's so far, in which Steve Wilson displays his huge talent as a songwriter and as a guitarist. An excellent album containing a large musical landscape, going from mellow atmospheric to noisy pop-rock with always the same success. PT is undoubtedly no longer a pure Progressive band but they have the turn to create great music, atmospheres and beautiful songs. Nothing to be thrown off in this LP, probably the best Indie-Rock ( yes ! ) production of the present century.
Report this review (#15981)
Posted Thursday, March 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Black and powerful, sometimes luminous, perfectly sung and played, this atypical disc in the discography of Porcupine Tree (it is very metal) and a treat. If I do not put 5 it is only because I find it too long what results in to return unnecessarily its listening testing.
Report this review (#15987)
Posted Wednesday, March 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is another good offering from Stephen Wilson and the boys. Those expecting the gorgeous textures of 'The Sky Moves Sideways' though, may be in for a disappointment. There are a couple of tracks in that vein, but in general, this is a far more straightforward, rock/pop album, admittedly with superior harmonies and playing. 'Blackest Eyes' starts off almost the same as 'Show Don't Tell', the opener on Rush's 'Presto'. The guitar is heavier here though. Then comes an abrupt change into a song which could almost grace the charts in its melodic simplicity. A nice way to start. 'Trains' likewise is permeated with leanings towards jangly Brit pop, but again has a nice melody. 'Lips Of Ashes' is excellent, atmospheric, and almost a throwback to 'The Sky Moves Sideways'. Beautiful song with echoey, melodic backing. 'The Sound Of Muzak' returns to the chart style exemplified by the first two tracks. Again, it is nice but not extraordinary. This, however, is followed by one of the best, if not the best track on the cd. 'Gravity Eyelids' again harks back to earlier albums, with lovely backing and a slow, melodic groove. Classic Tree this one. 'Wedding Nails' is one of the two tracks I like the least on the album. It is too heavy for my liking really, although it is not an inferior piec of music. An instrumental, it powers along nicely, and I suspect the younger fans will like this. 'Prodigal' has excellent slide guitar work in it, and is again a slowish song, which is the type of song this band does best, for my money. Dusty roads came to mind for me when I heard this, and it is quite old fashioned in a way, harking back to the seventies. Very good though. 'The Creator Has A Mastertape' is quite weird in a way, neither the best, nor the worst song here. Nothing outstanding, but not particularly weak either. 'Heartattack In A Layby' is sparse, yet effective. Again, it is a slow piece, quite morbid really, yet it has a warm, almost choral feel to it. I like this one. 'Strip The Soul' is, as you may have already guessed, the other track I am not keen on. Too heavy for me this, and strangely lacking in melody. I applaud Wilson however, in his desire to experiment. I would rather he produced something like this than played it safe by becoming repetitive. 'Collapse The Light Into Earth' closes the album on a quiet, piano-led note. Slightly repetitive, it is still a decent offering to end with. I have the European Version, which comes with a bonus disc. 'Drown With Me' has nice acoustic guitar, and is quite good. 'Chloroform' continues in a typical Tree mood. The third track is, unfortunately, only the video edit of 'Strip The Soul'. Still worth having this disc though, if you can get hold of it. A good album, but a long way off their best. I hope they don't go too far down this louder, grungier road. It still has all the hallmarks of a top band however. A worthy disc for most collections.
Report this review (#15988)
Posted Thursday, March 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars In Absentia is the best Porcupine Tree record I have heard. Also their new cd "Deadwing" is not as good as "In Absentia", I think! Beautifull composed and arranged songs by Steven Wilson wich are very catchy and stays in your head for days. Songs like "Blackest eyes" and "Trains" are really brilliant in my opinion. The music of Porcupine Tree is allways very recognisable and unique. The only critic I have got is that I have to say that the cd is starting with the best songs and as longer the cd last the cd becomes a littlebit to repetetive, in my opinion. But a pleassant surprise is the first song on the bonus cd! Nevertheless A real strong and solid record wich should be in every cd collection!
Report this review (#15993)
Posted Monday, May 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars I was a little bit disapointed with this album .Where is the amazing soundscapes of "Signify", "The sky.." or the fantastic " Coma divine"?. And the most important question: Where is Richard Barbieri in this album?. I agree with fabrizio in his "Deadwing" review. ."In absentia" is not a bad album, with a superb sound and production, but I thik P.T.( or I would say Mr. Wilson? ) with this album and with "Deadwing" is going to be a metal band...What a pity! Two and a half stars.
Report this review (#15994)
Posted Monday, May 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars For those who qualify this band as a "psychedelic prog" band you are sorely mistaken. How can one trip out to something that throws its "muzak" at you so abrasively? IMHO this album was a waste of my twelve dollars. I've tried, again and again, to get into this album but fail. It's not the crunchy guitars or anything the music is just lacking. Nothing is particularly interesting. It trades off between over-effected guitars to over-produced vocals to boring ambient sequences. Moreover, I find very little about this album to be progressive no lengthy instrumental passages; no concept to the album; no abstract lyrics. This is hard rock of the mediocre variety. The catchy chords and sticky tunes are what give the album its two stars for even if you are bored you still may get some of it stuck in your head. Overrated at best.
Report this review (#15996)
Posted Thursday, May 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars What do we have here? A little band called Porcupine Tree, as underground as it gets here in America. Having garnered a cult-like status among prog fans of late, I heard about this band a little before venturing into the deepest depths of prog (pretty damn deep) to hear bands like King Crimson, Yes, Rush, Genesis, ELP, and The Flower Kings. Enter Porcupine Tree with In Absentia. I downloaded "The Sound of Muzak" off this site and was blown away. It was unlike anything I'd ever heard -- one hell of a chorus, thoughtful lyrics, great acoustic work and drumming, everything wrapped in one cohesive package. It was a true work of art for me at the time, a masterpiece. About a month has passed since then. King Crimson, Yes, Rush, Genesis and others have all grown on me, as I started off a bit leary of them. Porcupine Tree, however, caught me from the beggining. I went and bought In Absentia, and man, what I got exceeded the epectations I had set based solely on Muzak. Now, enough of my rambbling, the review. I'll start with songs first.

Blackest Eyes - Like Muzak, a simple yet attractive piece. Unbeknownest to me when I first heard it, this is probably PT's heaviest song, yet it stil lretains everything Steve Wilson is all about, with some nice spacey work with excellent acoustic and some heavy riffs thrown in. The lyrics are catchy too. The only weak point is the slightly repetative chorus, but eh. 9/10

Trains - Now HERE'S a good song. Featuring some excellent acoustic with more heavy riffs, Traisn manages to blow me away like it's new each time I listen to it. I finish the song feeling like I just got done listening to an excellent album. My favorite part is when there's a little hand-clapping solo thrown in there with somehting that sounds vaguely like a banjo playing. Then, the acoustic guitar comes back in with Wilson singing some odd but effective lyrics with a very ctachy chorus. Overlal, the song is probably the most complete package on the album. 10/10

Lips of Ashes - Starting out with some interesting sound effects, this one mainly focuses on Wilson's singing. Some light acoustic is on the background with an electric guitar solo over near the end. With Wilson's voice in there, the song creates a pleasant experience that never fails to entertain. Wilson's voice also works perfectly for this. Some excellent chord transitions here too. Well done. 10/10

The Sound of Muzak - The song that started it all. Basic in itself, but has some bizarre drumming going in, oddly rhythmed. Effective, though. Catchiest chorus ever, great lyrics, radio friendly. Not too much prog in this, just like Blackest Eyes, but it still has prog influences in it for sure. Not much to write on this, good song all around. 9/10

Gravity Eyelids - Throwback to old PT! Some nice spacey stuff here with good sound work all around. Not my favorite song, however, as it tends to drag. When it gets to the heavier part, it picks up, but even that gets old. Good solid work on the sounds, though. 9/10

Wedding Nails - All instrumental here. Heavier, brisk pace. Like Muzak and Blackest Eyes, it isn't really an incredible song, but it's a good song to listen to on a 10 minute car ride or something. There's just other songs I'd prefer over it. Solid, but not awesome. 8.5/10

Prodigal - Following theWORST opening chords ever known to man, the song actual becomes rather likeable with a good chorus and...uhmm,, bizarre lyrics. Not as bad as Mastertape, though. Some chords chosen here hurt it. Good chorus, though. 7.5/10

.3 - Without a doubt, the masterpiece of the album. Excellent sound work all around. It's impossible to describethis song. It's more or less four minutes of variations on the same exact four or five notes ( a bass playing those, stuff going on around it), butthe way the song progresses is so well done, you just want to listen to it over and over again. Excellent work all around, THE BEST song on here. My favorite parts revolve around all the synth work done, it really shines and makes the song a masterpiece. 10/10

The Creator Has A Mastertape - Ehh...quick fix if you need something to listen to and don't feel like devoting your listenign time actually listening and appreciatiing the genius in other songs. Whoof, that came out contorted. Basically, it's a good song, but nothing special. Not good, not bad, and some rather wacky lyrics that made me a bit skeptical of Wilson's train of thought when he was making this song. Not good, not bad. Fast, upbeat song with good guitars, but much like Wedding Nails, it just doesn't have anything about it that shines. It's still not bad, though. There really isn't a "bad" song on this album, thus the 5/5 rating. 8.5/10 (for the song)

Heartattack in a Layby - Nice mellow song with some good keyboard work. Nothing bad, nothing awesome, but all around good stuff. Not much to say. 8.5/10

Strip The Soul - Take Blackest Eyes and Wedding Nails, and you get this song. Catchy, good material. Nothing extroadinary like .3, but nothing I can say is terrible, bad, mediocre. Good effort all around, worthy addition to the album. 8.5/10

Collapse The Light Into Earth - Hmm, I dunno baout this one. Mellow with a lot of violin synth work. Pretty song, but it's not awesome. Probably my least favorite, cause basically, Heartattack in a Layby, .3, Lips of Ashes and Gravity Eyelids (to some extent) all did it better. Ehh, probably my least favorite. Bummer to end such a good album on this. 7/10

I'm tired, don't wanna type anymore. Go buy it. Now. There's nothing truly bad on it, a couple good, a lot of great, and one, maybe two depending on taste, true masterpieces. There's your reason. Don't pass this up.

I'd like to add a couple things. Re-submitted review, fixed some typos, changed some scores aroud (10 for Lips of Ashes, every time I listen to it I discover something new and better baout it. Some other scores boosted too), spaces hopefully added. I'd also like to say sorry to the real Fishy for stealing his name, heh. Next time I'll post under a different name, but to overrate my other review, apparently I have to post underthe same name. I hope that's right. Also, I'd like to say that I'd probably give this album a 4.5, 4.7 out of 5, not a perfect 5. However, lack a concise rating system holds me from doing that, so I give it the closest thing to a 4.5: 5 stars. No the album isn't perfect, but albeit one or two not so awesome songs, the album really does stand out as something special. Thanks.

Report this review (#15999)
Posted Saturday, May 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars In 2002 it was announced that the latest Porcupine Tree effort would be a bit of a heavy metal affair and this worried me as I didn't want one of my favourite bands to be turned into a metal band. By then the previous effort of the band of Steve Wilson wasn't what I would call a great record even if other prog lovers believed it was. "Lightbulb Sun" wasn't bad as a solid melodic rock album but the progressive influence was getting too thin to my humble opinion. It was obvious the band was heading for a more accessible direction in order to broaden their audience. To listen to "In absentia" for the very first time was kind of a relief. Sure the album has a rougher edge than previous PT releases with the guitar chords on the front of the sound. Overall the sound of the band stays pretty much the same even more than it did on "Lightbulb sun". In some ways I would call this a return to form but not too much. Apparently we had to wait till the release of "Deadwing" to accomplish this task completely.

The opening chords of "the Blackest Eye" do suspect this is heavy stuff but soon it is clear it is not. This track has lots of memorable melodies to offer. On the background one can notice lots of acoustic guitars and atmospheric keyboards. "Trains" is just a little lovely pop track and could have been included on "Lightbulb sun" : light, pop and harmless but I never would consider playing the record for hearing this song. "The sound of muzak" is another track to have an enjoyable melody. The dubbed sound of the vocals on the chorus are characteristic for the latest Porcupine tree albums. This aspect of their music is often reminiscent to The Beatles and off course Pink Floyd. "Lips of ashes" must be the oddest track of the bunch thanks to the use of some interesting sounds. This intimate track holds excellent melodies and sounds like a fairy tale. On "Gravity Eyelids" you'll find the best of what this band has to offer. Like an opening flower which opens gradually the sound of this song is growing bigger ; near the end it becomes a large landscape of guitars, keyboards and stunning vocal melodies. Like other highlights of the PT catalogue this track could be used as a soundtrack for a moment in a science fiction movie where a giant saucer is slowly launched into space. This track justifies the buying of this album. On "Wedding Nails" you can figure out why some reviewers found this version of PT too heavy. This instrumental track is driven by metal guitar chords. In essence this is just a natural evolution from the point where Wilson released "Up the downstair". All typical PT ingredients are still present under a sauce of heavy guitars. The atmospheric keyboards still are awesome to listen to. "Prodigal" makes up another excellent track. It starts off quite laid back with guitar lines which do remind me on those on "Dark side of the moon" and that's also the case for the vocals. In the second half of the song, the powerful chorus shakes the atmosphere and turns this track into something even more exciting. The strings take the leading role on "3" which gives the track a dreamy mood. To the end the pumping basses and guitar lines add some power to it. Definitely one of the highlights of this album. I found myself very fortunate to notice the band rediscovered its qualities in creating fascinating instrumental sections. Wilson's vocals are alright but there's so much to discover in the instrumental side of this band that most of the tracks hardly needs vocals. Like on Deadwing, Wilson uses a lot of sound effects for the vocals but it's not annoying it even adds some mystery. An artist got to adapt his sound to the time he's living in. Wilson may not have the most powerful voice in progressive rock but I always liked the sound of it : sometimes whispering, sometimes pastoral, sometimes harmonic. On "Strip the soul" the band creates a sinister atmosphere once again. The mood gets interrupted by violent guitar chords of the chorus. The elaborate guitar melody which is gradually developed is most enjoyable although this is one of the heavy tracks on the album. The closing track is a closing track in essence. You almost can hear Wilson singing goodbye if you're not listening to the lyrics. The orchestral strings are emphasizing the emotion which is quite odd for a band who is constructing its music very technical way.

It's been 3 years since this album was released and I still listen to it every now and then. For me this is the proof that this is a decent album which concludes some highlights worthwhile of checking out. As I said for me this album meant a welcome back for the dark and spacey atmospheres of their first albums. Although it is obvious PT has become a rather conventional progressive band when compared to the obscure material from the past. Every sound you hear has been polished by 2002 studio techniques and this gives "In absentia" a better production. And now for the low points. Some tracks seem to be more of the same and don't add nothing new although not one track is weak, just less memorable. Another thing I regret is that the symphonic sound is not explored a lot more than it is. My final point of critic is that the album lacks a real long epic. But these are just minor critical points. Still I would choose this album above some other PT albums like "signify" or "Lightbulb Sun".

Report this review (#16000)
Posted Saturday, May 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is mad. The perfectly mixed sounds of heavy guitar (from producing the last three Opeth albums maybe?), laid back guitar, kicked back melodic vocals, laced with perfect rythm. I heard about PT by watching the live Opeth DVD and hearing that Steve Wilson played in PT. This album was not what I expected, the opening riff rips through you giving a false idea of hard and heavy tunes but then it chops into a perfectly placed melodic section which sets the scene for the rest of the album. The stand out track for mine is Trains but there is not one track that I skip. It's sad that i live in the most isolated capital city on the planet (Perth, Australia) because firstly it is hard to find these sorts of album without ordering them in thening to wait for them and secondly the fact that no bands play this cornor of the planet especially the likes of PT. Highly recomended.
Report this review (#16002)
Posted Friday, May 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars May hurt speakers if instructions not followed.

So much informations has been said about this album and it made tremendous ruckuss at lauching, and 3 years later, the hard edges, the distorded voices, the sublime drumming and subtle keys are doing the trick from 0:00 till the end.

In Absentia will seduce the heavy rockers. It's hard not to react when your speakers are sizzling like a guitar soaked in a deep fryer. The emphasis on such a cracking, distorded guitar sound will convince you that Porcupine Tree IS the prince of the new generation in progressive music: a new approach based on today's production and tomorrow's writing. The songs are really easy to get into with mellow parts and jump starts of pure adrenaline fury.

Call it nu-metal or neo-grunge, whatever, this is an album to play at people who'd like to get out of the same old radio-pattern of Linkin Park, Three Days Grace, Three Doors Down or System of a Down.

Long live the new King!

Report this review (#16003)
Posted Sunday, May 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Bought this album after listening to others clamor on about how great these guys are as a progressive rock band.

The word "progressive" pretty much means to continue on a path of improvement, to move forward and pioneer. In that sense, I guess you can say Porcupine Tree is progressive.

If you go by the definition of the genre itself then these guys miss the target. They are good musicians and the vocals are above average but with regard to their "style" they are hardly what I would consider progressive. This album is a good mix of styles, reminiscent of Pink Floyd at times but I much more consider them a modern rock band more than anyting. The songs are moody and as dark as the lyrics and there are some interesting background textures to go along with some fine guitar work and intriguing keyboards as well. It sets a mood / tone that is well worth listening to and will excite the listener.

Really good album with really good production value and compositional strengths. Progressive rock? Probably not. Industrial rock most likely. Essential? Not by a long shot.

Report this review (#36207)
Posted Saturday, June 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars While I'm writing this, the rain is pouring outside, which is what I love most when I'm writing, so I'll try not to ramble on too badly throughout this review, but if I happen to do so, feel free to skip ahead, 'cause chances are you're not going to like my judgment. . .

Track 01 - BLACKEST EYES. I, for one, was more than content with Steven Wilson's six-note introduction, but even I have to admit that once the band works collectively, the music is far more phenomenal (especially when they're playing live). Beyond anything else, this song would be nothing - seriously, nothing - without the first three lines: "A mother sings a lullaby to a child; sometime in the future, the boy goes wild, and all his nerves are feeling some kind of energy," really because of how Wilson presents the tone of his vocals; how he emphasizes the last word, "energy," by each syllable. The idea, for me, is pure genius, and was sung just as marvelously as he could have imagined doing so. However, along with the opening words, I think what also forms the track into incredible is the chorus. I mean, with such songs as D'yer Mak'er by Led Zeppelin and Where the Sour Turns to Sweet by Genesis, I can't help but take in that maybe choruses aren't always a great thing.

(FAVORITE TRACK ON THIS ALBUM.) Track 02 - TRAINS. I have to say, when I heard Wilson play this acoustically, I nearly died it was so lovely. His attempt at influential vocal harmony masked by his simple notes is amazing, not only on soft ballads such as this one, or Heartattack in a Layby, but on heavier ones like Shesmovedon and even Halo (from their Deadwing release). In truth, I often find Porcupine Tree's lyrics to be somewhat axiomatic, being both banal as well as tumultuous, which are a poor combination because it allows me to not only know who to expect, but in fact dread that it's coming; this isn't the case with In Absentia. I'm really referring to the years before 2001, before Recordings hit the shelves. Songs like Where We Would Be and Don't Hate Me, and definitely Four Chords that Made a Million, which are all fine songs within their own parameters, but they aren't anything I'd necessarily call "masterful," if you know what I mean. Unlike In Absentia, there were very few songs (i.e., Buying New Soul, Russia on Ice, Even Less [extended version], and Intermediate Jesus) that really sparked anything inside me of enough to really understand where the band - Wilson, more importantly - was coming from.

Trains not only has affection, but it's also eye-catching, and that's the key; that's everything I love about Porcupine Tree, is the ability to take something simple and build it into a good-looking/feeling melody with both musical and vocal standing points. Nothing standoffish about this song, in my eyes it defines and catches the very essence that is Porcupine Tree.

Track 03 - LIPS OF ASHES. Upon hearing this song for the first time, Barbirri's glass-like shattering was repulsive beyond my power. I started the track over again probably three times before I even realized what it was and started to enjoy it, which just shows you how worrisome I get while listening to something new. It's actually a disease, really, because I hate doing it but yet, I can't help myself. I hear something that goes out of place, I have to immediately rewind the song until I'm either used to it or I grow tired of the whole ordeal and just move on due to straight ennui. Afterward, the song's accompanied by Wilson, again, heading his simplified trademark. That is, until he starts singing and once more, he brings meaning to the song with the lyrical content. The whole song reminds me of one lengthened lullaby, to be honest.

Track 04 - THE SOUND OF MUSAK. I imagine this song is probably one of the top favorites for many listeners of this band, really because it has everything the "typical Porcupine Tree" needs: a fast beat, rhythmical chorus, and exceptional closing. And although that's not all I look for in a song, it certainly helps this track gain its fame. I most importantly enjoyed the verse, "The music of rebellion makes you wanna rage, but it's made by millionaires who are nearly twice your age," which, to me, offers an amusing cheap shot to all the teenagers who either misinterpret their favorite musicians' lyrics to be something defiant and raucous, or they miscalculate the said musicians' intentions with their million-dollar houses and false sense of musical ambition - either way, it's an overwhelming misconception for both parties.

Track 05 - GRAVITY EYELIDS. This is song is most certainly shows the calmer, truer side of Porcupine Tree. I happen to find it more like a sequel to Lips of Ashes, for it reminds me of an ending to a lullaby. Topped with grand singing by Wilson and a steady chorused beat by drummer Gavin Harrison, it makes for an excellent sub-piece for the album.

Track 06 - WEDDING NAILS. You can tell the band just had fun with this instrumental buildup, really because you never hear one instrument faltering in order to leave the strike open for another; every one of them has their turn to draw attention to themselves with the repetitive charity. Around two minutes into it, though, things grow more and attach to the old, forgotten ways of Porcupine Tree and enter into the psychedelic realm that might be more remembered by fans of Voyage 34 and The Sky Moves Sideways. Then, the process continues. . .

Track 07 - PRODIGAL. This track isn't as dominant as, say, Trains or Gravity Eyelids, but it's worth a listen and it leaves you pleased with its straightforwardness, almost just Wilson venting. Another great chorus, I think.

Track 08 - .3 This, I think, is almost a forewarning for Strip the Soul, something that allows the listener into what's to continue through the eleventh track, and nothing more. The only lyrics involved are a mere two-lined heading: "Black the sky, weapons fly; lay them waste for your race," repeated over and over, which also reminds me of a Godspeed You! Black Emperor-like piece that signifies the end of our civilization.

Track 09 - THE CREATER HAS A MASTERTAPE. Except for minor dark imagery and the occasional frightening concept of a archetypal suburban lifestyle, this song really doesn't have much to offer. Rest assured, the very last line makes this song worthwhile.

Track 10 - HEARTATTACK IN A LAYBY. More simpler music that is just unbelievable. Wilson's stylistic monotony not only shines on this song, but I can't imagine anything sounding better. And although this song makes me think of many things, most of them are irrelevant and the rain has stopped, so I'd like to get on with it.

Track 11 - STRIP THE SOUL. If you were to ask me personally, I'd probably say I enjoy this song, but the truth is, I don't; the only reason I'd say it was great would be to sell another person on the idea of Porcupine Tree being worth their time. However, that's not the case because this song really isn't all that grand. Disparate from a lot of there other work, these lyrics are horrible.

Track 12 - COLLAPSE THE LIGHT INTO EARTH. This last song has some of the most beautiful piano work I have heard for sometime, mind that while you're reading this. Another great lyrical piece, as well, really due to "collapse" being highlighted the way it was. The chorus, as well, is simply breathtaking.

Eh, I guess that's all. The album would have to be my favorite - either this, or Recordings. They both have their dissimilar elements, I s'pose. . .

Report this review (#36298)
Posted Sunday, June 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Thanks to my son, I've discovered Porcupine Tree and after hearing "In Abstentia", I was hooked. Sounding like a mixture of Pink Floyd and Yes with the vocal harmonies of the Beatles and CSNY, Porcupine Tree is a long overdue return to well-crafted music that rises above the endless generic mush of today's music scene. Growing up during the sixties and the early seventies, I developed a love for the music made during that era (Yes, The Beatles, etc.) and although Porcupine Tree combines many musical elements from that period, they do so masterfully, forging a unique identity that sets them apart. Their sound is at once familiar and yet different, a modern synthesis of those past influences rather than a 'retro' recreation. Could this be a sign of a new musical direction away from vocal trampolining divas and obscenity-laced rantings over an electronic drumbeat? One can only hope. No matter, I'm a fan now and looking forward to any new music from these English gentlemen. Hopefully, there'll be much more from them in the future.
Report this review (#37693)
Posted Saturday, June 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The concept and lyrical value of this album alone is overwhelming. Steven Wilson has proved himself to be a lyrical genius. Although this album took a while to fully grow on me, tracks like Blackest Eyes stumped me at first. This album is very accessible, as is "Deadwing". Beautiful mixture of melodies, heavy guitar riffs and harmony vocals. Give it a try.
Report this review (#39248)
Posted Tuesday, July 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's rare that I give an albm 5 stars- but this album, to me- is unbelieveable!!! This was my 1st Porcupine Tree CD and most certainly not my last. From start to finish, this CD has it all. The Riffs, the Drumming, the cool lyrics- (Steven Wilson's voice has to be one of the best in prog)

A better album than Signify, and maybe a few others- This album has got to be one of PT's best.

Highlights of the album- "Trains" "Sound of Muzak" and "3"

And to think Wilson has time to work with other bands- wow.

Report this review (#41265)
Posted Tuesday, August 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars What is it? Porcupine Tree beginning to emprise heavy metal music as well as album-level musical narratives in the form of a concept album about a serial killer. This concept album is constructed while the band is going through a peak in creativity and cohesion.

Voice (4.5 stars) ? Steven Wilson's singing is confident, hitting all the right notes and melodies and still within the technical limitations of the vocalist. As mentioned in other album reviews, we may not have the most technically proficient singer, but sometimes all a song needs is an inspired singer that fits the song's intent. The vocalist may have certain limitations, range of mood is not it ? easily fitting the various styles associated with a concept album.

Sound (5 stars) ? The band sounds very inspired as well, but with the added benefit of extremely well crafted songs. While the structure of the songs do not allow as much freedom for extended displays of musicianship, the band members use a balanced approach of complex subtle layering, diverse sound palette, and the right amount of pauses and relative silence. This, with the incredible sound engineering skills of Steven Wilson, result in a record that is not only extremely coherent and free-flowing, but also simultaneously raw and polished. I believe this is what makes the album sound so organic and timeless.

Song (5 stars) Their pop elements remain as refined as ever while their prog rock and metal characteristics are utilized in a better, more balanced fashion, maintaining reasonable song lengths and restraining themselves from unnecessary experimentation. This is a confident Porcupine Tree applying everything they've learned thus far while avoiding earlier missteps. Their ear for melody and earworms is prominent, with unforgettable hooks scattered through the disc such as the main refrain of 'Blackest Eyes' or the borderline embarrassing but tremendously catchy choruses of 'Sound of Musak'. The songs are memorable also because the music is drenched in mood. The band greatly succeeds at not only arranging these masterful set of compositions, but giving them the right amount of character to keep the listener engaged.

The character could be the cognitive dissonance in 'Blackest Eyes or the simple joys in fan-favorite 'Trains'. It could be the haunting passages of .3 or Lips of Ashes sucking you into a trance-state. There's also the effectively disturbing nature of Gravity Eyelids, Wedding Nails, Creator has a Mastertape, and album climax Strip the Soul. But you also get the gorgeous soul-crushing 'Heartattack in a Layby' or 'Collapse the Light into Earth' which are both among the best melancholia ever put on tape.

Key Tracks: Blackest Eyes, Lips of Ashes, Gravity Eyelids, .3, Heart Attack in a Layby, Collapse the Light Into Earth

Report this review (#41778)
Posted Friday, August 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I don't know why PT are not a cult band."In absentia" is greatest album of this century. Perfect, with all creativity and perfect sound by this genious called Steven Wilson. "Blackest eyes" is perfect song, "Trains" is basically a masterpiece, and all have a 100% of inspiration, specially my favourite "Collapse the light into earth", one of best songs from PT. Rating 5 because there's no 6.
Report this review (#44194)
Posted Thursday, August 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars (excuse my spelling)In Absentia was my first porcupine tree album, I got it on cristmas of 2002 and I have to say it has to be the best gift anyone has ever given me. The first time I hired it I could not beleive my ears. I knew after exerperienceing this 12 track cd that porcupine tree would be my favorite band and now after ony two, three years I own close to the entire porcupine tree colection. Blackist eyes was a great why to start the album, with a metel rife and wounderful words sung by the master steven wilson. Following blackist eyes comes one of my all time favorite songs... Trains is truly brillant and anyone who dosn't think so, really has no clue what there talking about! so buy this album and test me! it's so much more then a 12 track cd... It's heaven.
Report this review (#45315)
Posted Friday, September 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Very good album and well worth having. A bit eclectic yet this is what progs about huh? I personally would have like a bit more distorted guitar in there, but we can't have it all can we? Anyway some of the highlights for me were "Blackest Eyes", " Trains", and " The Creator Has a Mastertape" Although I feel that there are really no "duds" on this one. It's just good music form a good band.
Report this review (#47715)
Posted Wednesday, September 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ok lets begin with my favorite Porcupine tree In absentia. Porcupine tree's music can quicly be discribed with and combination of coldplay and tool. However strange the combination might sound i find it to be a pretty accurate description. Forexample the song Collapse the light into earth has a great mood and could have gone right in on the latest coldplay album. Not to say this is a bad thing, i love both tool and coldplay and the combination of the poppy elements and the metal elements has a really nice balance to it. Forexample although songs like the sound of muzak and trains have a somewhat poppy feel to it they are combined with some nice unusual accoustic riffs that bears some resemblence to nice bassriffs developed by tool. Also the lyrics are quite dark and disturbing and fits the song moods quite nicely. Although most of the songs Strip the soul, Blackest eyes and heartattack in a layby has a rather dark mood over them the instrumental Wedding nails provide a nice contrast with a somewhat more uplifting and even funky riff. There are certain metal elements in the songs but not enough to make it feel like a metal band. However there sometimes can be that the songs could sound a bit similar forxample the song .3 has almost the same bass intro as Strip the sould and the overall dark mood of the album can get a bit depressing or even boring but still there are some heavy parts in most of the songs...Wich kinda make it a bit awkward as some parts are great for relaxing to generally gets "interpupted" by these heavy riffs. But all in all there is not much to complain about and clearly represents some of the finest new progressive rock bands, and is something that all prog fans should give a listen to.

Pros: Original riffs,great atmosphear in the songs and lots of details in them(Forexample the car in the background at the beginning of heartattack in the layby sets a really nice atmosphear for the song and really can make you feel like you are experiencing it yourself.

Cons:Sometimes the songs can get a bit similar and the wish for an more some more drastic changes in the songs could have made a great effect.

For continuated exploring of porcupine tree i would recommend Deadwing. For similar music i would recommend: Tool-lateralus and Opeth-Damnation.

Report this review (#47962)
Posted Friday, September 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of the best pieces of work PORCUPINE TREE have made. With in Absentia, Porcupine Tree continues to reinvent their sound, incorporating more and more METAL (RUSH, TOOL, death metal ?) influences, though not sounding a metal band, creating a still melancolic, but more darker sonority, in the whole.

The 3 main qualities of the album (which was made to be listened as a concept album) are the very CATCHY THEMES (there are no weak points or low-standard songs, all the songs are at the same level and each one has something different to offer) helped by a IMPECCABLE EXECUTION which i refer the solid work made by the new drummer Gavin Harrison (for me, one of the best drummers the world has) and the always cathy and mellow guitar solos by Steven Wilson; and the EXCELLENT PRODUCTION, proportionating glossy arrangements.

This is a very solid album, from the very start with "Blackest Eyes", for sure a "must" song in every PORCUPINE TREE concert from this on to the last ever gig of the band, opening with prog-metal kick-off guitars and then entering in a mellower cathy melody, created by the usual vocal corus (helped by the sweet part of the voice of Mikael Akerfeldt from OPETH). "Trains" is another hotspot to mention, exploring even more the progressive rock territory with accoustic guitars a la JETHRO TULL and exploring spanish tradicional music in the interlude. "Gravid Eyelids" is another memorable song, in 2 parts, the first with a dark and sad atmosphere created by keyboards exloding in a metal-prog guitar ending. "Wedding Nails" is an instrumental guitar masterpiece, the most metal of the badge. "3." is another instrumental song, but this time in a symphonic wave. The album ends quite well with the folk-blues-jazz-rock "Strip the Soul" and with the crying melancoly of "Collapse the Light into Earth".

One of the most accomplished albuns of one of the best rock band of the present. The Aqualung of new millenium.

Report this review (#51800)
Posted Friday, October 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars In Absentia is an outstanding album from one of the best progressive rock bands playing today. On this album, Porcupine Tree alternatingly sounds like alternative rock, progressive metal, melodic and experimental. There is some debate over whether it is progressive rock since it does not derive directly from sounds of the 1970s masters of prog, but it is outstanding music whatever you decide to call it. When you listen to In Absentia you wonder why the band hasn't made it bigger and just count yourself lucky that you found them. Interestingly, the album's lyrics are largely based around serial killers which you would probably not pick up from a first listen. Highly recommended.
Report this review (#52274)
Posted Tuesday, October 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Once again I still don't "get" this band. As strong as this album is, it is just as difficult to appreciate as all the others I have heard. Steve Wilson can obviously produce some good tunes, but they lack excitement and emotion. I can recognise why PT have a big following, but there is nothing here to pull me into their music.I understand this one of the best albums, but they all get boring quickly for me and I often fail to be moved by the songwriting. Another 3 star effort for me.
Report this review (#52850)
Posted Saturday, October 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I can't sign on to this one. I caold listen to "Sky Moves..." or "Lightbulb Sun" for ever. My son is fussier. We could listen to "Deadwing" togetherand ever need to play another album again, ever. That is how good PT are. In Absentia doesn't do that for me, for us. Let's not get this wrong - it is a decent album, but is doesn't have the magic of Deadwing.

Buy in the following order...

Deadwing ...Sky Moves... Lightbulb Sun

then if yuo want more,,,

In Absentia

What I shall say, however, is that this album is not like any of the others on the list - PT are good enough to produce an original album every time - just that the songs and tunes on this one are not as brilliant as some of the ther albums - IMHO.

Every album is a new challenge - this is genuinely progressive rock musicof a standard that nobody else is producing.

Report this review (#54704)
Posted Friday, November 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars When I heard it for the first time, I was quite disappointed. I found one wonderful song there, which was SOUNDS OF MUZAK - the rest was rather nonunderstandable to me. But listening to it more times I discovered lovely voice harmonies in HEARTATTACK IN A LAY BY, intriguing riff in THE CREATOR HAS A MASTERTAPE, marvelous mix of calm melody and heavy guitar in BLACKEST EYES, and many other things. IN ABSENTIA makes the listener to play it all over again to find some other details. I own it for two years and I still discover new ones.
Report this review (#60121)
Posted Sunday, December 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars As I was getting my thoughts about this disc together last night, taking notes over dinner, I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that, since there was SO much here to listen to, it demands a track-by-track account. Wait; I hate doing that, and I never have. They take up far too much time, and I find myself getting bored by reading some of them. But this disc, as I said, DEMANDS it. Not doing that would discount other tracks that have merit of their own. Pout and groan, though I may, here goes.

BLACKEST EYES: Weird (and I do mean WEIRD) lyrics ("it's so erotic when your makeup runs"...huh?). Wilson's voice is kinda twee in places, somewhat precious, even when whispered. But it's more than made up for next. When the distorted guitar kicks in, with the full band, my ass was kicked too. This dude can play! Thank God for real guitarists! My air guitar is wailing too! Great opening. 5/5

TRAINS: Lyrics take a step up from weird to BIZARRE (What's he doing in his cousin's bed? Why is she tying him up? How do you "kiss someone wide"?) And those backing vocals are kinda fey. Never mind that, cause the midsection negates that. Is that a...BANJO? Handclaps? What the...? Oh; wait...the full band's back in. That's MUCH better. And Wilsons harmonies don't sound so fey here. The keyboards are excellent, carrying much of the main melody. I'm diggin' it! 4/5

LIPS OF ASHES: Mostly acoustic, except for a lone, gained-out electric popping up in spots, but that's a good thing. It's one thing to drench a six-string in gain and fuzz to cover up mistakes; it's quite another to play an acoustic with as much emotion as he is and make it sound good. I'm happy so far. The harmonies are doping really odd things to the hairs on the back of my neck. WIlson sounds like a clarion call or a siren's song. Wow! 5/5

(FAVE SONG) THE SOUND OF MUSAK: Since hearing this one here on the site, I've been hooked. Thanks guys; I owe you. Again, the bulk of it is acoustic, but when backed by the full band, an enormous wall of sound is erected, especially when the harmonies kick in during the chorus. Awesome so far. Unlike other recordings I've heard, I can actually hear Colin Edwin! YAY! Wilson's leadwork, starting at 2:38 is quite Gilmour-esque, in the way he stretches out those notes to make his guitar sing. LOVE IT! Gavin sounds like he's been canoodling with some Rush CD's (2112 and HEMISPHERES, among them), as the drums give off an odd time signature. Could leave Peart scratching his head. Threw me off the first time I heard it, and yes; I AM a drummer! LOL I could've done without the girlish "da-da-da-da-da" backing vocals, though. All in all, 5/5

GRAVITY EYELIDS: Stunning harmonies here. Let me get that out of the way. The instrumental opening almost put me off, as I could've done without the drum programming (too techno-ish for my tastes). Wait...a MELLOTRON? OK...that's better. Keyboards carry the bulk of the melody here, which is cool to me. At 4:02, I hear a distorted guitar. Play that thing, Steve! MAKE IT SING! Great song! 5/5

WEDDING NAILS: I'm a sucker for a good instrumental, and would have no trouble listening to this along with anything from Rush. Kicks ass from start to finish, excpet for a few minor blemishes. Nicely distorted guitar, aggressive drums and a sexy, funky bassline. Yes, now here Gavin Harrison makes clear his debt to Peart (aren't all us drummers indebted to Peart?). Haunting keyboards too, but they seem to come in almost amelodically, threatening to create chaos. Later that a guitar or a seagull? Sounds like a seagull. That's right; I forgot...solidbody guitar+humbuckers+high gain amp+Whammy Pedal=you can make any sound you damn well please. And yes, that IS a solo. OK, Steve...lay off the f&^*$#@ sound effects already! UGH! More Mellotron follows (I can't get enough), with Harrison then going absolutely nuts. And more of those DAMN sound effects; ARGH! Oh well; great track nonetheless. Would be even better if they pared it down by 1.5 or even 2 minutes. 4/5

PRODIGAL: Slower track here. Is that a slide guitar? Yup. Steve seems to be in love with his slide; it's all over this track. Again, flawless keyboards and another solid (yet restrained) bassline. Excellent backing vocals courtesy of Aviv Geffen and John Wesley. Nix the processed vocals though, Steve. They're tiring. But the harmonies throughout, as well as the high-gain guitar at 4:35, make up for it. I'm totally DIGGIN' the outro lead! 5/5

.3: Hot bass line here. Haunting keyboards (Mellotron???) with drums, then guitar. Oooohweee...this be gettin' good! But more sound effects; backwards, this time (As if the regular ones weren't bad enough.) Gorgeous vocals, but sometimes Wilson teeters on the edge of tweeness. Oh...there's the harmonies! Whew! Beautiful string arrangement too, thanks to Mr. Gavyn Wright. Edwin dominates here, providing the main melodic motif while Steve f%^&* with a talkbox. Give it a rest, please! Jeezus! 4/5

THE CREATOR HAS A MASTERTAPE: The opening sounds kinda Hendrix-ish. And that's a mighty funky bassline. But what the hell is Steve doing to that guitar; playing it or having sex with it? Can't tell; it's pretty disorienting. More processed vocals (yack; no thanks), but the great distorted guitar and pounding drums smack me back into reality. I'm really liking it so far. But the (brief) interlude is a different story. Is that a... dance beat? I thought this was Porcupine Tree; not Gloria Gaynor! Anwyay...Oh, there it is..."Pills and chloroform, all the pages torn..." OK, Steve; sure. Whatever. All in all, nice track. Good usage of Mellotron too. 4/5

HEARTATTACK IN A LAYBY: Opens with car sounds. Fair enough. I've been battling those damn sound effects for 9 songs now. A bit more won't kill me. WAIT! Steve opens his mouth, and starts to (gasp!) SING! Wow. The harmonies are angelic! I'm still turning a deaf ear to the sound effects, though. Nice counterpoint vocals at 2:35 (dual non-harmonic vocals, if that makes any The tweeness is gone, thank God(dess)! 5/5

STRIP THE SOUL: Aggressive bass line here. Head-bobbing drums too. Lyrics go from weird to bizarre to downright SINISTER. At 0:49, the drummer launches into an odd time signature as well. Excellent electric guitars here...not too distorted and not too fey. Wait...vocal processing? STEVE! ENOUGH!!!!!! Is that a guitar I hear? Yeah. Is that a solo? I think. It is, and we're back to real music again. More WHISPERED vocals, followed by a wah-dreanched guitar. Side note: I wonder if Wilson's guitar of choice (PRS) has a tremolo bar, cause it sounds like whammy bar abuse near the ending. Weird...but I like weird. Solid 4/5

COLLAPSE THE LIGHT INTO EARTH: Piano opening. Nice so far. Good (not great) vocals and more Mellotron. I'm diggin' it, and HOW! String arrangement adds a wonderful melody to the it were. The harmonies at 3:23 are brilliant too. Truly gorgeous song we've got here. Simplicity is genius, and it shows here. 5/5

Production is clean without sounding (terribly) digital. I may only be 26, but the albums released lately sound harshly digital, whereas I prefer the organic sound of records released in the 70's and 80's. I know he did it in Pro Tools, which would normally turn me off, but not here. It doesn't FEEL digital. Delivery has passion and conviction. Well done, people! Thanks! A record that can hold its own with anything in my Rush collection. 55/60=91.6%, rounded up to 92%. Five stars. That's a wrap!

Report this review (#61422)
Posted Friday, December 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars From the first the first ten bars, you KNOW something good is coming at you! then after about 20 bars, there is a luscious melody. I was hooked immediately and still am. The music belies the lyrics, and reveals darkness lurking under the bed: literally. The hard edged "Wedding Nails" and especially "Strip the Soul" reveals the dark side of the theme. "Trains" is a beautifulluy haunting song, which all of us ponder the meaning of. One of the best closing tune is "Collapse the Light Into Earth" which is the closing song on this all time favorite album of PT and prog fans. Trudy in Arizona
Report this review (#62819)
Posted Monday, January 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of my TOP 5 albums. There's no any poor songs. When I've hears this at the first time, it was love at the first sight.

My favourite songs are: Trains, Sound Of Muzak and Heartattack At the Layby.

Trains brings feeling which i have at summernight. And the lyrics are great and simple. only minus is hand-clapping part.

Sound Of Muzak is so ass-kicking song, and not the least about its lyrics.

And Heart-attack at the layby is so beautiful with its singing melodies.

Great album. It's very good for any moment and ambience.

Report this review (#66624)
Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This band has gotten more air time in my audio player than anything else in my extensive prog library. They are ,simply put. the best prog band to arrive on the scene in at least a decade. Yes, I know, music is subjective and I have seen way too many reviews where the reviewer gives five stars to an album and exclaim 'this is the BEST album ever!! In fact giving a star rating to an artist is probably more a personal endorsement than anything else. But, never the less, if i was going to give ANY band's recent work five stars , it would be Porky. I'm just gratefull they have been "arriving somehere" , and it's here, in my audio player.Long live Porky!
Report this review (#66903)
Posted Thursday, January 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well to be honest i'm not a big fan of the space rock thing but however bands like Pink Floyd and Ozric Tentacles are an exceptiona and well i've heard so many great things about Porcupine Tree that i decided to give this a try. In Absentia has been to many fans their best album and i was skeptical at first because well i'm picky when it comes to buying cds and if i dissappointed i'll either sell them or take them back. Anyway i listened to the sample sounds at the store and was kinda digging the heavyness to it so i decided to give it a shot. Man this cd took me by surprise as Porcupine Tree plays so many sounds and genres even i don't know what genre of music they are. This cd is really great with some heavy metal parts that come close to Dream Theater such as Wedding Nails, really spacy keyboard parts ala Pink Floyd, funky Mars Volta parts, a solo that reminds me alot of King Crimson, Strip the Soul which sounds alot like Tool, i mean its nuts they sometimes go to heavy, to psychedelic to acoustic OH MY!!! anyway this album is very addictive as it display mr. wilson and the rest of the band at their finest with great tight bass and drums and cool guitar solos that has a nice Fripp/Gilmour vibe to them. What really surprises me the most about how great this band does in this album is the vocal harmonies...they are so beautiful especially in Sound of Muzack which is one of my favorite tracks. Anyway this is my first PT album and i wanna get more hopefully i can get the 4 previous albums. Anyway 4 stars man.
Report this review (#72178)
Posted Friday, March 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Sound: In Absentia retains the same spacey/psychadelic touch from previous works, while also adopting a heavier side not yet seen. Strip the Soul is a prime example of the heavier side. It gives Tool a run for their money. Blackest Eyes is a bombastic opener that mixes soft, delicate vocals with heavy meatal. The most recognizable change in their style is the use of orchestral strings in songs like Trains and Collapse The Light Into Earth. Seeing how this was the bands first major label release, they held nothing back, and put their whole soul into this album. // 10

Lyrics: Steven Wilson has always managed to keep the fans guessing on what the hell he's actually talking about. I've heard many rumors as to what the concept of the album is. The one used most frequent is the concept of a serial killer or serial killers in general. The songs most evident of this are Blackest Eyes, and Strip The Soul. It would be interesting if this was true, but its sometimes hard to tell. Nevertheless the lyrics and vocals fit flawlessly with the lyrics. // 10

Impression: Since their debut in the early '90s, Porcupine Tree have never ceased to impress fans and critics alike. In Absentia is the band at their pinnacle. Its good to know that there are still bands out there that have their own distinctive sound. In some ways, Porcupine Tree are rocks best kept little secret. It's hard to imagine that a band this talented and creative, are still virtually unknown by other than those in their fanbase. In Absentia is a fusion of heavy metal, brit rock, and progressive. It is quite possibly their most accessible album. A great place to start for new fans. // 10

Report this review (#73247)
Posted Monday, March 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is the most beautiful thing I've ever heard.

This was my first Porcupine Tree album, and besides my dad's old Pink Floyd, Yes, and Genesis, this was the first time I had ever heard prog. This album is what got me hooked, and I have been a prog addict ever since. I now own all of PT's albums and this is still my favorite. If you are looking for a place to start with Porcupine Tree, this is it.

"Blackest Eyes": Not my favorite track, but it is still a good opener. The heavy guitar in the intro is a precursor to the direction the band would take with Deadwing, and Steven's voice is just great. I think the chorus is a little week but this is still a good song.

"Trains": Easily my favorite track off of this album. I think I must have listened to this for days on end. The beautiful acoustic guitar mixes perfectly with Steven's voice to create a masterpiece. The end of the song combines some more great instruments (and some clapping) to finish the song out well.

"Lips Of Ashes": Another great track. The intro is beautiful. Steven starts off on a great note with "paralyzed, lips of ashes". The song goes on from there. I could have done without the la-la-las at the end, but the guitar solo is beautiful, so the song does end on a good note.

"Sound Of Muzak": Excellent. This song has the most powerful lyrics on this album, and they are so true. The song structure is fairly simple, but you should be listening to this one for the lyrics more than anything else.

"Gravity Eyelids": Absolutely astonishing. This track is so beautiful that it is hard to put into words. The intro harkens back to the earlier PT, and the rest of the song is brilliant.

"Wedding Nails": Great track. This instrumental is very different from the rest of the album, and the riff(though a little repetitive) is just great.

"Prodigal": Another good track. Not my favorite but this is still a good song. The lyrics are good, and the music is not spectacular, but still enjoyable.

".3": Great bass intro. I really like this song. The background symphonic stuff creates a very ethereal feel, although I wish that Steve would have left this as an instrumental.

"The Creator Has A Mastertape": My least favorite track of the album. The track is sped up and sounds very distressed. I'm not a fan of the metallic voice, and the lyrics are very odd.

"Heart Attack In A Layby": Beautiful. I love this song. This is a huge contrast to the previous track, and that is what makes it so great. The song is very slowed down and relaxing. The lyrics are quite sad, and the track has a great feel to it. The second half of the song where the multiple voices come in is poetry in motion.

"Strip The Soul": Great bassline. Lyrics are odd but great. This song is stuck between two very beautiful slow songs, and it really provides a nice contrast.

"Collapse The Light Into Earth": I love this song! The piano is very simple, but just beautiful. The vocals are great. The element of this song that really shines for me is the lyrics. The lyrics are amazing, they made a big impact on me, and they are some of my favorite.

This CD is a true masterpiece and my favorite prog album of all time.

Report this review (#73606)
Posted Thursday, March 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars If you haven't heard anything by Porcupine Tree, this should be the album you buy. Whilst not overtly progressive sounding, PT are maybe the most progressive band around in the prog scene today - In the sense that they are actually trying to progress rather than rehashing the sound of the 70's. They use modern day production techniques and computer filtering as a complimentary factor, they don't shun it. Styles are merged yet roots are remembered. It's all pretty cool really.

Here you'll here post rock sounding riffs, grungy chords, metal solos - but mixed with beautiful harmonies, mellotrons, banjos - a lot of different styles. Ok, so at times they can be poppy, but what's wrong with that?

This album contains maybe the best PT song - Trains. Worth a purchase for that alone really, but try and get the special edition with "Drown with me" on it (from the Futile EP). How this never made it to the album I'll never know.

Overall, this is a superb album. Die hard proggers mightn't appreciate the poppy edge that Wilson gives all his music, but to me it just serves to give the depth a catchy side. Everyone should have this album, it's a modern day classic, irrespective of prog or any other music genre.


Report this review (#75065)
Posted Saturday, April 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Let me begin by saying that although I love prog, I do not play and am not particularly knowledgeable regarding the techinical aspects of the music. Obvioulsy, many of you are. Nevertheless, I know what I like.

For many years I have listened to Genesis, Pink Floyd, Rush, Nektar, Yes, etc. I have not really attempted to listen to newer prog. However, this will change based on this album. It is absolutely one of the best I have ever heard.

The music takes a few listens to get hooked. At first, it isounds rather complex , with little distinction between songs. After a few listens, however, the details begin to come forward and the genius of this album shows. Although harder rocking than Genesis, less atmospheric than Pink Ployd, and more complex than Rush, this album has a sound similar to a little of each of these bands, with a little Evanesence thrown in. The vocals are very good, as is the guitar playing. The only somewhat negative aspect is the murkiness of the lyrics. Maybe it's just me, but I do not understand the message in some of the songs. I can guess, but it's not particularly clear.

To get a sense of whether you might like this album, you should know that I absolutely love Genesis SEBTP, TotT, and W&W. I also really love Pink Floyd WYWH and Animals, and Rush 2112 and Hemispheres. I also really like Evanesence Fallen. After listening to this album, I would put Porcupine Tree up there with these bands and this album at the top of my list. Outstanding.

Report this review (#78211)
Posted Monday, May 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars The album is considered to be as a conceptual album from these days, which tells the story of a child growing up and becoming a serial killer.

Therefore, musically as well as thematically speaking , the album is dark with blown away lyrics and great poetry.

The music is remarkable, and it is a blend of heavy complex riffs, soft textures, acoustic strumming, and great vocal harmonies... With truly inspiring instrumentals. Moreover, the production is amazing: texture, clarity, effects, power, stereo mixing, etc.

So, if you haven't get this, then what are you wainting for????

Report this review (#78795)
Posted Friday, May 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars Being a huge Porcupine Tree fan, I have learned that In Absentia is supposedly their best album and Trains their best song. In Absentia is a good album, but by no means a masterpiece of prog.

From their first albums of experimental space techno (On The Sunday Of Life, Voyage 34) to a more evolved ambient psychedelic rock (Up The Downstair, The Sky Moves Sideways, Staircase Infinities, Signify somewhat), to more accessible space rock (Signify, Stupid Dream, Lightbulb Sun) and finally at something that can possibly be classified space metal (is that even a genre?), Porcupine Tree has certainly changed over the years.

However, I am one of the only people who believe that their actual musical quality has decreased in the 00's. Listen to the epic Sky Moves Sideways and the compositional skill Wilson exhibits in the beautiful ambient soundscapes, or the second half of Signify where you can be taken to a virtually different world if you give it your full attention. That is the genius of Wilson's Porcupine Tree that had led to their underground appreciation in prog circles.

Then, Porcupine Tree releases Stupid Dream and Lightbulb Sun which clearly are becoming more accessible and song-based while not explicitly "commercial." This is not always a bad sign, but their music started to lose the magic and inspiration that I felt in their earlier albums (such as TSMS).

Finally, we arrive at In Absentia, where a heavier metal side is starting to emerge, possibly from working with Opeth (whose influence really becomes apparent in their following album, Deadwing). One can also hear a more grungy metallic sound (much like Tool) and more britpoppy compositions (like Radiohead or sometimes even Coldplay).

If Porcupine Tree was able to keep the inspiration and more in a new direction, I would in fact commend them for that, but I don't exactly feel that in In Absentia. Since this is a prog website, I must also add that the music isn't exactly prog either (lowering my rating from 6.5/10 to 5/10, which I will round down to 2 because it seems to be somewhat overrated here).

There are many good qualities about this album. First, many of the tracks are catchy, (Blackest Eyes, Trains, Collapse The Light Into Earth), but not without cheating a bit. If you repeat the same hook over and over and over again, you are sure to get riffs stuck in the head of the listener (think of Europe's Final Countdown).

Second, there are a few tracks that have some of the inspiration that the album is overall lacking. Try checking out .3, an impressive near-instrumental track that shows a great bassline and the psychedelic/space rock that Wilson does great.

Third, it is very cohesive. It follows the concept, and while I am tempted to press the skip button over certain tracks (Strip The Soul), it tells the story well, and shows Wilson with some of his best lyrical work.

Good album, but not very prog and their are certainly better albums to start with.

Report this review (#78798)
Posted Friday, May 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Run out of Pink Floyd albums? Wondering what could have been had they carried on? You wouldn't be far wrong in trying Porcupine Tree - and I'm stll wondering why they aren't huge - I mean they are way way better than Coldplay, Oasis and all those that do well. It's incomprehensible. Prog rock, creative rock, atmospheric rock with a bit of metal thrown in - who really cares? They just truly are a great band.

If you are a Floyd fan trying PT for the first time. maybe I wouldn't start with this - try The Sky Moves Sideways or one of their other earlier ones - but having heard that then move onto this or Deadwing (I like Deadwing slightly more, as it is a bit more eclectic from track to track).

I was thinking of giving this 4 stars, but I've decided on 5 'cos all the tracks are really really good - the best for me are 'Trains' (sounds a little Jethro Tull like), and .3. "Strip the Soul" is a good one to play for younger ones who like bass and metal - it might just get them into it.

All the old atmospheres are still there, but it's a little heavier. Best is the drumming, singing (Wilson does have a good voice), and the guitar work is great (I wish there were a couple more rousing solos).

Report this review (#79604)
Posted Sunday, May 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Wow, amazing album, definetely one of PTs masterpieces! This was the second album I bought by PT (the first being Deadwing) and I have to say this one is definetely better than Deadwing even though they are both five star albums in my book.

About the music: atmospheric, but not as much as The Sky Moves Sideways. Interesting lyrics, there's even a song about future "muzak" music, it' very interesting. The musicianship is great like you would expect from a PT album, Wilson doing his best. This also introduces more tracks like Signify, which are heavier, more metal, so I you like metal and prog, try this, you'll be amazed.

Report this review (#79777)
Posted Tuesday, May 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Heavy, gloomy, melancholic, surreal, sometimes even little sarcastic or disturbing - that's what "In Absentia" is like.

It will satisfy different tastes - a person who likes heavy metal, should hear Blackest Eyes, The Creator Has A Mastertape or Strip My Soul. Beside that, there are some soft psychedelic songs, such as Gravity Eyelids, Lips Of Ashes, .3 ... the album ends with a beautiful song Collapse the Light Into Earth played by piano.

My personal favourites would be Trains (very interesting lyrics), Sound Of Muzak (catchy and true by its meaning) and especially Heartattack In A Layby - it's touching, mellow and has a beautiful melody!

The biggest advantage of the album is the most amazing voice of Steven Wilson. In addition, all the members are oustanding musicians and it's easy to notice.

The disadvantage is that some tracks are really too long and repetitive.

My personal ratings: Blackest Eyes - 9/10; Trains - 10/10; Lips of Ashes - 8,5/10; The Sound of Muzak - 10/10; Gravity Eyelids - 8/10; Wedding Nails - 8/10, Prodigal - 9,5/10, .3 - 8/10; The Creator Has a Mastertape - 8,5/10; Heartattack in a Layby - 10/10; Strip the Soul - 9/10; Collapse the Light Into Earth - 6,5/10.

average is ~8,75/2 = 4,375 - 4 stars! But it could be even 5.

Thank You Porcupine Tree!

Report this review (#80354)
Posted Monday, June 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
PSIKE Team & Band Submissions
4 stars The Sound of Porcupine Tree

This release was my first contact with PORCUPINE TREE. I somewhere heard the song 'The Sound Of Muzak' and from this moment on I started to be curious about their work. For me 'In Absentia' is the best studio output I know (and I know nearly all of them). First of all it is the great variety resultant from the great songwriting of Steven Wilson. Good to see that he remains resistant to the enticement of writing more mainstream music like he does with BLACKFIELD.

Metalheads or Hardrocker can enjoy the strong guitar playing f.e. in 'Blackest Eyes', 'Wedding Nails or 'Strip The Soul'. A Neoprogger might love songs like the relaxed 'Trains' , 'Sound Of Muzak' with a brillant mix of acoustic and electric guitars or 'Lips Of Ashes' as a ballad with a wonderful melody. 'Heartattack In A Layby' on the other hand is minimalist melancholic psychedelic pur. 'Gravity Eyelids' is mixing up all this styles in a perfect way. The other songs (including the bonus tracks) are also good but cannot reach the height of the former called. So this album decreases a little bit on the run to the end. But don't get me wrong - I recommend it in any way as it is - an excellent example for making modern progressive rock music.

Report this review (#80540)
Posted Tuesday, June 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
Fight Club
5 stars This will be the first review I have submitted to progarchives as this is the one album that absorbed me directly into the genre. I think when reviewing this album one has to review it from the standpoint of someone who is just getting introduced to the prog genre. Since this is one of the bands that's up there in popularity I believe it will be one of the first bands explored by someone new to the site, so I won't go directly into how "progressive" it is. The truth that Porcupine Tree has a very distinguished sound. This was the first album I picked up by them after just hearing about it on a forum about a year ago. I listened to it one summer morning and was blown away. At the time I was into mainly classic rock not very much prog. I had heard Dark Side of the Moon, Images & Words and some others, but none really seemed to take major flight away from classic rock. Now this album was a very new and hard to describe sound. The mix is perfect. The vocal harmonies are are very nicely done and the way they switch off between acoustic and heavy electric blends so well you barely notice the transition. When I first heard this album I couldn't stop listening to it. The sound was just so rich and emotional and I just floated off to another place while listening to it. This is probably one of the first albums that made me realize that an album could be more than just a collection of songs, it could be an "entity itself" in Steven Wilson's words.

Blackest Eyes - From the opening guitar riff through the melancholic vocal harmonies this a beautiful song. There's something so catchy and uplifting about the song, even though the lyrics are not meant to convey that. The thing is that it shows the character, in which In Absentia revolves around, feels alls these horrid twisted emotions, but it does not occur as twisted in his mind. This is a very catchy song and makes a really great opener.

Next we move onto Trains - This is almost as close to perfection as song writing can get. Very emotional and well orchestrated. Every part of the song melds so perfectly into the whole, the final outcome is near flawless. The acoustic guitar with the synth effects behind it makes a great ethereal/spacey feeling. This song is proof that Porcupine Tree isn't a band where each member plays seperate instruments that go into a song. There a band where each seperate instrument makes one coherent sound.

Lips of Ashes - This is the first track on the album that really sucks you into the trance- like state that keeps you absorbed in the album. Something about the surreal string arrangements that makes you feel like you're in a different world. A world called In Absentia. This is a very nice spacey track.

The Sound of Muzak - This is an album highlight for me. The song has a very interesting arrangement between the time signatures and odd drumming. To anyone with limited musical knowledge the drumming would sound simple and unoriginal. However most people hearing this song hear all the complexities of Gavin Harrison's drumming. The mixing is very well done on this track as well. The harmonizing in the chorus is incredible. This is a song everyone can appreciate, from the emotional chorus to the guitar solo and then thru the outro this song is stunning.

Gravity Eyelids - This song is even more of a trip than the last. The song opens with eerie synth effects and muffled drum tracks. This is probably the song that brings one into the eerie dark state of the album. Some ways into the track, a monster guitar riff breaks out into a complete tsunami of distortion. It's quite intense, with the layered riffs and keyboard effects piling ontop of one another. Then it suddenly loosens into the surreal state again and closes with some nice eerie slide guitar from Steven Wilson.

Wedding Nails - This track was the first to blow my mind when I first listened to the CD. When I first popped it into my comp is was busy messing around and didn't quite pay attention to the tracks before this. They just floated into my head pulling me into that surreal state of consciousness without me even realizing it. This track awoke me. It starts off with a nice guitar riff then goes completely nuts. It really wakes a person up. I woke up from the trance and thought to myself "holy crap, what is this sound??" Just sitting there with my mouth agape. Then I went back and replayed the disc from the beginning and was astonished by the music.

Prodigal - A very nice mellow track. Just as the others, the mixing is incredibly clean on this one. Definately one of my favorites off the album as the chorus draws in and then delivers 2 stunning guitar solos. Amazing song.

.3 - This is one of the first space trips I have encountered in music. The string arrangements and synth effects are done very well and convey all the right emotions that the band wants them to convey. Some parts put a nice chill running down your spine. Very nice song.

The Creator Has A Mastertape - Here's another track proving Gavin Harrison's skill as a musician! This is a very bizarre song. I can hardly describe it except for saying that it's uhh... bizarre! Haha, well just listen. Definately a good song.

Heartattack In A Layby - Very nice relaxing song. Depressing in a way. The guitars and vocal harmonies are very nice on this track and leads quite well into the next song.

Strip The Soul - One can tell why this was a single off the album. Driving guitars and looping basslines galore. One of the first tracks where I noticed Colin Edwin's ability to make a bassline that sucks you right into a song. The only problem I can say I have with this track is that it's maybe a minute too long. Very nice though. Here you can tell that the album has gradually been getting heavier to fit the storyline. Nice work!

Collapse the Light Into Earth - Now all the anger and chaos subsides into this song, Collapse the Light Into Earth. This is a piano oriented song and it serves well to illustrate the emotions at the end of this album. The vocals harmonize well once again and I think this song is a perfect closer for this perfect album.

All in all, In Absentia is an experience for someone just getting introduced to prog. To someone who has been quite absorbed in the genre for some time it might not come off as amazing and original as it does to someone who is a modern rock/pop fan, but they can both agree on one thing. Whether you're listening to it for the complexities of the arrangements or the quality of songwriting; In Absentia is an incredible listen.

Report this review (#80916)
Posted Sunday, June 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album screams and implores: EDIT ME!

Seriously, there is a lot of good music here. Wilson noticed this, and decided to repeat said good music. A lot. He's talented at everything he does, but somebody else really should be editing his albums.

Very few songs do not grossly overstay their welcome. As a result, this album is far too long; if PT had edited this down to around 45 minutes, then this would probably be a 5 star album. But they didn't, and it's not. Judging also from parts of The Sky Moves Sideways, concise is word that Steve Wilson needs to learn and take to heart.

Prodigal and Trains are the standout songs, although none of them are actually bad. I think the best example of how stretched this album is is Wedding Nails. This song is essentially 2 riffs, but it's over six minutes long. Hm. If I really wanted to hear that riff again, I'd listen to the album again! Strip the Soul is also not good in this regard; I only listen to the beginning because if I listen any longer I get the urge to shout at Wilson, "Stop playing that riff already!"

Overall, it is a good album for those who like space-rock with a metal edge (more than just an edge actually; almost every song has a metal-ish solo in it at some point, and Strip The Soul and The Creator Had A Mastertape are essentially metal songs) and would like to explore PT: just be ready to sit through some very excessive repetition or hit the skip button. I wish I could get Steve Wilson to be forced to produce an album that is under 45 minutes, like the old vynils. Then I think we would we see a true masterpiece from this talented performer.

Report this review (#82336)
Posted Friday, June 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Porcupine Tree's 7th studio album, "In Absentia", is an unusual work, when you look at PT's resume. First, beacuse unlike the rest of their albums, it's aggressive - less melodical by meaning. Second, it is the first album that comes out on a big record company, after many years when PT was half-indie. Under a high-budget contract, massive marketing and the breakthrough that exposed many people to Wilson & PT's genius work in their music.

Steven Wilson known for his concept albums, and you can feel it while listening to his works and even on his B-side projects (such as "No-Man"). In my opinion, it's an incredible exprience to listen to an album who is conceptually united. One song connected to another, and the whole album becomes a one big story of 68 minutes of complexed music.

On a concept album such as this one, you can't really seperate tracks, and to choose the best of them, but i tried my best :). The first is "Blackest Eyes". To be urnest, this was the first PT song i've ever heard, and that's what made me love this band so much. This opening track is one of the best of them (opening tracks). PT kept that level on the rest of the album, but this is definitely a highlight. What is so special in this song, is the hard, rugged guitar-riffs, The massive drums transitions by Gavin Harrison, and most of all - the vocal harmony that stays, like their last albums. The second is "Gravity Eyelids", which combines between the creations of the porcupines & classic music, and this combination also expresses on their 2 last albums. This is where PT have their advantage. Another great part in the song is the cut to the instrumental phase includes samples and a lot of distortions.

To conclude, PT proves again that theyr'e always ahead of their time, never let you down, and provides time after time marvellous albums that will be remembered for many years, being an inspiration to many generations of music. PT is an important milestone in the prog rock nowadays, and Steven Wilson's name is surely to be written in the golden book of Progressive music. 5 stars.

Report this review (#83117)
Posted Saturday, July 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is my first review here at Prog Archives, and while In Absentia may not be PT's best album it is the album that defines PT's sound. In Absentia is a excellent album. In which you will find PT going from ambient spacey rock (Lips of Ashes) to more of a metal sound (Strip the soul), and they do so very successfully [me(16) and father (42) are both able to enjoy this album].

This is probably a great starting point for those getting into PT.

Highlights: Gravity Eyelids, Blackest Eyes, Trains, .3.

Let Downs: None

Report this review (#87208)
Posted Monday, August 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Thanks solely to this website I have found another great album to enjoy for years and years to come. This band's great storehouse of musical influences are obvious throughout. However, unlike many other artists who end up creating music that just sounds like an inferior version of those original influences, these guys have produced songs that can more than competently stand on their own merits. If the first four songs don't convince you then you might as well trash the cd. They are brilliant in every facet. The production quality, the arrangements, the engineering, the composition skills and the musicianship are five star. If there is a low point at all it's on "Wedding Nails" which sounds like the riff to "One Way Out" by the Allman Brothers performed in the diatonic scale. It's not so bad, it just doesn't fit and sorta retards the momentum that has built to that point. But the following tune "Prodigal" and the gorgeous ".3" raise the level back to incredible heights and it never lags again. One thing these boys understand is the concept of dynamics and they've learned well from Led Zep, Tull, Peter Gabriel and even Trent Reznor the art of never becoming predictable during the course of a song. While the whole album rocks, the tasteful use of acoustic guitars is so refreshing and the vocals sometimes bring to mind the experimental and haunting harmonies of Crosby & Nash on some of their work together. And few albums end as gracefully and hypnotising as this one with "Collapse The Light Into Earth." It is beautiful in its simplicity. In essence, this cd epitomizes what I listen to progressive rock for. "In Absentia" may be my first excursion into the entertaining and exciting world of Porcupine Tree but I can assure you that it won't be my last. It doesn't get much better than this.
Report this review (#93885)
Posted Monday, October 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars There is some heaviness on this record, but I think there is a nice balance. There are some "Lightbulb Sun" / "Stupid Dream" type songs like "Trains", "Prodigal", "The Sound Of Muzak" and "Heartattack In A Lay By". And songs like "Blackest Eyes", "Gravity Eyelids", ".3" and "Strip The Soul" that either are heavy or have some heavy outbreaks. Aviv Geffin from BLACKFIELD and John Wesley both add some background vocals on "The Sound Of Muzak" and "Prodigal".

"Blackest Eyes" opens fairly softly but that is blown away quickly by a heavy onslaught. Vocals before a minute. Man I love Steven's vocals.This song just moves me. Great chorus too "...I got people underneath my bed, I got a place where all my dreams are dead, swim with me into your blackest eyes". Riffs 3 minutes in followed by a calm, then the chorus comes back. This is one of my favourite PT songs, but then again there's a few of them on this album including the next one. "Trains" is simply classic and so tasteful. Strummed guitar and fragile vocals are so simple yet so emotional at the same time. An outbreak after a minute as Steven sings "A 60 ton angel falls to the earth, a pile of old metal, a radiant blur". Love the guitar after 2 minutes. This song is pure joy for me. "Lips Of Ashes" is psychedelic with acoustic guitar to start. Reserved vocals a minute in. Vocal melodies before 3 minutes followed by a melancholic guitar solo. Nice. "The Sound Of Muzak" opens with a good beat as the vocals come in. It has this amazing sing-a-long chorus too.The guitar solo after 2 1/2 minutes is fantastic ! Vocal melodies later. "Gravity Eyelids" is my favourite on here. I just get blown away everytime I hear the mellotron in the intro. A beat comes in then vocals as the mellotron continues. The chorus is emotional as piano and synths come in. After 4 minutes the riffs hit and run until we get a full attack. Amazing ! Check out the synths too.

"Wedding Nails" is a rip snorting instrumental. Riffs with spacey synths after 2 minutes, and I love the guitar that plays over top. "Prodigal" sounds great and the chorus sounds even better.This is just a feel good song. One of my favs. ".3" has this good bass intro as synths then drums and guitar join in. Nice rhythm to this one. A change before 3 minutes as the rhythm stops and a psychedelic haze follows.The rhythm returns 4 minutes in. "The Creator Has A Mastertape" opens with guitar and then a beat takes over. Nice bass. Processed vocals before a minute.The synths before 1 1/2 minutes sound great. A killer sound 2 minutes in as contrasts continue. "Heartattack In A Lay By" opens with the sound of cars going by as synths and guitar play gently. Vocals come in. Backup vocals 2 1/2 minutes in. Cars can be heard driving by as the song ends. "Strip The Soul" opens with an ominous bass line with synths. Drums then vocals follow. It kicks into gear before a minute.The contrast continues. Nice interlude 2 1/2 minutes in of drums and some atmosphere before it kicks back in. "Collapse The Light Into Earth" begins with piano as vocals come in. Mellotron 1 1/2 minutes in. Strings after 3 minutes.

This is the first PT album I heard and it's still my favourite.

Report this review (#95760)
Posted Thursday, October 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars In Absentia- I am farily new in discovering Pocrupine Tree, but this album blew me away. I am a huge fan of spacey and extended symphonic songs and Porcupine Tree delivers that as well as hardrock, metal, acoustic and many other styles in spades. The vocals are very good and the production of the album is pristine. I am trying to get a hold of Coma Divine Live but it is next to imposible to find. But until then In Absentia is my most listened to album on my I pod since Buckethead. Well i give this album five stars. Trains is a great tune and my girlfriend loves when i play it. Thanks Porcupine Tree for helping my relationships run that much smoother.
Report this review (#98245)
Posted Friday, November 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Porcupine Tree seems to be one of those bands that always comes within a hair of creating a masterpiece, and I think In Absentia is a great example of this. Can you find a better trio of opening songs than the ones featured on this album? "Blackest Eyes" is able to weave an almost perfect balance between emotional melody and pure rock power, "Trains" is perhaps the band's most nostalgic accomplishment to date, and "Lips of Ashes" takes the listener on a spacey journey, culminating in a beautiful guitar-vocal unison toward the end. It is "The Sound of Muzak," however, that seems to break the near-perfect flow. And I would argue that it is these types of simple, bass-driven songs which contribute to the album's falling short of a five star rating. Don't get me wrong: I have no beef with some of the band's hard rock leanings. For me, "Wedding Nails" is an example of an instrumental on this album that rocks hard but still contributes to the album's coherent flow.

When everthing is said and done, this album is without a doubt one of the band's finest achievements. It features some of their best work, and it successfully blends hard rock with their traditional psychedelic tendencies. Songs like "Trains" and "Prodigal" alone make it hard for me to give this any less than five stars. And when an album fades out so beautifully as it does with the string-supported "Collapse the Light Into Earth," it is almost easy to convince yourself that you've listened to a masterpiece. Nevertheless, I feel that some of the pieces here simply take away from the atmospheric flow initiated by the opening trio of songs, and I just can't bring myself to declare this wonderful album a masterpiece.

Report this review (#98976)
Posted Wednesday, November 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars With the 2002 release IN ABSENTIA PORCUPINE TREE clearly moves into a different direction with their music compared to the 1999 album STUPID DREAM and the 2000 album LIGHTBULB SUN. Better? Worse? NO: JUST DIFFERENT! I guess that's why they call it PROGRESSIVE music. Because the band is progressing as well and exploring its boundries. Maybe that's why PT is so hard to be "boxed".

All together IN ABSENTIA is another great PT album with some highlights, but also with some flaws. Highlights would be: Trains, The Sound Of Muzak, Heartattack In A Layby and Collapse The Light Into Earth. Flaws would be: Wedding Nails and The Creator Has A Mastertape. To bad those 2 tracks were not deleted or replaced. If so it would have been a 5 star album all the way. Now I rate it 4.

Report this review (#99856)
Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I came across this Porcupine Tree album when I was looking for recommendations to Dream Theater's Octavarium (which I had purchased about a month or two after its release). I had seen the name a few times before, so I was curious and I bought the album in late August 2005. After I listened to this album, I realized that it was one of the best albums I had ever heard.

In Absentia has a diverse range of songs, from the heavier "Blackest Eyes" and "Strip the Soul" to the softer "Trains" and "Collapse the Light into Earth". The album also exihibits a diverse amount of genres, like the psychadelic ".3", the dark "Gravity Eyelids" and the instrumental "Wedding Nails". Every song on In Absentia is very strong, and they fit very well together. I enjoy listening to every song, my personal favorites being "Gravity Eyelids", "Wedding Nails", ".3", and "Heartattack in a Layby". In my opinion, there is not a weak point on the album.

Overall, I would say this is a flawless album. It is one of my personal favorite albums. I don't listen to a lot of older progressive music, but I would recommend In Absentia to any person who enjoys listening to rock or metal. I realize that 5 stars should not be given out to liberally, but I believe this is too good of an album to deserve anything less. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#100272)
Posted Friday, November 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've been folowing Porcupine tree's work since the "signify" album was released. "In Absentia" starts with an electric guitar playing octaves in drop D... The sound creates stress... exploding with the band! I'd never expected something so strong from their part! Incrideble! The album have very good themes, very well harmonized (vocaly). I think that we start to get the notion of Opeth's influence in Steven Wilson's work. More heavy parts, in substitution of old rock riffs: a glimpse of modern sound! But, meanwhile we've got the most beautiful tunes (crying ones) with a great "choir" work. Many takes us to Pink Floyd's era! Very good! The album is very well produced. Every instrument have body and presence. All played very well!

I think we've got the right balance between old and new! This is a album to remember!

Report this review (#101073)
Posted Thursday, November 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars You know an album is good if you get 10 people together and chances are good they will all name a different song as their favorite. There are so many highlights and each song has its own unique sound that there is something to like for anyone who likes progressive rock. There is metal on the album on several of the songs, but only really two or three that could be called fully metal. There are beautiful soundscapes and wonderful guitars, both electric and acoustic. This is Steven Wilson at his peak but the other musicians contribute mightily. The production is clear and each instrument is given space. The Sound of Muzak, Trains, and .3 are my favorites. The last song, Collapse the Light into Earth, is my least favorite but is mentioned by some as one of the best. Easily five stars. A masterpiece.
Report this review (#101883)
Posted Wednesday, December 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Ah...Porcupine Tree. Thanks to Prog Archives I ventured out and acquired a couple of their albums. What was everyone raving about? Well I have to say they are a great band and refreshing especially as Prog Music in the 90's/00's has diminished in terms of the commonality of 'big gun' bands being present,Steve Wilson is an incredible talent as is Richard Barbieri of Japan and Rain Tree Crow fame. The album itself I would classify as good but not excellent.Songs like ' Trains', ' Heart Attack in a Layby' and ' The Sound of Musak' are the album highlights. Porcupine Tree have a distinctive sound of that there is no doubt. I do find their music loses it's 'shelf live' more quickly than some early 70's prog bands where incredibly the music sounds ageless.I think Porcupine Tree did even better with Deadwing but still In Absentia is a very good album
Report this review (#103078)
Posted Thursday, December 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I wish the media would stop referring to Porcupine Tree as "Modern prog" to me is stuffed with Yes, Genesis and Pink Floyd wannabes like The Mars Volta, Dream Theater, Pain Of Salvation, Kayo Dot and others. Porcupine Tree are NOT part of the "Modern Prog" camp in any shape, form, or fashion. And for those of you who are not familiar with Porcupine Tree, they have been frequently compared to Pink Floyd. But one thing is clear Pink Floyd never sounded like this. The genius mastermind Steven Wilson has created a masterpiece of really progressive music. " In Absentia" takes Porcupine Tree to a new level in their sound. All the songs are beautiful soundscapes that are catchy, intelligent and very complicated and layered at the same time. It's easy to get into, but not easy to let go. Masterpiece!
Report this review (#103688)
Posted Tuesday, December 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Porcupine Tree "In Absentia" is one of the best albums of the decade, the album structure flow together to produce a cohesive and interesting musical masterpiece. In Absentia is beatifully, lyrically and musically and i was amazed to hear such beauty from a band of modern music. This band started with Steven Wilson alone, and now Porcupine Tree are destined to become one of the greatest band in music history. A truly phenomenal music effort. Masterpiece!
Report this review (#103790)
Posted Wednesday, December 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is probably my favorite album from PORCUPINE TREE. It is heavier than Sky Moves or Lightbulb Sun, since there is a stronger metal touch here. The music is moving and varied, though. There are heavier passages, like the wild instrumental "Wedding Nails", dreamy and spacey passages like the album's best track, "Lips of Ashes", and true rockers like the opening "Blackest Eyes", which flows very well into the moving "Trains". There's not a bad song here, and the band is here to prove that modern music can be decent too. It is nothing mindblowing, though, hence the three starred rating.
Report this review (#108172)
Posted Saturday, January 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
5 stars This album was my first by Porcupine Tree. I was introduced to this band by AOL's progressive internet radio station. I ordered it from BMG's music club as one of my intro selections. I'm sure many of you diehard prog fans know these clubs are mostly a waste of time. They tend to have mostly stuff you already have and few things you want to get.

When I first listened to this CD I became hooked on the band and promptly raided as much of their back catalog as I could get my hands on. Unfortunately in 2004 there was a lot of stuff out of print. But I like everything I've been able to lay my hands on.

The first thing that impressed me was the CD booklet. It looks like some effort was spent on the art work. Of course, cool album art does not in and of itself enhance an album, there has to be substance in the music. My first musical impression was that the gunk gunk gunk, etc. heavy metal guitar bits were odd but interesting. There's also some Crosby, Stills, and Nash like vocals here and there. But the predominant sound I was hearing was progressive. It has a nice complexity and still retains a nice level of accessibility. (Not that I've been one to shy away from difficult listening music).

The music and the musicianship was solid. The danger in becoming in a Porcupine Tree fan is that Steven Wilson is rather prolific. After you collect all the PT releases, there's an even more massive collection of other projects he's done.

No point in doing a track by track here, 233 ratings and a smaller s-load of reviews. If you're a big fan of the "old school" prog, you're depriving yourself if you don't check the guys out. My favorite lyric on the album is "One of the wonders of the world is going down." Just because I have a dirty mind.

Report this review (#109138)
Posted Saturday, January 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars "In Absentia" (Latin): "in the absence ". In legal use it usually pertains to a defendant's right to be present in court proceedings. (Wikipedia)
But, what we are dealing with here is Porcupine Tree's seventh studio album, and their first on a major record label (Lava Records) in 2002. "In Absentia" is an extension of the path that the band had been on for many years now, a path of more palatable alt-rock, while still pushing boundaries in more subtle and acceptable ways. "In Absentia" is generally recognized by Porcupine Tree fans and the progressive music community, as the band's best effort in studio creation. It is a brilliant collection of both 'rock-able' and ballad tracks, and nothing ridiculously long; a far cry from their days of "Voyage 34" and "The Sky Moves Sideways" in boasting 20- minute epics. Ever since the release of "Signify" in 1996 the band moved sideways themselves, shifting onto a different plane of music, basically to begin producing more mainstream rock. This may sound a little blunt, and harsh, but what Porcupine Tree molded into post their 'musical-wankery' of "The Sky Moves Sideways", was very intruiging. This was a new sound that flunk-heads of plain 90's rock could appreciate, but was still driving in behind and underneath with new and exciting experimentations. The result was like an interesting piece of musical candy; a harsh and crunchy alt-rock coating over a deliciously smooth and tangy progressive centre. Emerging from the alterations in the band's style were some brilliant servings of this audio-candy in "Signify" from 1996, "Stupid Dream" of 1999 and "Lightbulb Sun" in 2000. Now we arrive in 2002 with the release of "In Absentia" on Lava Records. First of all I must say, that this is an amazingly versatile, volatile and changing album from track to track, like few other things I have ever heard before. I'm not even sure if those are the right sort of descriptor words that I am looking for, but in any case there is so much different material packed into this recording. - The opener "Blackest Eyes" is here and there, over somewhere else as well, and at times I have no idea where it's at. The initial heavy-metal and distorted guitar riffs set you up for a good old piece of dark and driving rock from Porcupine Tree, but then the most mind-blowing whoosh of a transition sends you into a mellow and semi acoustic verse and chorus with beautiful vocals displaying sad and lonesome lyrics. But it keeps chopping back and forth between these lovely vocal sections and raucous heavy metal guitar hammerings, like the track can't decide what it wants to be. Sometimes this does annoy me after a while, but I love it all the same. - "Trains". My. God. In my opinion the stunner of the album (and the band's entire discography.), but that's open. The soft acoustic guitar at the start wanders around beneath one of the most beautiful vocal melodies I have ever heard. The crash into a more epic and electric verse is superbly well done, totally fluid and understated, it could slip by and you'd never notice more than any other drum fill. And the section of banjo, just another illustration of hugely vast range of sounds that Porcupine Tree employs in this album. - Further into the versatility of the band, we have "Wedding Nails", an instrumental session straying into the progressive metal territory. Two things that really work together here are the guitar and drums, most obvious at the opening of the track. The guitar riff starts out on it's own, but when the drums and rhythm come in beneath the whole texture of the phrase changes. More driving and hammering (nails), to me the initial guitar riff sounds totally different between the phases without and then with the drums. A wonderful piece of development, this track is really full of energy. - "Collapse the Light into Earth" turns around another corner, and falls into yet a different sector of the Porcupine Tree sound and ability, namely their ballads. Scattered through several albums from the band ("Lazarus" from "Deadwing" is another prime example), the ability to settle down and produce something slow and beautiful is effortless. Quite un-characteristic to the rest of the album, "Collapse" is largely just piano chords and vocals, but in listening one doesn't feel like anything has been stretched to do something different. The seams are all sewn perfectly together, and it is further tribute to Wilson and Porcupine Tree as musicians and composers. With regards to the rest of the tracks, almost everything is good or better. To me "The Sound of Muzak" is similar to the first track of the album, with the dark and light, although perhaps not as extreme in the fluctuation of styles. But to be perfectly honest cast all of that aside, because the centre-piece of this track is the guitar solo, a top-notch illustration of Porcupine Tree's progressive elements that is strange and interesting yet still perfectly calculated. "Prodigal" is another wonderful piece of mellow but exciting rock, while "Lips of Ashes" and "Gravity Eyelids" display dreamy work with ambient synths. "Heartattack in a Layby" is almost another lovely piano ballad, but is a bit more electronic in synth use to achieve a very somber tone. "Strip the Soul" I find a bit weak in parts, lacking a melody and direction of sorts, but it is still a fairly good song despite being a few minutes long for a straight rock track. However the only track I actually don't like, and will not listen to, is "The Creator Has a Mastertape". To me it is dull, with no tune, and not so much a pleasure to my ears. What I do like a lot about "In Absentia" though, is how worthy of production each track seems to be. There is nothing here which is a throw-away effort or a waste of time, just glance up and down the track times above. There is no filler work to bulk the record out, each piece is thoroughly composed and produced earnestly. The fact that almost every track is also an absolute pleasure to my ears is a further bonus, but certainly the consistency of effort in this album grants high praise to the abilities of Wilson in particular as a songwriter. A good many friends I have in my musical community, would argue that Porcupine Tree's more contemporary works would struggle to meet their classifications of progressive music. I do agree but only to an extent, as per my theory of the band's move sideways onto a different musical path. The shift from being like pre-"Dark- Side" Pink Floyd to pulling up along side say, Radiohead, could only have significantly diminished their purely progressive music. But I think Porcupine Tree have begun to haul it back, slowly. You can catch it at odd moments on the other albums, a few examples which spring to mind right now are "Signify" from the album with the same title and "Russia on Ice" from "Lightbulb Sun" and there are plenty more. But to me "In Absentia" sounds very different, and feels like a change back to more obviously progressive music, and I do think this becomes even more prominent on "Deadwing" in 2005, the studio release following "In Absentia". While it is plainly the most successful, "In Absentia" is far from my favourite Porcupine Tree record, if I may indulge myself in laying out further personal opinions. "Deadwing" and "The Sky Moves Sideways" are both at the top of my list, as I am an absolute sucker for any concept albums! But I have heard briefly and also read something recently about "In Absentia" as the story of a murderer from childhood through marriage, which is news to me and shall have to be investigated. However without any shadow of doubt AT ALL, "Trains" is absolutely my favourite individual Porcupine Tree song, hands down. But not just for that, "In Absentia" is a wonderful album with so much to be discovered, you can't go past it as an amazing set of songs. To those used to modern rock and wishing to venture into progressive music, I can think of few easier places to start. A nearly unbeatable audio experience is, most definitely, not absent from this album. The future of music is in the hands of those continually innovative musicians and composers, Steve Wilson and Porcupine Tree certainly fall within these elite ranks. ".Shiny and contoured, the railway winds." Trains - Pocupine Tree (In Absentia)
Regards, Chris Holdaway January 2007 Berlin, Germany
Report this review (#109204)
Posted Sunday, January 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars I see In Absentia as little more than a build up to Deadwing. The band was obviously progressing their style, and they hit a bit of a snare when trying to get to where they were on Deadwing. That snare is In Absentia. Stylistically, it's very similar to Deadwing, except the compositions don't have the great melodies or layers that their following album would achieve.

However, from the way the album starts out you wouldn't think it was anything less than a 5 star effort. "Blackest Eyes" and "Trains" are two of the band's strongest songs. Especially the later, a really touching acoustic ballad featuring Wilson's best vocal performance. Afterwards, the album really sinks into mediocrity. I find most of the compositions to be too bland, and unlike Deadwing, the commercial moments are more frequent and tedious.

Without fail Porcupine Tree include a song, "Strip The Soul", that nearly makes me ill. Excluding that track, In Absentia's problem isn't in having bad songs, it's just so mediocre.

Report this review (#111998)
Posted Tuesday, February 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Porcupine Tree's finest hour.

In Absentia follows the logical evolution Wilson and company started with Signify. Shorter songs, strong melodies, a harder, heavier (borderline metal) sound (probably due to Wilson's producing stint with Swedish death metallers par excellence Opeth), sumptuous vocal melodies, great spacy keyboards, all packed in masterfully written songs and upgraded by an amazing production job only Wilson can deliver. It is to be noted that In Absentia is also Gavin Harrison's first album with PT, and he brings the band to another level with his amazing creative playing. Precise, tight and colorful, his drumsticks are like paint brushes coloring the percussive side of PT. Neil Peart's praise of Harrison's work says it all. Elegant indeed !

Darker than any of PT's previous offerings, In Absentia is an album of contrasts. From the opening metal riff of 'Blackest Eyes' to the acoustic driven delight called 'Trains', Wilson and company never let up the creativity and diversity throughout the entire album. From brutality to beauty and back again.

All songs are great, nothing remotely weak here, and the running order balances the album perfectly, allowing you to breathe when necessary and headbang when you need it. My favorites (though I love them all) are the mini epic 'Gravity Eyelids' and the wondrous 'Heart Attack In a Layby', showcasing some of the best vocal melodies and harmonies these ears have heard. I was amazed to find out they could pull this one off live, and I was mezmerized when I witnessed it.

A cornerstone album, as important to this decade as was OK Computer to the 90's. An essential masterpiece, a must-have, I am short of words to say just how fantastic this album is. Get it, or suffer the consequences !

Five Stars and you better believe it !

Report this review (#112176)
Posted Thursday, February 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars what can I say abour this album...for me, the best album of Porcupine Tree, its really a masterpiece, besides that, Porcupine Tree is one of my favourites bands, and this album was the second one I listened of them (Lightbulb sun the first one)

all the songs of the album are really great!, but, for me, the best ones, are "Blackes Eyes", "Trains", "The Sound of Muzak", "Wedding Nails", and "Gravity eyelids", but, I still recommend to listen to the hole album carefully, all the songs are remarcable!

Five stars for these Masterpiece of prog music, an obligation to everyone that likes Porcupine tree

Report this review (#113620)
Posted Monday, February 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Wilson goes heavy.

This album introduced me to the works of PT, and although it's not my favorite or their most complete, it was intriguing enough to get me to explore more of the band. While this is very much a more commercial release than their earlier material, it is still quite good and the songwriting is nothing short of excellent, even if it is not as progressive as previous outputs.

For a commercial album, it has the ability to be incredibly diverse, with a much wider variety than would be expected. The heaviness of the material I think is an apparent influence from SW's collaboration with Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth. Don't be scared though, there's no growls. The album remains very melodic, insightful, and Wilson is still on the top of his game. It's really hard to distinguish the quality of the tracks, but I must say I do prefer Trains over the others, if not for the very simple yet intriguing guitar lines.

If previous PT albums seemed to experimental to you, or you are looking for a more modern sound, In Absentia may be a perfect fit for you. The songwriting abilities are the best aspect of this band by far, as SW is the man when it comes to crafting music. Not their best, but certainly a fine little piece of music.

Report this review (#113711)
Posted Tuesday, February 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This was my first Porucpine Tree album and i had never heard of these guys before......and i liked what i heard......quite a lot. The stuff seemed to have a dreamlike quality,you slip into a dream when the song starts only to come out of it when it ends...... And in my humble opinion,this is a great listen right from the moment Blackest Eyes explodes on your speakers to the moment it all fades away in "Collapse the Light onto the Earth"........ Porcupine Tree have often been called "Progressive Pop" maybe because the songs have a simpler structure than your usual prog stuff. But then again there is something about these songs which when a person familiar with progressive rock listens to promptly states "Progressive Rock". Loud and quiet in patches there are few moments that i do not like and perhaps it all gets too quiet (Heartattack in a Layby) sometimes,but the effect of this album on you can be strange depending on your frame of mind. Me.i have always been more attracted to how music can effect the listener and perhaps i have never been that concerned with the can see the influence of Pink Floyd here all too clearly.....this band not only relies on technique but on evoking emotions....even though those emotions might be very confused.. My pick would be The Sound of Muzak which has great lyrics and great music..........a must hear.........actually to say the truth...thats the only song whose lyrics i understand...but they are devastating lyrics.......i assure you. A very good album...many of the songs are a must hear...i would highly recommend this to not only fans of progressive rock,but also fans of rock and music in album you dont get bored of easily.......
Report this review (#114705)
Posted Friday, March 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars What the crap!!!!! I know I live in Kentucky where we sometimes forget to wear our shoes, (just joking, I promise), but why did I have to hear about Porcupine Tree by accident...while I'm playing Madden football for Pete's sake.

Anyway, now that I've heard them, or more acurately, him, I think Porcupine Tree is the best new group I've heard since I first listened to Script for a Jester's Tear in 1982. And In Absentia seems to be the most complete effort I've heard from them so far.

1. Blackest Eyes....9/10. Very modern, rocking, and melodic. 2. Trains....10.....This is just an awesome song. 3. Lips of's moody and melancholic, very atmospheric. 4. The Sound of Muzak...9.....This seems to be a big beef with Steven Wilson. He's very pessimistic about the music business and people's sheeplike adherence to the fodder they feed us. He's spot on with what he says. The lyrics are some of his best. 5. Gravity Eyelids...8...Similar in mood to track 3, but it takes a dinstinctly hard turn in the middle. 6. Wedding, wait, make that a ...9....The song starts as an 8.5 but gets better as it goes along. 7. Prodigal....9......Fools you out of the gate with it's leisurely guitar. Then it kicks into another gear, with some of the boldest guitar work on the album, and great melodies. 8. .3....This one gets an....8....A great song, but doesn't strike as strongly as some of the rest. Maybe it will in a few months. 9. The Creator Has A Mastertape...8...again not one of my favorites, but this album is so good I can't give anything less than an 8. Most frenetic song on the album. 10. Heart-attack In A Layby.....10....A masterpiece that looks inside one of the saddest moments anyone can experience, yet we don't dare sing of it. Thank you Steven Wlson for this song. 11. Strip the Soul...another 8....I would parts of it a 6, other parts a 10. 12. Collapse the Light Into Earth...10....I think it must be a courageous thing for such a musically gifted musician to write and record music this simple. But, again, thank you Steven Wilson for sharing the beauty you heard instead of boring us by showing off.

Report this review (#115457)
Posted Saturday, March 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Absolutely brilliant, Porcupine Tree has moved from one of those meh bands to my top three in seconds. They're up there with Dream Theater, Rush, Kamelot, and Ayreon. Absolutely Incredible musicianship. Dark, melodic, and yet something everyone can enjoy. Bass guitar is so good, so is everything else, I just love the bass. I first started wtih Deadwing with Porcupine Tree and thought they were okay, loved Lazuras, Shallow the usual. But one day I sat down and listened to all of Deadwing and completely fell in love. I told myself I needed more, and I did. Soon I had In Absentia in my hands. I bought it used and when the person told me it was in perfect condition it came to me with a shattered case. However, the booklet, CD were all perfectly intact. So I just switched jewel cases with another dumb CD and listened to this one. Instantly I fell in love with it and had it in my car for a very, very long time. No joke. Everysong has it's own power, melody and meaning. Psychedelia has never gotten better. People ask me who Porcupine Tree is and I tell them a darker, harder version of Pink Floyd. Heck, yes, and it's brilliant. 5/5 stars for almost every album. Not really, but for this one I would complement it's musical structure, catchyness, and many, many more things that I'm too lazy to explain. Just listen to it, it's incredible.
Report this review (#118101)
Posted Thursday, April 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "In Absentia" is the third of the lauded PT era and perhaps their most beloved work. All of these titles are excellent albums and I've yet to absorb them all over enough time. This album took on a more aggressive stance with the addition of more metal riffing and is also notable for the entrance of Gavin Harrison on drums. Harrison is equivalent to Neil Peart to many prog fans and his talents give PT a huge advancement in their sound. "Blackest Eyes" and "Sound of Muzak" continue the band's flirtation with quality modern pop-rock melody while "Heartattack in a layby" and "Gravity Eyelids" provide the eerie Wilson vision that continues to evolve with each release, something beautiful and sinister at the same time. The combination of moods in the songs and styles in the approach are what make this band so successful, and the next two titles would continue to build on this one.
Report this review (#118228)
Posted Thursday, April 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Uneven and overrated album.

I cant really understand why this album is tagged as an progressive album when its just a standard pop/rock record. It starts off good with Blackest Eyes, Trains and Lips of Ashes. All good melodic rock songs. Then there is The Sound of Muzak that really sounds like Muzak, you know, then kind of music you hear in elevators and on Clear Channel approved radio stations.

It gets better with the next track Gravity Eyelids. It builds up from quiet and harmonic tunes that speeds up to its climax in the end. The best part is from 4:30 and to the end.

Porcupine Tree makes beautiful melodic poprock tracks and its the slow songs thats their best, but its not very complex. They craft lovely melodies, but some times I think there is to much Auto Tune and Pro Tools involved that makes it sound a lill to generic.

If you like good melodies and harmonic production you cant go wrong with this album. To bad its a bit uneven and the bad tracks destroy a good album.

It gets 3 stars from me. Middle of the road.

Report this review (#118382)
Posted Saturday, April 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This was my first cd from PT and it sounds almost as good as in the beginning.

It's very weird that the songs are still worth of listening though they are quite poppy. It needs much from the creator to make long-lasting pop music - and that is one of the many secrets of PT's geniouses.

This music brings me places where I have ever been. I could listen Lips of Ashes all day long and imagine myself sitting on the top of a mountain.

And I also like the sad atmosphere that Collapse Light into Earth leaves behind.

Report this review (#120020)
Posted Saturday, April 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars On In Absentia, their first album for Lava/Atlantic, the forboding and fear of Porcupine Tree's previous work manifests itself in a bleak album filled with killers and lonliness. This album is the audio equivlent to mind bending cinematic terror studies like Saw and 7even, conveyed with crunching guitars and unsettling keyboards. Clearly influenced by his production work with Opeth, Steven Wilson's occasional obsession with the morbid dominates this work. The opening "Blackest Eyes", a rocker with a narrator who thinks "its so erotic/when your makeup runs," contains pounding instrumental sections and a creepily jovial vocal melody. The band not only approaches death metal on the heavy scale, but is more rhythmically precise, courtesy of new drummer Gavin Harrison. The album then takes you on a whrilwind tour through the catchy acoustics of "Trains," the paranoid minimalism of "Lips of Ashes," the stuttering rant of a single that is "Sound of Muzak" and the monolithic epic "Gravity Eyelids." Beginning with a lo-fi drum loop and building gradually to a rocking climax, the song is utterly apocalyptic in concert. "Prodigal" is a piece of lethargic britpop with a brilliant twist in the lyrics. After being introduced to the narrator, the listner gradually comes to the realisation that the friends he talks about are characters he watches on TV. The album is at its best on the last three songs, a triptych of such unrelenting black and grey colors that the impose claustrophobic atmosphere on the rest of the album. "Heartattack in a Layby" is a mellow, echoe drenched story of a man driving home to say sorry and instead succombing to death alone at a rest stop. "Strip the Soul" is a ragged and heavy song about murder and abuse, culminating in the two note guitar figure in the bridge section over which Wilson sings "this machine/is built to please/strip the soul/fill the hole/a fire to feed/a belt to bleed/strip the soul/kill them all." The coda to this album is a piano and string elegy, "Collapse the Light Into Earth." The string section is arranged skillfully by ex XTC keyboardist David Gregory (who curiously left XTC because of his reluctance to work with orchestration on their late-90s classic Apple Venus pt 1) and eventually all fades out but the mournful strings before they turn to silence too. Although not equalling the heartfelt emotion of their previous work, Lightbulb Sun, it is another strong and masterwork from these modern prog legends Porcupine Tree.
Report this review (#120586)
Posted Wednesday, May 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ah, here comes my review of Porcupine Tree's best masterpiece so far. This has also got to be the saddest album I've heard in a while, the kind of chill out sad which you cannot associate with frustratingly depressing doom bands like Anathema and My Dying Bride. Here it goes:

1. Blackest Eyes: A quiet intro paves the way for a grand entrance, with a very hard and progressive guitar riff in an uncommon time signature. It all immediately quietens down and Wilson's effected vocals come in. The tunes are very melodic, and the strumming keeps the song dynamic and moving. The proggish riff is repeated, this time leading to another hard syncopated riff. The riffing is very present and bright. A spaced out section follows this bit, before the riff is repeated once again, this time leading out with a small bridge. Good melodic song overall, but slightly repetitive. Not among the best in the album [7+]

2. Trains: Oh this makes for such a great song live. And not live. It is the staple of Porcupine Tree. This song defines their recent sound and style in my opinion. The relaxing strumming and heavenly vocals lead into the same riff with a slightly distorted guitar layered on top. Altough the 'train' is as such a metaphor, this song really instils an idea of motion. The clapping and banjo in the middle are quite a nice surprise, making for an unpredictable song. Some ambience leads back into the catch tune very beautifully. The drumming is also very interesting and uncliched. Great song. [9]

3. Lips of Ashes: Starts with some very atmospheric sounds and guitar arpeggios. To be honest, the intro didn't hit me as anything spectacular, but when it contrasted with the change at 1:20 or so, I noticed the beauty of Wilson's songwriting here. A very drifty song, sounding like older Pink Floyd to me, especially the way the vocals are written. The song also has a warm solo. Good, but not great. [7+]

4. The Sound of Muzak: A great intro. The sound of the acoustic is really beautiful and solid. I wonder what magic Wilson does in the studio... A very mellow and melodic section follows, with some perfect singing. The atmosphere is the perfect chillout you can imagine. A change and solo in the middle keep things interesting. The solo sounds distanly Opeth-ish to me. I think the collaboration between Opeth and Porcupine Tree was actually creating a mutual influence. The drumming is also very dynamic. Great song [8]

5. Gravity Eyelids: Though I dislike the suddenly all-too-evil intro, I love the rest. The vocals are clear and sharp. Very very spaced out, with almost science fiction mechanical sounds (highly effected drums). Then comes the catch tune. Ahh, amazing. Everything is good, down to the minute details, even the single chord strum that occurs just before the change. The heavy riff at 4:03 sounds prog metal in a restrained kind of way. I like it, especially when the sound opens up and the heaviness is let loose. At 5:15 comes a riff whose distant evilness is reminiscent of Opeth. The last part of the song is undeniably Opeth-inspired, with the slow lead and interesting melody lines. Great song. [8+]

6. Wedding Nails: This intro is surely memorable. It literally sounds like nails being nailed into your head. Amazing songwriting technique. The riff after this part sounds just a bit Opeth-inspired too, probably simply because of the octave intervals. This all leads into a very spaced out and psychadelic sounding section, complete with syncopated guitars, highly-reverbed drums, and crazy sounding lead lines. Very interesting. Another heavy riff at 4:30 or so fades out to more crazy mechanical noises. The ambience here sounds straight out of a horror movie. It reminds me of Silent Hill. It fades out on the ambience. [8]

7. Prodigal: A not so spectacular intro, which goes into a very melodic section with vintage sounding vocal lines. The song starts to get interesting at 2:22, taking a more Porcupine Tree like approach, though I dislike the totally modulated vocals here. A clock like sounding solo comes up around here. A very bluesy solo towards the end gathers some dignity for the ending song, which fades out quite quickly. Not one of my favourites. [7]

8. .3: The intro is one of the best I've heard from Porcupine Tree. The bassline beneath the atmospheric melody somehow manage to put me into a very nostalgic mood, bringing up memories of the past. Perfect composition and balance. The intro could literally go on for minutes because you'd never get tired. It has a certain soundtrack- quality to it, and is also quite Pink Floyd-ish. The song transitions slowly, with guitar strumming helped by some phasey synthetic sounds. The main vocal line is supplanted with some of the most beautiful backing vocals I've heard. The wah'ed guitar line is also very fresh sounding. The song fades out on the atmospheric string section. Spectacular. [9+]

9. The Creator Has A Mastertape: Bah, I hate the beginning. Sounds funny yet stupid. This song reminds me some of the tracks in Flying in a Blue Dream by Joe Satriani, especially Big Bad Moon. Especially the effects on the vocals and the funny bass line. Some heavy riffing comes in at around 1:40 to keep things interesting. 3:20 sees an almost techno like section with stuttering guitars and modern sounding vocals. I don't like this song very much, though it fades out quite nicely. [6]

10: Heartattack in a Layby: This has to be the most depressing song Porcupine Tree released. Piano, guitar, and ambience lay the groundwork for the heart-rending vocals. The guitar strumming that starts at around 1:20 reminds me of Pink Floyd or Anathema. This is heavily depressing stuff. Outstanding emotional content. The lyrics are beautiful. The way that the vocals are repeated distantly all around your head is amazing. Though this is not progressive music at its most progressive moments, I will give this a high mark because it is a very welcome break. [9]

11. Strip the Soul: A bassline very similar to the one in .3 opens up here. Wilson's bright vocals come up front. A heavy section follows, which immediately cuts back to the spacey bassline and back again. Nothing that great so far. A melancholic lead comes up, with the bass still going steady beneath it, going into a very Opeth-sounding riff at around 3:00, complete with the break preceding it. A funky section comes after this, with a noisy sounding solo, before going into the Opeth-ish riff yet again. It all calms down a bit after this, before going into one of their heavier riffs. Perhaps because I like Opeth, I find the riffs much to my liking, but the overall structure is somewhat lacking. [7+]

12: Collapse the Light into Earth: A melancholic closing. A piano playing simple chords plays while Wilson sings sad lines. The line "Collapse light into Earth" is so beautifully performed. A mellotron plays in the distance, setting up a beautiful atmosphere, along with all the nice synthetic instruments. This song would fit perfectly for a sad movie ending. Nicely done. [8+]

All in all, this is probably the best Porcupine Tree album. I'd very much like to give it a full five stars, but I think this album does have a few shortcomings that prevent me from doing so, especially the weak Mastertape track and Prodigal. However, I still recommend this album to absolutely anyone. Great album. OVERALL, 8.0

Report this review (#123196)
Posted Wednesday, May 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is the cd that introduced me to Porcupine Tree. I knew about them for a long time, but didn't really consider them my type of music, being more of a heavy prog metal fan. I bought this disc, and I was definitely suprised. This is easily PT's most accessible work. First of all, the production on this disc is second to none. Every instrument is very clear, along with Steve Wilson's vocals. It has a lot of hard rock moments, especially in Blackest Eyes and The Sound of Muzak. Blackest Eyes opens the cd, and it mixes a hard rock introduction, with a soft, almost poppish chorus. Very catchy.

Trains is my favorite song on this album. It starts out sounding a little like a Dave Matthews tune, but then adds some great little guitar solos. The vocals are the strongest on this tune I think. I especially love the handclap section at the end.

Lips of Ashes brings us back to a more traditional PT sound. It is very spacey with acoustic guitars and sound effects behind it. It is one of the most mellow songs on the album.

The Sound of Muzak has a terrific introduction with acoustic guitar and a very intelligent and rhythmic drum beat behind it. The lyrics really make this song - they say that music nowadays has no soul and is derived basically to make us consumers and brainwash us instead of creating a form of art. Just terrific. I agree.

Gravity Eyelids takes us back again to the spacey rock sound. This song takes a while to get into, especially lyrically. Around the 4 minute mark, it brings in some straight up hard rock riffs and really transforms the song into a masterpiece within itself.

Wedding Nails is the instrumental on the album. It really doesn't add anything new to the mix, but it is quite solid and an enjoyable listen.

Prodigal is another one of my favorites. Wilson's vocals are back in the high range with a mix of spacey rock and solid rock towards the choruses. Great mix of melody and instruments in this one.

.3 is another tricky one to listen to. It doesn't really sink in until multiple listens. Once again, very spacey with a great bass line throughout the entire song.

The Creator Has A Mastertape is just a great song. It is the most upbeat on the album. This one starts very mellow with bass and drums, and then goes all out into hard rock for the "instrumental" choruses. Plain fun.

Heart Attack in a Layby is another strong point on this album. This one has the most beautiful melody on this disc. The voices become layered after the initial verses take place. It proves to be an excellent effect and really brings back some older PT sounds.

Strip the Soul is a good song with very disturbing lyrics. Once again, bass and drums are the introduction to this one. This is the only song on the album that I can't justify the entire 7 minutes being utilized. Still good, but perhaps could be better with shorter track time. The solo sections toward the end get a little monotonous.

Finally, we get to Collapse the Light Into Earth. This is another beautiful song, both in the music and lyrics. The music becomes almost straight pop with the chord progression in the piano (vi-IV-I-Vsus/V). It can be repetitous but I can't help but love the simplicity of it at the end of the disc. It proves to be a lovely contrast, and the strings add to the beauty of it. Great closer.

My personal favorite PT album, just for its contrast of beauty and, well, not so much beauty. 5 stars.

Report this review (#124286)
Posted Friday, June 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars This album is highly regarded among PT fans, if not their most well regarded, but it was a deception for me, because there are some great songs, but their tendency to become more and more alternative pop/rock. To be fair this is among the bands i can't stand. Sure is some good songs like Trains and Wedding nail, but the rest is boring, and i can't listen the whole album at once. I have and listened thousands bands who sounds and play better than this Porcupine Tree. I don't know what is the hype with this band that everybody is on fire when is hered the name. For me is not even in my top 100 bands. Sorry to diseppointing the fans but 2 stars i guess is to much for this album.
Report this review (#125714)
Posted Thursday, June 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Despite my great admiration for "Fear of a Blank Planet" and "Deadwing"....."In Absentia" stands as my favorite Porcupine Tree album. All the elements that now define the "PT sound" are found here, laying the groundwork for their future accomplishments. An outstanding album from beginning to end, one of the best prog albums of recent years without question.

While bands such as Rush continue to damage their once-perfect legacy and others such as King Crimson simply fade into retirement - we have Porcupine Tree who have been at their creative peak for the past 5 years (and still going).

I won't do a track-by-track breakdown as this has been done too many times already. For those early PT fans who prefer the 'space-rock', Floydian sound of the band's early releases....I guess I can understand why this album troubles them. Truthfully, this is a band that is constantly evolving. As Steve Wilson himself has stated, the 'metal sound' that has grown with each successive album is simply another piece that has been added to the band's vocabulary - and that has allowed them to become one of the most interesting and diversified prog bands in the world.

5 stars. I'd give it 6 if I could.

Report this review (#125738)
Posted Thursday, June 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Porcupine Tree reached out to a larger audience with this release. Showgoers, clad in Opeth and Metallica wear, cheer until they're hoarse. One knows a space rock band has really nailed it (or totally missed it...) when they attract metal fans. Fortunately, Porc Tree have held a firm grip on their psychedelic roots. It is different, however, than it was in previous albums. Instead of having very little but a dark keyboard line and some soft guitar, we have an eerie riff played to please a metalhead, with the most ethereal and dark keyboards on top, making a very silently sinister, and altogether subtle, space rock adventure. There are also classic explicit psychedelic moments, as well.

Overall, the album spans across many genres, but always has an experimental and ominous edge. Simple pop, modern rock, true ambient, heavy metal, punk, genuine prog, even much classical music is here. The end result is something absolutely fantastic and something altogether new.

Gavin Harrison, Porc's new drummer, is really spectacular. Not only is he adept with the twin pedals and exceptionally speedy with the hands, but he's also heroically clever on the set and one of the most creative drummers in years. His drumming fits like a piece of a puzzle with the music, and I can just imagine Steven Wilson saying, "Where have you been my whole life?!"

The new metal edge to their music, which can be seen best in Wedding Nails and Blackest Eyes is very unlike progressive metal, in the sense that it isn't extremely complex riffs tied together with mind-blowing musicianship, constant changing time signatures, heavy bass drum, and the like. In fact, it's a nice type of metal. It's mostly about feel and atmosphere, as opposed to ridiculous talent (though it unmistakably has the latter). Even folk who hate metal will find themselves head-banging away to this. Many people would think Porcupine Tree (PT) a combination of Pink Floyd (PF) and Dream Theater (DT). The formula: PT = PF + DT. However, this formula is clearly false, as Porcupine's metal edge is much more interesting than Dream Theater's.

The psychedelic moments on this album are very strong, and not at all scarce. Neither does the ambiance overpower the album, like some of Porc's earlier albums where there is very little music, but mainly effects and production tricks. It finds a healthy balance, and remains safely in that radical middle.

After the album passes through the opposite ends of the dynamics chart, from speaker-blowing metal moments, to real contemplative ambient music, it reaches its highest moment with Collapse the Light into Earth. This is unquestionably one of the most simplistic songs in progressive rock history, yet also one of the most moving and memorable songs. Lyrics are particularly strong and thought-provoking (as all of Porcupine's is). It ends this perfect album perfectly. Not only is this album without a flaw, but it is utterly whole, utterly complete, and satisfies the listener completely.

Report this review (#126339)
Posted Tuesday, June 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is a potent collection of rock songs which strongly reminds me of classic Pink Floyd, of the Australian band the Church (with its nocturnal moods) and of the post-punk band Wire's most melodious moments. (Don't poke me, I know that Wire and the Church themselves were influenced by the Floyd.) If I hadn't discovered Porcupine Tree via Prog Archives, if I'd heard this album at a party for example, I wonder if I would have dubbed it 'prog rock'. Sure, the vocals tend to be in a Floydean vein; there are a couple of Gilmour-like guitar outbursts, some splendidly over-the-top orchestral moments, and even a couple of mellotron effects, but there are no keyboard solos (hardly any keyboards at all really) and the music sounds no more complex than ACHTUNG BABY.

If you take a look at the reviews this album has received, you'll notice that (as so often) this site's regular collaborators have mixed feelings, while SO many guest reviewers have awarded the album five stars that this has greatly benefited Porcupine Tree's position in the "Top 50 albums" poll. In many eyes, Porcupine Tree is the acceptable face of contemporary prog - and I must admit IN ABSENTIA is undoubtedly more fun to hear than anything by Neil Morse or the Mars Volta. There are a couple of "fortissimo" metal-type moments on the album, which rather get on my nerves (inspired by Opeth, apparently), but they seem uncharacteristic, so I'll be curious to explore PT's earlier releases.

Report this review (#127508)
Posted Wednesday, July 4, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars In Absentia is the greatest Porcupine Tree album, and an absolutely stunning modern prog classic. It is possibly my personal favourite album. The album opens with what is possibly its two strongest songs, with Trains being my favourite on the album. Even though it’s prog, it’s pretty accessible, more so than Deadwing and Fear of a Blank Planet. This makes it a very good starting point to newcomers of prog. If you want to show someone excellent modern prog, In Absentia is a pretty safe bet. Most tend to love especially Blackest Eyes. There are more than enough layers to keep the experienced prog listener busy too though.
Report this review (#129144)
Posted Wednesday, July 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars The great leap forward for the former ambient space rock band. Filled with metal, guitar solo's, spacy songs, beautiful ballads, and political messages. The only thing preventing me from giving this album a masterpiece rating, is it's lack of a phenominal song. Every song is quite superb, maybe except the creator has a mastertape, this album along with foabp, is the only PT album from Stupid dream plus, that is able to balance out the metal edge and the pshyc music, to where they compliment each other quite nicely. Besides the disapointing lack of a masterpiece/ epic song, the whole album is generally very enjoyable.

I guess I will review every song, for this album intrigued me before I got it, and I wanted to know more about each song the more I learned about this famous album.

Blackest eyes- I can imagine fans of the original porcupine tree cringing with digust after hearing the first minuete of the song. Pretty much a metal headbanger when there is no singing, and a smooth rocker with vocals. A good and exciting opener to me, but a bit to over the top to give it a super high rating. 4/5

Trains- Apparently this is the famous PT closer when in concert. Very beautiful song, with some very pretty acoustics and a phenominal instrumental section. I'm not too keen on the whole love song thing though. 4.5/5

Lips of Ashes- One of my favirote songs, Very harmonious lyrics, with a spacey rythym backround, and an epic guitar solo/ lead line. I wish it had a little more depth to it and more solo time. 4.5/5

Sound of muzac- Another PT landmark, a political message saying that music is going the wrong way, that it will cease to entertain, but just neutrilze you for a while. If you are n avid prog lover than you know this song is true, I believe it, just turn to your mainstream radio station and tell SW he's wrong! Musically, sounds a bit new wavey, good guitar solo, but once again not to complex or chllenging. 4/5

Gravity eylids- Great song, the first song on the album that has a lot of complex structure, and technology really does make this song sound like a pink Floyd song of the future. The song does kind of meander though, it's only seven minuetes long, so I guess it might just be my musicl tastes. 4/5

Wedding nails- A good instrumental, but nothing compared to the old ones, too much metal and not enough structure... once again. Though this song does flow like normal PT songs, a single guitar riff, and everybody else flying around it. But I feel ther is too much guitar, maybe thats why this album is not the greatest, too much guitar, not enough anything else. 3.5/5

Prodigal- Really cool instrumental bridge! Though, I'm not very fond of the pitty party lyrics, the musicianship is great. Sadly, the tree would try and reinact this song on Deadwing, but make those sons just soundlike wannabe classic rock songs. 4/5

3- maybe my favirote, because it reminds me of Sgnify, they're greatest album. It just takes a load off you mind as it flows very effortlessly, but they use a very annoying and distracting bass line throughout the song. (which they do in the creator has a mastertape and strip the soul, which are equally annoying) 4.5/5

The creator has a mastertape- probably my least favirote on the album, too agressive, too dark, too not porcupine tree. Though I do like the use of the voice overs, which he uses in the next albums, where they sound good on those as well. 3.5/5

Heartattack on a laybye- Not sure I understand this song, it reminds me of 3, but a little more pshycodelic, and trippy. Not very many parts that stand out, but it's better than the last song. 4/5

Strip the soul- A fun song, kind of an aggressive song like creator, but sounds more like PT than some wannabe metal song. After some hard lyrics and harder music (including the annoying bassline),an acoustic part come in where SW sings the chorus a coupel of times, while THREE guitar overdubs come in, this album is overly drenched with guitar! Afterwards, a very silent part... then... the most bone crushingly heavey thing I have ever heard! For a non metal band, they can be quite heavy! 4.5/5

Collapse light onto earth- Following the tradition of classic laid back porc tree closers, a very pretty song, that can almost bring tears to my eyes after being punched in the face by that last moment in strip the soul. THE PIANO IS BEAUTIFUL! 4/5

Yuck, bad review, I'll need to fix this! 3 stars

Report this review (#132486)
Posted Friday, August 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
1 stars Porcupine Tree decide to split the difference between nu-metal and alternative britpop-style rock and in our infinite wisdom, the resulting album shoots directly and deservedly into the prog consciousness. Wait, what? Are we the "In Absentia" market? Have we lost our collective judgement? I felt deceived the moment I pressed play but I bravely endured this godforsaken CD for the purpose of a review, only to discover music buried under a stampede of footprints from the '90s rock-world's worst culprits: Korn, Sevendust, Rage Against the Machine and many more.

To be fair, during the quieter moments of the CD there are vague hints, only here and there, of a band that was once influenced and absorbed by psychedelic rock and the stadium Floydisms that were built out of it, and elsewhere you can hear the melodic contributions of Phil Collins to pop, recaptured in a harder rocking format. "Lips of Ashes" is a good example of these two moderately-benign influences being entwined to pleasant effect, then baptised in a dream-poppy reflecting pool. "The Sound of Muzak" does a passable RadioTool impression and although the chorus is irredeemibly awful, the textural quality of the song really is kind of neat - in fact, the musicianship is generally craftsman like, and Wilson's voice, though limited, has an endearingly frail quality to it that works well thanks to the downtrodden lyrical concept. That's all good news.

The problem is that at least half of these songs are straightforward nu-metal or college rock cliche-athons, with only cursory attempts at concealing this unsavoury truth. The extended track, "Gravity Eyelids", claimed as the favourite of many previous reviewers, contains a "down"-section so disturbingly similar to Korn's verse trademark - what with individual trem notes hanging in mid-air, foggy with trip-hop beatdropping and random sci-fi chord collections - that I feared I might hear a distorted crunch and the trolled words, "Bring it doooooown"... and later still in the same song we get to hear a prime RAtM blues-crunch IQ-reducing rawk riff. NO THANK YOU.

Wedding Nails promises a return to sane and relatively-prog-related music by throwing out a Voivod horn-throwing fourthy metal riff and then manages to ruin it by using funk metal as a substructure. Brilliant. And so it goes on, song after song exhibiting unwanted influences from the angst-peddling college crowd - Korn's legacy in particular recurs frequently. It truly makes me wonder how people don't cringe through this album.

I'm not going to write a conclusion to this review because it's obvious what I'm going to say. Instead, I'd like to close by saying that "The Creator Has a Mastertape" starts with a pretty funny swerve of the "Super Metroid" item room theme. Dorky, wasn't it. ;P

Report this review (#137347)
Posted Sunday, September 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars "PT" is a very prolific band. Almost each time, they achieve good results and this one will be no other. But I would have expected more, actually. Wilson has collaborated with "Opeth" at different levels and you can hear this influence in several songs from this album. The other tendency will be to write more short-formatted pop-rock songs instead of true space-rock ones. As usual some acoustic moments will complete the whole.

There are some tracks truely on the hard side like "Blackest Eyes" which is a very powerful song and the most commercial one here. Also one of my preferred one because of its nice melody. "Wedding Nails", on the contrary has no big deal to offer. Repetitive riff, aggresive but meaningless. Vaguely spacey for a while but more than anything improvised. Noisy and very much dispensible. And "Prodigal" doesn't really reach me. Average at best.

To compensate these harder songs, some mellowish like "Trains" has to do the job. A folk ballad for most of it (except the very end). Not memorable, nor brilliant. Hand clap at the end reminds "Ommadawn" part I (also the closing section). "The Sound Of Muzak" is a more traditional "Porcupine Tree" type of track. Beautiful melody for the chorus, some pleasant background keyboard and lots of off- beat drumming. Good but not great.

"Gravety Eyelids" is a combination of both. Spacey and melancholic for most of it and heavy beat during the last third of it; very much "Opeth" oriented. Just average IMO.

The second very good song on this album is "3". Spacey opening (at last), hypnotic beat, melancholical vocals, emotional keyboards. A great combination really. It brings this album again in the good territory but it is unfortunately directly followed by "The Creator". This sounds very poor : a very noisy one, almost punkish at times and the heavy/funky "Strip The soul" is not my cup of tea either. So, even if there are no real bad song (maybe "The Creator") I can't say that I am submerged by enthusiasm listening to this album.

I am of course not a "PT" maniac, but I can't rate this album over three stars. Two great songs, a bunch of good ones and several average ones. That' s my feeling.

Report this review (#141396)
Posted Monday, October 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album always leaves me a bit confused, as the sum doesn't seem to add up to more than the original parts. After the terrific opening four songs, the quality becomes very hit or miss for me, and overall In Absentia lacks a cohesiveness that I need for an album. Plenty of great songs, some average ones, and not especially well-linked. There's certainly nothing wrong with writing singles, but they need an overall diversity and quality that In Absentia doesn't quite deliver.

Blackest Eyes, Trains, Lips of Ashes, The Sound of Muzak. What a way to open an album! Plenty of heavy rock, incredible melodies, beautiful harmonies, and fresh sounds. Obviously these guys have quite a lot of talent (both playing and writing), and it's on full display with this set of tunes. Harrison on drums is particularly impressive, and Wilson shows a nice diversity of guitar tones. Unfortunately the rest of the album can't live up to this quality.

The highs: Wedding Nails, Prodigal, .3, Strip the Soul. First of all, none of these tunes are as good as the opening songs in my opinion. However, I find each enjoyable, from the heavy, unrelenting riffing of Wedding Nails, to the floating steel guitar on Prodigal to the spacey guitar and mellotron on .3. Also, once Strip the Soul gets going, and you immerse yourself in the lyrical content, you are in for one heavy, bleak ride.

The lows: Gravity Eyelids, The Creator Has a Mastertape, Heartattack in a Lay By, Collapse the Light into Earth. There's nothing really grating or bad here, but these seem to be slow (except The Creator...) and uninteresting, though Gravity Eyelids does have a nice final half if you choose to make it that far.

Given the high praise and success of this album, I'm very surprised that the Tree later made Fear of a Blank Planet, though I'm certainly glad that they gave the theme album and extended pieces a try again. Probably a good halfway point between prog and radio friendly material, In Absentia fails to really excite the progger in me.

Report this review (#141790)
Posted Wednesday, October 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Atmospheric, overcast, perfectly modest.

Porcupine Tree keeps it simple.

A friend sent me In Absentia and I realized that Collapse the Light into Earth and Heartattack in a Lay By were missing (although I had heard both before). In addition, my music player definitely had the order mixed up. Getting them arranged properly unmistakably enhanced the album, but the songs out of order (maybe take away Strip the Soul) are still individually brilliant.

Porcupine Tree covers many fields here; everybody and their dog can meet in the middle for a merrymaking of new age rock music. For example, I know I was impressed by the hints of genres that were furthest from my comfort zones. I was captivated by tracks such as The Creator Has a Mastertape and Wedding Nails for the metal touches; the string accompaniments in .3 and Collapse. Meanwhile, I had my soft piano and vocals to snuggle with at night.

There is a striking dynamic opening, beginning with Blackest Eyes. The entire album plays with dynamics and volume. The whole band just explodes and right then and there, we're inside the Porcupine Tree (not so stupid) dream.

As an acoustically and vocally-inspired musician, I am biased for this, but Trains is easily my favourite off the album and from the Porc Tree. It keeps a fairly straightforward acoustic guitar with hammer-ons amid heavy riffs. Wilson's self-vocals are, as always, first-class. Nearly every review on In Absentia raves about the banjo solo and the hand clapping fadeout. This review will too. It sounds like clacking train tracks. It truly paints a vivid picture; although, who knows exactly what the peculiar lyrics are talking about?

The best of the best: The Sound of Muzak - The catchy concept every prog fan can agree on. Sort of an appetizer for Fear of a Blank Planet (bearing in mind appetizers are often better than the main course). Gravity Eyelids - Their most psychedelic piece on the album that takes a good four minutes to realize you love it. Wedding Nails - The wild metal-inspired instrumental. .3 - Prodigal's much more attractive older brother.

Collapse the Light into Earth is an ideal example of Porcupine's excellence in simple music. Melancholic. I'm sure that hasn't been used to describe this track before. It has an incomplex four chord progression. It's repetitive, which is fine. There is beautiful echoing. They could have easily overcooked the vocals, but they do not. The fadeout is delicate; we are left a few seconds in awe and then we all scramble to find the replay button.

Report this review (#147704)
Posted Saturday, October 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
The Crow
4 stars After recording with Opeth, Steve Wilson made his music harder... And I love it!

"In Absentia" is diverse, like "Lightbulb Sun" was... But much more. The hard riffs are really harder than everything than Porcupine Tree made before... The psichodelic elements are here, and the typical Wilson's experiments and innovation... But the main innovation is the mind-blowing riffs in songs like Blackest Eyes, The Creator has a Mastertape, Gravity Eyelids, Strip the Soul... I love this mixture of the paceful Wilson's voice, with his mellow guitar solos wiht this savage guitars rythms... This fact make the Porcupine Tree's music ever more diverse than before, and really interessant to listen to.

This new Porcupine's face would be really perfectionated in "Deadwing", better than "In Absentia" in my opinion, with a real and clear direction... While "In Absentia" its a little erratic sometimes. Some songs are just great, but is not a flawless album... Lips of Ashes is a little boring, a song in the style of the Steve Wilson's project No-Man; Gravity Eyelids is just acceptable; and other songs like 3 or Heartattack in a Layby don't leave a deep mark... I miss some long songs here too, a Wilson's speciality.

Ok... But Strip the Soul is just great, Blackest Eyes is a perfect start, The Sound of Muzak has a great guitar melody and chorus, Prodigal mix pop melodies and heavy riffs in a sublime way, I love the Barbieri's piano in Collapse the Light Into Earth... The album has a lot of memorable tracks. Conclusion: a change in the Porcupine Tree's music... All the typical Wilson's elements are here, but the strong and heavy guitar riffs are a new thing, a fact that gives the album a lot of variety and makes it really enjoyable in my opinion. And this new way of making music, would be even better in later albums like "Deadwing"... "In Absentia" is not as good as this masterpiece, but it's really near... An excellent album.

My rating: ****

Report this review (#148377)
Posted Wednesday, October 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
5 stars Like a rich banquet of sounds and emotions, "In Absentia" delivers musical delights which positively destroy expectations with powerful, dynamic songs, and flawless production-- all to the elegant playing of these four artists who have, in my opinion, created one of the finest recordings ever.

There is not a single moment of boredom, cliché, or awkwardness to be found here-- the songs soar with meaning and poignancy. Creative, energetic playing and lyrics distinguish "In Absentia" even among the band's already distinguished works, and is the only album of theirs (to date) which I would say is a masterpiece. It has something for everyone, and is the finest example of Steven Wilson's talents as a musician and songwriter.

An absolute must have, and a contemporary cornerstone of progressive music.

Songwriting: 5 Instrumental Performances: 5 Lyrics/Vocals: 4 Style/Emotion/Replay: 5

Report this review (#149485)
Posted Wednesday, November 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of the bands best albums for sure. Blackest Eyes, Trains, The Sound of Muzak, Gravity Eyelids, Prodigal, and Strip the Soul are some highlights. The metal influence was already evident on parts of Stupid Dream and becomes obvious here. The band before made good trippy music, but this heavier aspect has given them their definitve sound. They weren't catchy or memorable until this influence was brought into their music. The result is one of the best albums of the 21st century.
Report this review (#152145)
Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is the archetypal second-stage PORCUPINE TREE album, the one on which STEVEN WILSON perfected the hybrid space rock/singer-songwriter meld. It is the album I loan to my friends curious about the development of progressive music since the 1970s, and without exception it stuns them with its scope and depth.

Not because PORCUPINE TREE is a direct descendant of bands like GENESIS, YES, VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR and GENTLE GIANT: clearly, it is not. Instead, the band has taken from many sources, progressive rock being one of them, and has put together something different. Something with feeling, with spirit, with superb musicianship, and something substantial enough to return to again and again. I see this album as 'Stupid Dream Mk III', and third time is indeed the charm. The brakes are off, the emotions grind and soar along with the guitars and synths, the messages hammer at us along with the rhythm section, and every interesting choice of arrangement or instrumentation simply serves to delight us even more.

There are no mistakes here. Unlike 'Lightbulb Sun', the progressive moments aren't corralled into the latter part of the album. Unlike 'Stupid Dream', the album isn't pop-heavy. 'In Absentia' combines elements of the British pop legacy (THE BEATLES), the harmonies that infuse American West Coast bands such as THE EAGLES, the psychedelia of the late 1960's and its offshoot, the space rock of the 70s, along with progressive metal tendencies (WILSON's work with OPETH begins to surface in this album). Put plainly, it is a skilful amalgam of beautiful tunes, wonderful vocal work, stellar percussion and bass, with heavy moments and blistering guitar passages, all on a solid compositional base. A recipe for enjoyment.

You get most of it in the first track. After a brief, gentle intro, 'Blackest Eyes' roars into action with a stellar riff, which gives way into a deliciously poppy verse and chorus. Lyrically outstanding, the song sets out the band's stall: look how comfortable they are here. Compositionally they hold the second appearance of the riff until two-thirds through the song, subtle rather than bludgeoning. The track winds up swiftly, a teaser, making way for 'Trains', acclaimed as a simply outstanding example of an acoustic-led song. The lyrics immerse the listener in nostalgia, and is filled with subtle touches - the haunting note at 4:42, for example (not in the demo) matches the mood of the song and evokes the subject. The acoustic and banjo solos are top-drawer: what musician would think of an extended banjo solo, anyway? The first chorus appears after two and a half minutes, probably the fourth or fifth genuine hook in the song. How could you not fall in love with this? WILSON is fairly overflowing with ideas: one can imagine elves with bowls running around catching them as they pour out of him. By the end the song is roaring at you, and you've hardly noticed the build, so engrossing is the music.

I do think there's only one way not to appreciate this album, and that is to review it after one listen. There are too many layers here for a single listen, yet it's immediacy and hooks make it seem as though it can quickly be summed up. Not so. Listen to 'Lips of Ashes', the album's first downtempo number. The band has chosen a delicate arrangement: they could have gone with a simple acoustic guitar, but instead the song is awash with shimmering psychedelic instruments and precise vocals. Easy to dismiss at first listen, this song's subtlety bears repeated listens. 'The Sound of Muzak' is another attempt at the subject canvassed by 'Four Chords that Made a Million', but is much more convincing musically and lyrically. Again a wonderful vocal hook in the chorus draws the listener in, nestled in a complex rhythmical bed. Those who dismiss the song as 'too poppy' - as though being able to draw the listener into a song with a great hook is a crime - have failed to see the deliberate irony of the music and lyrics. And there aren't many pop songs out there with such a shiny guitar solo backed by a shimmering organ.

And oh, joy, WILSON is confident enough now in his own identity to return to his work of the early 1990s for 'Gravity Eyelids', though the subject is definitely earthy rather than out there in the Milky Way somewhere. The earth moves sideways in these lyrics, rather than the sky. Keyboard-led, the song flows along until halfway, when distorted guitar chords raise the emotional tempo, bringing the song to - well, to a climax, from which it falls away gently. I can't see how this would fail to satisfy any fan of progressive music. 'Wedding Nails' is more disposable, a DREAM THEATER-esque track slightly out of context here, but WILSON seems determined to break the album up, and I'm all in favour of that. A sequence of splendid riffs see us through to an over-long finish, allowing the raw energy to dissipate. Deliberate, I'm sure, but it doesn't work for me. 'Prodigal' is a shimmering pop number with another of those trademark vocal chorus hooks: it's a measure of WILSON's compositional confidence that he now uses his voice rather than his guitar to shape his best tunes. Although he still has enough creativity to slip in a great riff! And when I say 'pop number', that's merely to contrast it with the more progressive work: there's no way this is a simple pop tune. Superior arrangement and musicianship builds something far more substantial than that. Listen to the FLOYDian slide guitars backing the song, for example.

After this song the album takes a sombre turn. PORCUPINE TREE mine the depths of the soul in the album's last half hour. This is where time and care taken is rewarded. There's nearly a 70s double album of music here, all densely packaged, and it's common for the listener to run out of energy at this point - which is a pity, as the melancholy, multi-layered, bass-driven '.3' is an essential listen, a soundtrack for the next world war. 'The Creator Has a Mastertape' despairs of ever knowing the reasons why, a searing combination of acerbic lyrics and psychedelic instruments raising the paranoia to heart-attack levels. Speaking of which, 'Heart Attack in a Lay-by' is WILSON's obligatory suicide/death-song: every PT album has one. Excellent as it is, it merely sets the scene for 'Strip the Soul', as bleak a canvas as I've ever heard. Dysfunctional family, rejection, death, murder: 'A fire to feed / A belt to bleed / Strip the soul / Kill them all'. Don't go here unless you're confident of your own emotional state. The music claws at you like talons from the pit seeking to drag you down, darker and more chilling than any ridiculously posturing emo/goth/death metal band. The ponderous chords of the last two minutes bring the song to a chilling end. The album finishes with the cold end of the universe as a metaphor for life. A slow trickle of piano reflects a barely functional psyche, a listener worn out, ground into the dirt by the combination of music and lyrics. 'Collapse the Light Into Earth' must be listened to in the context of the previous thirty minutes. If you don't feel crushed by this music you haven't listened to it properly.

No pop music here. I suspect many of the reviewers who criticise the album for it's accessibility never got this far.

PORCUPINE TREE is undoubtedly the best band you never heard of. And, equally undoubtedly, their music will be appreciated long after most other bands have been forgotten. This album is the one to buy if you want to hear them at their best.

Report this review (#153035)
Posted Wednesday, November 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars In absentia is less of a prog album, and closer to something like Radiohead with metal influences. However, although this is only about as prog as bands like Smashing pumpkins, and not as good as Porcupine tree's recent albums, it is still, at its best, some of the best straight rock music of the decade. The quality of production and song writing is frankly awesome, and, just as I would recommend that every one hear OK computer, I recommend that everyone hear this.
Report this review (#153217)
Posted Friday, November 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars In Absentia introduces Porcupine Tree's metal side and what great way to start a new sound for this band. Many people probably did not like like the tree putting more of metal sound into their music. But sometimes you have to change and progress and thats what they did. And this album album introduces Gavin Harrison on drums which is a great addition to the band, he gives more of the heavy feel on drums, and former drummer Chris Maitland drumming kind of reminds of Nick Mason at times, Gavin's style fits great with the direction they are going musically. I will not go through every song on this album but some of the great tracks on this album are the opener Blackest Eyes, Trains which shows great acoustic work from wilson and great vocals also. Lips of Ashes is another good one from the Tree, kind of Floyd like with some spacy guitar playing. Gravity Eyelids is builds up into a real heavy song and shows some great riifs by Steven Wilson. The creator has A masterpiece is a great Porcupine Tree song probably on e the strongest tracks on the album. Heart attack in layby is real dark song with just some soundscapes and amazing vocals by Wilson. The second half of the album is very different from the start, the second half of the album has more of mellow feel to it besides Strip the soul which is my least favorite song on the album. Porcupine Tree's first most recognized album and overall a Fantastic album. I'm gong to give this 5 stars because I am a big fan of the latest Porcupine Tree work than their earlier stuff,i still like the early works but the more metal oriented stuff grabs my attention more.
Report this review (#154934)
Posted Sunday, December 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars "The music of the future will not entertain. It's only meant to repress and neutralise your brain"

Continuing the trend of more recent albums, the tracks on "In absentia" are generally shorter than the lengthy prog pieces of their early albums. Love them or hate them though, for me there is no doubt that this album warrants the accolade "prog" in no uncertain terms. Gavin Harrison makes his debut on drums here, but this remains of course very much a Steve Wilson led project.

The opening "Blackest eyes" is a heavy but commercial piece with a strong hook, very much in keeping with the direction for the band Wilson appears to have decided he is most comfortable with. The softer mellotron soaked "Trains" which follows has some fine acoustic touches including an odd hand-clap section.

"Lips of ashes" must surely be the gentlest song recorded in the name of Porcupine Tree, the layered harmonies and lilting guitar being akin to something Crosby Stills and Nash would be proud of. "The sound of musak" offers a worryingly cynical prospect for the future of music, with lyrics such as those in the heading above and
"The music of rebellion makes you wanna rage, but it's made by millionaires who are nearly twice your age".

I am sure we can all come up with names for those Wilson is alluding to here. Ironically, the track itself is for me the weakest on the album.

"Gravity eyelids" is a nod back to the band's earlier days, particularly the riff heavy latter part of the track. Initially, Wilson's high vocals suggest this is to be another soft number, but the prog structure of the track results in a reassuringly dynamic song which is drawn together nicely before it concludes.

No explanation is given as to where the "Wedding nails" title comes from. The track is another nod to the past with some basic riffs being developed in a jam-fest of improvisation bordering on the indulgent. "Prodigal" is another commercial piece with a superb arrangement. Wilson adds some of his most dynamic guitar work here, providing the track with a grand conclusion. ".3" segues straight in from "Prodigal", the track effectively being an instrumental part 2. Most unusually, the piece features strings, providing a highly atmospheric backing for what is undoubtedly a highlight of the album.

"The creator has a mastertape" has the most obscure lyrics of the album, no mean achievement given the nature of some of the other lyrics here. "He raised a proper family so he could tie them to a bed" gives an indication of what to expect. Musically, the track is not one of my favourites, the distorted vocals and punk guitar leaving me cold.

"Heart attack in a lay-by" puts Wilson's vocals firmly up front of a soft reflective song which describes a train of though rather than an actual event. The track features some nicely constructed vocal harmonies. "Strip the soul" is only the second track on the album to breach seven minutes running time. The song has a heavy rhythm and the now familiar distorted vocals. Overall, the piece is slightly looser than its peers. The album closes with "Collapse the light into earth" another track which features strings. This delicate piano based song makes for a downbeat end to the album.

The "European special edition" includes a second disc with two further tracks, and the video for a shortened version of "Strip the soul". "Drown with me" is another lightweight, rather inconsequential number with layered harmonies on an acoustic base. "Chloroform" is a slower 7 minute PT epic which is easily strong enough to have been included in the regular edition of the album.

Overall, another fine album by Porcupine Tree, with a number of genuine highlights. While the band continue to refine and develop their sound, I rate this release slightly below those it immediately follows. It remains recommended though.

Report this review (#155475)
Posted Saturday, December 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars 'In Absentia' was the second PT album I heard, after 'FOABP' Typically I tend to work backwards when I discover a new band! Like 'FOABP' 'In Absentia' was fairly immediate for me. The stand out choruses, and potent melodies are a powerful combination, and as I've since discovered with porcupine Tree, they are good at delivering this formula very effectively from 'Sky moves Sideways' onward.

'In Absentia' opens with 'Blackest Eyes' A metal riff gives way to memorbale verse and chorus, as this excellent opener almost floats along to it's conclusion. Porcupine Tree have crossed the energy of hard rock with the the thoughfullness and ambience of Pink Floyd; Wilsons vocal harmonies as strong as ever. 'Trains' follows, and is among my favourite all time PT tracks. Its prog credentials are arguably thin on the gorund, but the emotion is in generous supply. Wilsons vocals and a superb guitar part make this song one of the bands most heartfelt. Good chord progression, well placed key changes, and a dreamy obscurity about the whole package make 'Trains' a masterpiece. 'Lips of Ashes' is PT at their trippy, ambient best. The brilliant vocal harmonies, set against the slow acoustic guitar part is remminiscent in feel of Pink Floyd, and make for a wonderful soundscape, charged with emotion and spacey ambience. 'The Sound of Muzak'picks up the pace again with a great contrast in feel between verse and chorus, but both memorable equally. 'Gravity eyelids' and 'Prodigal'continue in this vein, maintaining a consistantly high standard of song writing throughout the album. 'Heart Attack in a lay by' has an almost Radiohead feel. I can certainly imagine Thom Yorke singing those lyrics. Porcupine Tree are clearly crossing the divide between classic and more contemporary art rock on this album, and currently I cant think of another band who do this nearly as well.

Only 'Wedding Nails' comes close to what I would call 'filler' A basic metal instrumental with unimaginative and predictable riffs and structure. Other than that 'In Ansentia' is an excellent album throughout; excellent song writing, emotional delivery underpinned by wonderful, crystal clear production. 'In Absentia' offers something for all PT fans, presenting a good and fairly even balance of rock riffs and brilliantly executed ambient soundscapes. 4 stars.

Report this review (#156922)
Posted Friday, December 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars This 7th official studio release by PT is the first real hard rock/heavy prog album in their discography if I may say so. I'm amazed about the high average and high praise it gets. Apparently Trains is the stand out song but even that one hardly works for me. It's kind of special but a 6 minute song can't be very memorable to me. Ok, that's not really fair, the length can't be decisive for quality but strange enough to me it often is. If I compare the song to Anesthetize or Sky moves Sideways for instance (which I do consider masterpiece tracks) you'll probably get my drift.

Trains is indeed the best song of the album, it's highly original and versatile and also very compact. To put so many different ideas in such a short amount of time is quite an effort. The album kicks off with Blackest Eyes and it's as if the band immediately wants to make a statement about the present style which is pretty different from the predecessor Lightbulb Sun. Blackest Eyes kicks ass so to speak, well at least in the first 40 seconds. One of the hardest moments in PT history no doubt. After Trains we get Lips of Ashes, a nice ambient track with a classy vein. The Sound of Muzak is just average PT I'm afraid, nothing special here. This song could easily have been on Stupid Dream where sound and style are concerned. Nice guitar around third minute. Gravity Eyelids makes a slight return to the spacy days. This one is more like what they did on Signify but it also has a lot in common with Don't hate me from Stupid Dream. With Wedding Nails they get back on the heavy track. Catchy song with nice tempo. I like this PT style much better than the slow dreamy style which is a bit boring to me. Same thing as with Riverside as far as I'm concerned. No surprise that this is one of my fav's from this release. Prodigal is an example of what I mean with slow dreamy style. Good song but it hardly moves me or warms me up in any way. It gets a different sound after two minutes where the song turns rougher and a guitar solo halfway lifts the song. 3 starts with nice bass and atmospheric sounds to turn into an orchestral instrumental. This could have been a Radiohead song (drumming!) where the first half is concerned but second half is ordinary PT again with vocals. Talking about shifts ! The Creator has a Mastertape sounds pretty original at first, finally some groundbreaking stuff on this album you would think but after 1 minute it gets more regular again. Pretty heavy after 1:40. Rest of the song is fairly standard PT. Hartattack in a Lay By is another ambient ballad, nice but I fear PT has done about a dozen songs like this. Makes me yawn a bit. Strip the Soul is again a return to Signify/Stupid Dream style with spacy elements. Come to think of it: this makes In Absentia sort of a transition album more than their first real heavy one. Slightly more heavy than spacy but no black and white case by any means. Collapse the Light into Earth sounds like a Coldplay rip off (piano !!)or who knows a tribute (!?). Or could it be Coldplay has been listening to this song and got inspired ? Anyhow, the resemblance is too striking to ignore.

The bonus tracks Drown with me and Chloroform are also nice but don't really lift the album quality. The problem with In Absentia is not that it's poor or mediocre or even average. No, it's indeed far better than that. But to call it a masterpiece or even really excellent goes too far in my opinion. Maybe it's because I'm not a true fan. Because if you are I can imagine you love this one to death. It has a classy charisma over it but for my personal taste I can't go further than three stars. Or in other words it's a good/very good album (3,3).

Report this review (#159400)
Posted Monday, January 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars It’s my first review on PA and I’m very glad to begin with PT’s best work so far.

Without doubt, 2002 was the year of PT’s sudden musical change and creative peak. Steven Wilson managed to turn his music into more accessible and metal-oriented direction. Although, his smart experiments and huge sound atmospheres were still remained in force (e.g. songs like “Gravity Eyelids” and “.3”). Wilson’s music became not as overextended and difficult to move into as on previous works. Nevertheless, In Absentia is definitely prog.

1. Blackest Eyes (9/10). This song kicks off In Absentia with power and might. Very nice intro and heavy riffing during the whole song. Appropriate opener for a strong album. 2. Trains (9/10). Very beautiful and graceful semi-acoustic song. It contains a nice acoustic solo in the middle. One of my favorites. 3. Lips of Ashes (9/10). More melancholic and atmospheric track. Though, I like it as much as I like the first two tracks. 4. The Sound of Muzak (10/10). The best track on the album with one the best solos in prog-rock history. 5. Gravity Eyelids (9/10). Pink Floyd intro, which grows heavier and heavier. I like the middle section. 6. Wedding Nails (10/10). Amazing instrumental. Very quick, catching and heavy. 7. Prodigal (10/10). The chorus is very energetic and Wilson’s solo at the end is one of my favorites. 8. .3 (9/10). A bit slower and softer side of modern PT, but the song itself is perfect. 9. The Creator Has a Mastertape (10/10). Crazy song with an interesting intro. The chorus is kind of insane! 10. Heartattack in a Layby (10/10). Very mental and gentle track. Acoustic guitar sounds very emotional and beautiful on this one. 11. Strip the Soul (8/10). I’d give it 10 if It were not too long. Outro is quite repetitive and monotonous, although is very heavy and deterrent. 12. Collapse the Light Into Earth (7/10). I know that Wilson likes such closing tracks, and this one is not so bad, bad too long again. Though, keyboards are very beautiful.

Collusion: The album deserves five stars – it is definitely a masterpiece and the peak of Wilson’s form. In Absentia is very dynamic and aggressive album. Unfortunately, this aggressiveness and strength got lost on the latest PT’s albums, all that left is heaviness and gloominess…

Report this review (#159434)
Posted Monday, January 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
Crossover/Symphonic Teams
3 stars Porcupine Tree's seventh studio album, In Absentia, showed a significant change in the band's overall sound. It also marked the first personnel change for the band as drummer Chris Maitland departed and was replaced by Gavin Harrison. But the biggest change was the incorporation of numerous metal riffs into the Porcupine Tree repertoire. This influence has been attributed to Steven Wilson's producing of Opeth's Blackwater Park. To my ears, this change was sometimes good and at other times seems to ruin the song with senseless noise making it a harsh experience.

Again, Porcupine Tree's music is as accessible as on their three previous albums. Clearly with each album, the band expanded its fan base. With the introduction of metallic elements, it would increase even further by reaching out to another large group of listeners in the metal community. Thus, In Absentia became the band's biggest selling album to date, selling over 100,000 copies in its first year of release and making the charts in several European countries.

I must admit that at the time this came out, it really surprised me with this change in direction. I'm not as keen on new releases and what the members of the bands are up to, so I didn't know of Wilson's involvement with Opeth. I remember enjoying this for awhile during the 2002-2003 period (though I tended to skip the harsher songs), but since then it's hasn't seen the inside of my CD player very much. I'm not sure exactly why. The only sensible reason I can come up with is that the merger of the new sound with the Porcupine Tree foundation was not as smooth as many thought. Some songs are clearly Porcupine Tree (no doubts at all), while others sound like some other band was performing them. Make any sense?

Whatever is the cause of my confusion, it's still a good album. But it's still a far cry from the band's earlier masterpieces. I would recommend starting with the band's first three albums and then moving chronologically forward through their catalogue prior to obtaining this. If you're more into prog metal, but looking to explore hybrid prog metal/prog rock bands, Porcupine Tree's In Absentia would be ideal. Three stars. Good, but not essential.

Report this review (#159448)
Posted Monday, January 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Porcupine Tree Delivers with 'In Absentia' (Please note: I originally wrote this review on; I did NOT steal this, it is my own review.)

The first time I heard the name Porcupine Tree mentioned, I was unsure about giving them a listen. I knew two things: they were considered Progressive Rock by my fellow Prog fans, and the community was split about them. Some people said they were a great band, others said they were merely ripping off past greats. So imagine my curiosity when I discovered that my best friend and fellow music fanatic had begun to listen to them.

Finally, I was approached by said friend who told me that I had to listen to them. So he gave me his copy of In Absentia, and I was on my way. Since I had never heard even one second of music from this band, I was fairly anxious to give this disc a spin, so I stuck in my car's CD player and the first song started to play.

First and foremost, In Absentia is, as what it is now called, a 'concept album'. The story that is told here involves a serial killer's telling of his life from childhood, through lovemaking, to the ultimate gruesome ending. Steve Wilson, the band's mastermind, has said many times that he does not consider his band to be progressive, but what he isn't realizing is that the type of structure his band's albums are built around screams prog to those of us fortunate enough to have experienced this extraordinary genre firsthand.

The album's opening track, Blackest Eyes, seems to be a song of reflection and summary of everything said main character has done throughout his life, as the lyrics make referrance to key events that happen later on along the course of the story's timeline. This song, like every other song found on the record, is always subjective and open for interpretation, but in my take on it, the killer himself is narrating the story, and he is very proudly proclaiming his worth based on all of his past deeds, good or bad, he doesn't seem to care. The musicianship found on this track is excellent as always, and Wilson's vocals always give me chills as he sings unabashed the lyrics: I've got a wire loose inside my head, I've got books that I've never, ever read, I've got secrets in my garden shed, I've got a scar where all my urges bled, I've got people underneath my bed, I've got a place where all my dreams are dead, swim with me into your blackest eyes . . . . This song has many mixed emotions in it, with a very odd, slightly unnerving opening lead, which suddenly changes into the crunchy, relentless, heavy main riff, which then immediately switches gears again to become a pleasant acoustic guitar chord progression. All of these opposing feelings colliding together beautifully relays the sense of frantic and twisted confusion that is our main character's mind. It serves as a great overture for what is to come.

Trains. Ah, what a wonderful song this is! It was as I listened to the main riff for this track that I knew I loved Porcupine Tree as a band. It's so simply, yet so genious, and I find myself compelled to listen to this song more often than any of the others, which is saying something, since they are all fantastic. In fact, this particular riff actually finds itself reprised two albums later on the masterpiece: Fear of a Blank Planet, but we will discuss that treasure at another time. As I was saying, though, as I listened to this song for first time, and as I heard it build and build, I truly couldn't believe what I was hearing, as I had thought no band could make music completely new for me all over again, but with that one riff, it was done. I gleefully followed every beat, every vocal flourish, every time signature change, waiting for what next would come. This song features a very emotional guitar solo as well as what sounds to me like a banjo-driven bridge section that somehow fits the rest of the song perfectly. The band is at it's best in every respect with this one, truly a gem of a song. I could go on, but since the entire review could be made up of my praise for this single track, I had better move on. I only have one other aspect of the song to comment on: the lyrics. Wilson's way of expressing thoughts through words and music is magical. The words are or so poetic yet nothing to snicker at, and even if you or I have never done the horrible things our main character in this tale will ultimately do, I can still relate to this song, as the lyrics do tell a story, but at the same time remain vague enough for anyone to find something familiar there.

Lips Of Ashes is the 'spaciest' track so far, with a very surreal, haunting quality to the way Wilson plucks away on his acoustic guitar. Richard Barbieri's keyboard work also lends a hand here, with a feeling of ghostly memories clinging to the words that our star speaks. The song is told in present- tense, but I get the feeling personally that he is reliving a memory rather than simply experiencing something for the first time. The song becomes almost a ballad as our first genuine guitar solo is heard here. The singing ability here is way above par, as double-tracked harmonies add to the haunting, surrealistic nature of the track.

The next track kicks off with a very catchy base line from four-string-maestro Colin Edwin, accompanied by a riveting drum pattern brought in by (at the time) newest addition Gavin Harrison. The song's title is Sound of Muzak, and while I feel the first half of this song is considerably less interesting to hear after the first listen, the second half makes up for it with a very funky but enjoyable guitar solo. The rhythm guitar sections brought in by Wilson are very fun to play along (or simply mime along) to if you yourself are a musician. and the complete finished product definately brings a smile to my face and a jig to my hip whenever I play it.

Track five, Gravity Eyelids, is potentially my second favorite song on the album, because it is really the song that changes the most throughout it's course, as it starts quite sweet, sensual, and possibly erotic. Clearly a love scene (at least in my interpretation), this song begins with a very soft melody, almost like a lullaby, speaking directly to the one the hero of the story is making love to. Once again a song that boasts very poetic lyrics, it manages to convey the idea of a physical relationship with another, while not becoming overly graphic or needlessly flamboyant. Then, just as the act is over, the song does a complete 180, and the listener is blown away by the heaviest riff on the record yet. I still haven't found myself able to remain completely still whenever I am listening to the record and this part of the song comes along; I can't help it. The song has such raw energy in it that I find myself completely engulfed by the power of it, and it doesn't let go of you until after the track ends. Plenty of odd time signature work here as well, for the more prudish of prog fans.

Wedding Nails is an off-beat, wacky, completely aimless instrumental song that shows (in my opinion) the main character's mental degeneration, as I myself feel like I'm going mad every time I hear this enjoyable, but uncomfortably short musical sojourn.

Prodigal Is a very uplifting, meaningful track featuring yet another catchy main guitar riff and solo. Also present is a wonderful display of vocal interaction that reminds me a bit of early Pink Floyd, but not uncomfortably so. No, this song is still very original like all the others, but the familiar feeling I get when I hear it I think is part of it's charm. The bass lines present in this song are also very memorable. In terms of where we are in the story at this point, I think it is more-or-less a time of self-searching and confusion for our lead character. Ultimately the choices he makes are the wrong ones, but here, it seems to me that he is actually looking for another way around his issues, and apparently none were to be found in his point of view. This song is the last feel-good titles on the record.

Song number 8, titled simply .3, is a venture into the darkest depths of the mind, and from what I can hear, the song is primarily effects-based, as the keyboards are the most prominent instrument in the whole track-- that is until Steve Wilson comes in with his acoustic guitar rhythm. I always love that moment in the song, as I can just feel his presence at that moment entering the song. His playing is followed closely by the chant: Black the sky, weapons fly. Lay them waste for your race, which he sings over and and over again in a sort of absent (pun intended) slave's mindset. At this point, I think our story's lead part has chosen for good what he will do, which is why this song has a sense of boreboding, no matter how beautiful it is instrumentally. Fantastic listen, though, especially through headphones (which by the way, is really the only way you should be listening to music like this, because without them, you miss so many layers within the song that make the music as good as it is.)

The Creator Has A Masterpiece is indisputably the strangest and indeed most disturbing song on this record, which grows increasingly darker as the story unfolds. From the moment you hear the out-of- key six-note guitar intro until you reach the dramatic end, you may possibly find yourself checking over your shoulder around your house, if music effects you as strongly as it does me. No matter; the more disturbing,the better. Right? This track also reveals the origin of the 'scar' that is first mentioned back in track one, but I won't spoil it for you here. Experience it for yourself, as from this point on the record does not let up once.

Heartattack In A Layby is a very sad, moving piece that leaves the killer in reflection with himself, while at the same time pursuing his next goal. The mood of the track is not happy by any means, yet has some of the most emotional sections out of the entire album. The amazing use of vocal rounds and alternated harmony is potentially the most beautiful thing Porcupine Tree has ever done, and it is here than I find myself singing along the most, just because of the sheer majesty the voices on this track seem to portray. The piano playing here is superb, and the solemn tone maintained throughout makes this also the most consistent track on the record thus far. While I like both progressive and straightforward song structures, the latter fits this particular part of the story better. So, you aren't going to be getting an insanely long, always changing song experience here, but it does move you. And it works well. Very well, indeed.

But what is a tale about a killer without blood and gore, Kain? you ask me. Well, my dear readers, fear not, for there are still two more songs to go. This one, Strip The Soul, has a very heavy, cool guitar riff that sets the mood for this killing-spree-of-a-song. It's not necessarily the most graphically described violent scene ever told on a rock record, but it certainly does the job of getting under one's skin, especially if you didn't realize up until this point what exactly the end of the story was going to be. This machine is there to please, strip the soul, fill the hole, are some of the lyrics spoken on this track with great execution on Wilson's part. They are not gone, not gone, only sleeping . . . he continues, as his deed has already been done. I may be wrong on the band's personal intention here, but to me, that is what this song is about: a man going out of control, and the inner self witnessing these terrible things and being unable to stop them from happening. The denial in which our star seems to find himself in is not so different from our own moments of denial; refusal to believe the truth. In this man's case, however, he has done far worse than most of us ever will. Even though he is fictional, this character speaks to me on the album, and Steve Wilson's brilliant story-telling abilities really makes me believe in this story-- this concept, if you will, about a man who started out so well, and ended up in such a bad way. I suppose it is because things like this really do happen that I can relate to it more. A fire to feed, a belt to bleed, strip the soul, kill them all . . .

This flawless effort from Porcupine Tree ends with a bitter-sweet feeling track in Collapse The Light Into Earth I get the sense here that our story's main character has somehow managed to find a sense of peace with what he has done, not by necessarily admitting and wrong, but rather by talking to those he once loved in his own head, promising them that they will not be forgotten. Once again, this review of mine is only one person's interpretation of an intentionally vague story told through the form of this amazing music, so if when you listen to the record, you come to a different conclusion, who is to say you are wrong? That's what I love about these kinds of bands and, indeed, about the Progressive genre in general, because we the audience are left with enough empty space to find our own things to relate to in everything, which makes each and every song a personal experience for us. With this album, I was impressed by how well it moved me when I had gone in with so little expectations for this band called Porcupine Tree. Now, they are one of my all-time favorite bands. It is rare when a band can make me feel emotions I have never felt before as I listen to their music, but Porcupine Tree did it with this album, and I haven't stopped loving their music since. I suggest pick this album up, and if you find yourself drifting off to another place and time, then you are much like the star of the featured story, and have gone somewhere completely different in your mind, at least for a little while. For a record to do that is frankly amazing to me, and even if you end up not being as affected by this record or indeed not even interested in the story, that is okay also, as while some of us are more hardcore music fans, the rest of us are just experiencing life and music 'In Absentia'.

Pros: Superb musicianship, top-notch song writing, and original presentation.
Cons: None
The Bottom Line: An excellent musical journey for anyone interested in discovering new original bands.

Report this review (#159595)
Posted Wednesday, January 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is PT's most versatile record to date (I'm writing this review 2/2008). 12 songs, 12 different moods, from the almost happy opener BLACKEST EYES to the incredible atmospheric ending COLLAPSE THE LIGHT INTO EARTH. Every song has its merits but it takes quite a lot of spins to discover them all. For the time being my favourite tracks are TRAINS; THE SOUND OF MUZAK; GRAVITY EYELIDS; .3; THE CREATOR HAS A MASTERTAPE and the aforementioned COLLAPSE THE LIGHT... But beware: this is one of those records you can't rely on reviews since they will recommend different songs. You'll have to find out for yourself which songs you'll like best. There can be only one unanimity: this is a must for every prog fan. 5 stars.
Report this review (#162526)
Posted Sunday, February 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Porcupine Tree - In Absentia 4 stars

The most important album in Porcupine Tree's modern career does not equal best, but still an excellent album.

This marked Porcupine Tree's biggest transition album.of all of their transitional albums. The work of being a producer of a few grandiose Opeth albums might have played a part in Steven Wilson wanting some metal put into his music. He combines it perfectly. The album sounds fresh, unique and exciting. The only problem I have unlike almost all of their albums is that there are some weak songs on here, among Wilson's worst. I find it very hard to believe somebody can find every song to be outstanding on this album with 'Wedding Nails', 'Strip the Soul' and the utter, most terrible Porcupine Tree track, 'The Creator has a Mastertape'. Otherwise, there is a collection of some great tracks with an abundance of Porcupine Tree's best works 'Blackest Eyes', 'Trains', 'The Sound of Muzak', '3', 'Heartattack in a Layby' and 'Collapse the Light into Earth'.

We also see a new light.Gavin Harrison. A powerful drummer and a master of dynamics. Gavin never overpowers, he establishes control and then really shows his technicality through his smooth style, keeping it varied and above all else, fluency. Other then the drummer change, we have the same guys here.

A hard rock approach is the most dominant in this album and it will be received right away with the opening track 'Blackest Eyes'. The effects are a constant as well. They are mostly in the background, filling in the gaps and sometimes are at the front of the music itself. Steven Wilson has also become a much better and more unique guitar player. His dynamics on the acoustics seem to have been mastered beautifully, especially when he comes in on the song '3'.

Besides the lack of good interplay on some of the tracks.I can highly recommend this album to anyone. Don't expect this to be the best of the band as people make it out to be. They have done far better. 4 stars for an excellent album.

Report this review (#166334)
Posted Thursday, April 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album flirts on the edge of a five star rating, but it lacks the definite punch of their masterpiece Fear of a Blank Planet; though clearly it is a strong release from the band.

Stepping up from the more pop-rock oriented Lightbulb Sun, In Absentia features noticeably more metal, a fair number of more uptempo songs, and a return to early Porcupine Tree's sense of creepiness and dark mood. New drummer Gavin Harrison has joined the fold, and while Chris Maitland certainly is talented, Gavin's chops (though shown very conservatively throughout this release) definitely can add much enthusiasm to the music. A random prog passerby might notice this album and comment on the non-prog song lengths and so forth. True, the general strictures of "prog" are mostly absent. There are a few different time signatures, a few strange melodies and chord progressions. Nevertheless, this album really is progressive. Wilson has pushed his band forward from the initial humorous druggie psychedelia of On the Sunday of Life, through the careful atmospheric rock of Signify, through the melancholic pop of Lightbulb Sun, and out into the realm of hard rock and some metal. There are still acoustic elements, there still are gentle songs, there still is the impressive Wilson restraint. But this is not Porcupine Tree like Porcupine Tree was ever before. The band has remade itself again, and In Absentia is a strong debut for a changed band.

It opens with the rocker Blackest Eyes, which kicks the album off to a melodic and yet energetic beginning. The live favorite Trains enters next, built on a unique strum pattern. The lyrics are the closest Wilson has ever come to writing a love song in a Porcupine Tree effort, and the music matches with a nostalgic, almost happy quality. An odd track for the band, to be sure, but certainly a beautiful tune--one that also has its share of rocking out towards the end. Lips of Ashes is a creepy, crawling tune budding with atmosphere and haunting vocals. Next begins The Sound of Muzak in 7/4 time, though with such a drumming pattern by Harrison that it flows as naturally a standard 4/4 tune. Well-harmonized choruses lamenting the loss of public interest in quality music leads to a splendid guitar solo and a rather laid-back track overall. Clocking in at almost eight minutes, the longest on the album, is the sleeper track Gravity Eyelids. Beginning with a fairly creepy atmosphere and a drum machine, the song gradually adds piano, vocal layers, and drums for the first three and a half minutes. Then it all backs off for a strange plucked noise and some heavy guitars. Soon the song gets a bit wild with a touch of metal. A thick middle section then returns it to what it once was before, with the vocal layers and piano, except the distorted guitars subtly remain in the background.

Wedding Nails is an instrumental track, perhaps the most energetic and straightforwardly rocking tune on the album. Based mostly on several guitar riffs, this turns what many prog bands would make a noodle-fest into an interesting exposition of horror music. After the last minute or two of keyboard-produced ambiance, Prodigal enters the album. A strong bass line and some distorted slide guitar push this song to a likewise lush and well-written chorus. The post-chorus is the strength of the song, however, as after the second run through, distorted guitars kick in with a very memorable riff. A solid guitar solo towards the end drives the song to a worthy conclusion. The mostly instrumental .3 also is powered by Colin Edwin's powerful bass, layering melancholic atmosphere and featuring several short lyrics about the horrors of war. Continuing in the dark and moody vein, The Creator Has a Mastertape is a quirky song with a few of possibly the album's wildest guitar moments. Heartattack in a Layby is a gentle, soft track with more of Wilson's clever harmonies tying it together. Next, Strip the Soul clocks in with its second longest status. The opening bass riff is fairly reminiscent of the opening of .3, though soon the song dissolves into darkly heavy metal and horrifying lyrics. Lastly, the translucent Collapse the Light into Earth wraps up the album. Most of the music here is piano, though some wisely used strings back the melody. Wilson's voice softly and morosely turns this track into a beautiful, refreshing conclusion.

For a number of people, this is the best place to begin with for Porcupine Tree. Fear of a Blank Planet is a stronger album, but the melodies and riffs on In Absentia certainly qualify it as a smart place to look.

Report this review (#168627)
Posted Thursday, April 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Stupid Dream done the heavy way

Returning from albums that represented a large switch in the music Porcupine Tree [PT] had previously released from psychedelic flavor to a more commercial and almost metal route, In Absentia represents another shift which still holds the same musical styling of their newer (at the time) material. A very unique album, when looked at in hindsight sounds like the previous albums the band had recorded fused with the latter Deadwing. The songs are shorter and more accessible to wide audience but without the fun late 90s (almost satirical) feel that others such as Stupid Dream seemed to have. Instead the album takes a turn for the heavy and the dark. As evident from the first track (and indeed the cover art) this is going to be an album that shan't be taken lightly. What we have here is the construction of darker soundscapes as Mr. Wilson seems to have found further reason to find fault with the world. In any case, this will be PT's darkest and heaviest album to date.

From the evil lyrics and dark riff that starts off the excellent opener, Blackest Eyes it's clear that PT is a whole new beast. With a structure more conventional than the band is normally used to the song presses on. Not without musical merit, as Steve Wilson can never be attacked for, the song shows the band as more approachable with material that is probably what attracted the following of fans who would later be lyrically showcased on the album Fear Of A Blank Planet. This is, of course, not a bad thing, but those who are expecting a PT album ripe with long spacey instrumentals and zoned out tones had best look somewhere else. Songs like the beautiful Trains, the fast and brooding The Creator Had A Mastertape and the industry conscious rebellion of The Sound Of Muzak follow more in this conventional style while still appeal with their heaviness and lyrics. Trains especially is a beautiful song with some wonderful lyrics and a very haunting delivery.

The other songs on the album range in effectiveness. The longest song on the album (reaching a 8 minutes) is the chilled-out Gravity Eyelids which unfortunately fails to make a large number of waves with it's promising build that never turns cataclysmic as PT so often do, while the other longer track Strip The Soul takes the term ''brooding'' to a whole new level and destroys the audience's comfort with some excellently evil lyrics and dark instrumentation. .3 is a nice little pseudo-instrumental, but the real instrumental - the bombastic Wedding Nails reminds listeners of a more Signify feel of the band while taking the track faster and heavier than ever before. Meanwhile, the more toned down tracks such as Heartattack In A Lay By and the goosebump yielding closer Collapse Light Into Earth still retain a darker feel while still making sure the audience gets a lull of some kind.

Ultimately a very good album with some very worthy moments, this one is definitely an album for those who like their prog heavy as the band's current sub-genre suggests. Those who like the band's later works like Deadwing who want to hear the style mixed with their other work such as Stupid Dream will get a mondo kick out of this one. Strangely enough, the songs on this one that are worth repeated listens are actually the more conventional ones - something very strange indeed for a PT album.

Well, at this point in writing I still haven't assigned a star rating to the album yet as it's one that requires a good amount of thought. Ultimately I think that excellent addiction is the right mark. The highlights of the album are so incredibly memorable and really smooth out any minor flaws the album has. Not conventional prog as the album has a lot of commercial leanings, but a very excellent album in the end. Worth your time - Recommended!

Report this review (#171300)
Posted Saturday, May 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars The beginnings of PT's transition into metal. It's an interesting one. While the album holds many crowd and personal favourites (Blackest Eyes, Sound Of Muzak, Heartattack In A Layby, Trains) it also holds some not-so-but-still-ok tracks like Creator and Strip The Soul.

The PT sound is still evident, but this album seems to have become more of a stepping stone on their way to a more metal, darker sound as heard in Deadwing and FOABP, which has kind of tarnished In Absentia's albums a little bit for me. It's definately still listenable after 6 years (at time of writing) and many of the themes still exist today and probably will for a long time to come.

It's a good album. Bordering on great. 4 stars is right. PT really shone brighter than their previous efforts on this record but some of the tracks on here get lost in the thick of the changing sound of late 90's PT to late 00's PT.

Great: Blackest Eyes, Sound Of Muzak, Trains, Wedding Nails, Collapse The Light Into Earth, Heartattack in a Layby Good but forgotten: Lips Of Ashes, Gravity Eyelids, Prodigal, .3, The Creator Has A Mastertape, Strip The Soul.

Report this review (#171301)
Posted Saturday, May 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars You don't have to cut the tree down to get the prickly fruits

Listening to this album has been for me, something of a revelation. I was beginning to fear that the bright young 'thangs' had nothing with which to stir my imagination as vigorously as those of their predecessors did during the halcyon 70's. With a running time of just over 2 hours (think I've got the Euro version) and without a single 'baby clanger' in evidence, this record constitutes a miraculous achievement. The only other album I had heard previously was the Sky Moves Sideways which although very accomplished, I had consigned to an unsatisfying fusion of psychedelia hued trippy rock with dance elements. It is the quality and economy of the song writing on In Absentia that makes it stand out, and even if someone as superhumanly prolific as Steve Wilson never pens another semi quaver in his life, he will have this enduring document to serve as a magnificent legacy to his abilities.

I do think there is a danger we can overlook the not inconsiderable contributions made by the rest of the band in the creation of these songs and both Harrison and Edwin are very accomplished and sensitive players who hang their egos firmly on the hook before entering the studio. Richard Barbieri displays an uncanny grasp of the techniques of cinematic writing with which to frame Wilson's memorable tunes. Within the 'lip gloss and foundation' domain that his previous employers Japan inhabited, we do get a whiff of his loftier ambitions but it was always relegated to the background as an 'artsy' afterthought. Richard would never pretend to be a 200 bpm soloist, but instead conjures up a bewildering array of arresting textures and atmospheres which enhance the music superbly. Stripped of these luscious backdrops, I cannot help but think the music would be diminished to that of 'just' very well crafted rock songs. (Yeah, as if the latter would not suffice?)

But Porcupine Tree spoil us rotten.

'Blackest Eyes' - A punch right smack on the chin with a Zeppelin uppercut sends us crashing to the canvas seconds after the 'bell' sounds and we can only lie there and watch the little dancing birdies twitter above our heads 'cartoon style' during the subsequent dreamy and luxuriant song section as part of the healing process. There are tinges of XTC in some of Wilson's writing as he displays a firm grasp of memorable pop hook tunesmithery worthy of Messrs Partridge & Co.

'Trains' - Unusual strumming rhythm on the acoustic guitar which carries a trace of 'The Divine Comedy' replete with a thrilling soprano peak on another sublime melody. Wilson ain't no anorak trainspotter though but is certainly cognizant of the sort of plaintive frisson achieved by the likes of 'Coldplay' on this particular song.

(BTW If I mention other bands/artists, it's merely to illustrate reference points that exist in MY head and is in no way intended to imply any derivativeness OK?)

At one point we meet what is tantamount to a C&W banjo lick replete with 'clip clopping' percussion but it sounds fantastically other worldly (Dunno...?)

'Lips of Ashes' - Vaguely reminiscent of Hackett era Genesis with the formers volume swell 'violining' trick employed to thrilling effect. Beautiful harmony vocals are used here and the band sensibly keep the arrangement quite sparse to accommodate some 'head room' for these huge choral swathes of sound. Wilson's guitar is predominantly lyrical in intent on all his solos and comes as a refreshing change from the 'speed typists' who bash out 600 badly chosen words a minute on memos that never reach their destination. He also never seems to repeat the same guitar tone two tracks in a row.

'The Sound of Muzak' - Porcupine Tree say 'take the stairs to avoid the music in the elevator'. One of my pet hates in a lot of modern prog are bands who attempt 'odd' meters by simply adding or subtracting beats to standard rock riffery. If you have a phrase or motif that reaches a natural conclusion after an irregular number of beats FINE, but please don't let me hear the furious planing of square pegs into round holes. (see Rush, Tool and Dream Theater) This by way of contrast, has a very beguiling rhythm in 7 that they manage to make sound effortlessly smooth and uncontrived. Yet another fabulous chorus which lives long in the memory. How do these clever chaps manage it?

'Gravity Eyelids' - This was the first PT song I ever heard and loved it instantly. Nothing has changed in the interim. They manage to run the gamut of pop/rock/metal/trance with consummate ease and this contains a chord progression right up there on a par with the very finest of those created by no less than Syd Barrett himself (No higher praise is possible from me)

'Wedding Nails' - I must admit to being a complete sucker for ANYTHING that has a middle eastern tonality and this instrumental exploits the scale that Ritchie Blackmore christened 'the snake charmer' with wonderful results. Anyone who has heard the debut album by the Shamen (yes really) will recognize this 'opium den in a Tangiers brothel' type of thang y'all.

'Prodigal' - I had this on an MP3 compilation for months but had neglected to record who it was by and judging by the sheer variety of styles available on this record, this must be a common problem for less than diligent i-podders. They just never seem to repeat themselves. Although it has a very palpable Floyd influence I can honestly say that the slavish homage as evidenced by The Sky Moves Sideways is almost completely eradicated here.

'3' - Starts with a brooding and insistent bass line over which Porcupine Tree sprinkle some vaguely Crimsonish Projeckts style atmospheres and reminds me a bit in parts of the Rain Tree Crow album (which of course featured a certain Mr Barbieri) This is possibly more in keeping with the largely abandoned ambient style of earlier work realized solely by Wilson without the band.

'The Creator Has a Mastertape' - Punningly alludes to Pharoah Sanders (much overhyped) the Creator has a Masterplan but there the semblance ends, as we have what approximates NIN sans Trent Reznor but replaced by David Byrne armed with only a faulty megaphone. A much heavier style of song that even assimilates some 'Drum and Bass' grooves as employed by the dance fraternity. If only most modern metal inflected prog were as inventive as this.

'Heartattack in a Layby' - poignant and sincere reverie as that revealed by your Everyman commuter hanging on to the very cusp of life. Again the lyrical approach is that of a vulnerable 1st person narrative as employed by 'the Divine Comedy.' Achingly confrontational in it's scope as a realisation by it's protagonist of what really matters in life when it becomes too late to make any difference.

I guess I should go now, she's waiting to make up, to tell me she's sorry and how much she missed me I guess I'm just burnt out, I really should slow down, I'm perfectly fine but, I just need to lie down

As witheringly cynical as this Lemming normally is, I am genuinely very moved by this song and the vocal mimicry of the ambulance siren by the fading backing vocals at the end is a moment of genius which illustrates the disorientation of our sense perceptions at the moment of death. (In Greek mythology, Sirens were exclusively female spirits who lured unwary sailors to their deaths by seducing them to traverse dangerous stretches of water)

'Strip the Soul' - Similar in scope to the previous 3 with a quiet/loud dynamic redolent of some of the better grunge efforts by the likes of Nirvana. Once more we encounter the 60's from the early 'noughties' perspective of someone like Andy Partridge of XTC. The phrase length exploited here seems to be in an elusive 'six'?

'Collapse the Light into Earth' - Lo-fi technique so beloved of many dance producers is used on the 'bit crushed' front parlour piano sound and the song has a slight hymnal/liturgical feel augmented by some gospel organ from Barbieri. Good use of mood building and gradual layering of the accompaniment including some 'tape strings' and plaintive backing choir.

'Drown With Me' - Rapid 6/8 acoustic strumming abetted by some wobbly Leslie speaker guitar which is joined later by some crunchy rhythm guitar. The developmental section inhabits some Beatles/XTC/Beach Boys vocal territory before reprising the opening driving and insistent chording. Given the incredible quality of the other tracks on offer, this is perhaps the only real 'ordinary' song on the record. (but perhaps an ordinary PT tune is worth a standout in anyone else's locker)

'Chloroform' - Whether intentional or not, the level of this track is suitably 'muffled' and 'suffocated' and I always have to crank up the volume to hear it properly. Perhaps no-one should be allowed to pun this literally?. Another very fine song that is rather undermined by possibly being too long and a little bit too airy and subtle for it's own good.

Were I to ignore the slight shortcomings of the European only release tracks, In Absentia would be a sure-fire 5 star effort. However, I am going to ignore my normally stringent criteria on this occasion as Porcupine Tree have given me fresh hope that progressive music in 2008 is actually in safe hands and I hope we can expect more treasures like this in the many years to come.

Report this review (#173261)
Posted Sunday, June 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars This album marked my introduction to Porcupine Tree!

Back in the day it was often considered to be the crown achievement of the band's new era/second era which began with Stupid Dream. Although the material here is of great quality I never really enjoyed this release as much as Deadwing due to the excessive playtime this album entails. I'm usually able to play this album all the way to Gravity Eyelids but once that track begins with its hypnotic flow I almost fall asleep. It's definitely wasn't the best placement of this type of composition since it makes the rest of the material difficult to digesting in one go.

The second half of the album features another great set of compositions and Collapse The Light Into Earth is probably the best conclusion an album of this caliber could ever wish for. Overall In Absentia is a great introduction to Porcupine Tree and an excellent addition to any progressive rock music collection!

***** star songs: Blackest Eyes (4:23) Trains (5:56) Wedding Nails (6:33) Collapse The Light Into Earth (5:52)

**** star songs: Lips Of Ashes (4:39) The Sound Of Muzak (4:59) Prodigal (5:32) .3 (5:25) The Creator Has A Mastertape (5:21) Heartattack In A Layby (4:15) Strip The Soul (7:21)

*** star songs: Gravity Eyelids (7:56)

Total Rating: 4,22

Report this review (#175918)
Posted Wednesday, July 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars ANNOUNCEMENT: Unless the song is very deserving, I'm gonna try to keep it shorter.

Porcupine Tree, my new favorites in prog rock. These guys, seriously take to another level. With the addition of Gavin Harrison, it only goes uphill from here.

Blackest Eyes, starts off with a cool little guitar line, then goes into this monster riff. This riff just takes music to a whole other level. It's basically amazing, and there's not much else I can say about it. Then it becomes this beautiful ballad with super tasty drumming from Harrison. The lyrics hint at murder I got a secret in my garden shed, I got people underneath my bed. Oddly enough these are sung at the nice softer part of the song. Overall AMAZING opening song. Epic. (10/10)

Trains is a folky little tune that really displays the band's softer side. A nice opening guitar. The chorus is very well written. (9/10)

Lips Of Ashes was pretty annoying at first, what with the weird noises. Then it became somewhat nice at the end, but not by much. (7/10)

The Sound Of Muzak, clearly an attack at the music industry. Starts off very cool with a very complex drumming line. Shows Wilson's thoughts on the world. Great song. (9/10)

Gravity Eyelids, I didn't like all that much. I found it sort of annoying. The chorus stinks. (6/10)

Wedding Nails, a mind bending instrumental to say the least. It's not annoying and repetitive like other instrumentals. Really cool. (9/10)

Prodigal is really nice ballad about a man who, I think, gets mugged and loses his faith. The chorus is really nice. I liked the ending section. (8/10)

3 is just well written and well executed. It's very interesting to listen to, especially once the guitars come in, halfway through. The orchestra at the end is nothing but beautiful. (9/10)

The Creator Has A Mastertape has easily become one of my favorite songs ever. The drumming makes me CRY. It's so intense and confusing. The bass line is amazing and the guitar effects are wicked. He's my take on the lyrics. A killer videotapes his brutal killing of an entire family and leaves the tape in a taxi cab. Random guy finds it and watches it and pretty much loses it and kills himself. Best song on the album. (10/10)

Heart Attack In A Layby is sort of a ballad/tune thing. It was pretty interesting, I think the story is of some guy who, you guessed it, has a heart attack in a layby. Maybe layby is British slang for something. Good song. (8.5/10)

Strip The Soul is starting with the bass intro, like a few songs on this record. This one is about a husband tying up his kids and being generally abusive, until he accidentaly kills one of them. Then he's trying to hide the body or destroy it. I guess he dismembers the body, due to the title being Strip The Soul. The guitar playing add an intense atmosphere, I really liked that. The drumming was pretty straightforward and the fills amazing as usual. This song is amazing. (10/10)

Collapse The Light Into The Earth is sort of random and reminds me a little of a Genesis track off of Wind and Wuthering. Didn't rub off all too well on me. (7/10)

Overall, I think Opeth rubbed off on Steven Wilson, because this record is very heavy. It deals with some heavy subjects too, like, murder, abuse and the music industry. It's a great release for them and garnered them a lot of attention in the prog community. I'm going to give it 4 Stars.

Report this review (#176606)
Posted Saturday, July 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I worked my way backwards with Porcupine Tree, starting my collection with 'Fear of a Blank Planet', 'Nil Recurring', then 'Deadwing', and now finally 'In Absentia'. I'm not sure why, but I was putting off getting this album for a while.I guess it had something to do with the cover of the album. It frightened me, and I thought it would contain mostly the 'harder' stuff from the later two albums. Also, the song 'Sound of Muzak' was the weakest of the songs to be found on this site with Porcupine tree attached to it. Needless to say I was pleasantly surprise when I finally worked up the courage to get the album. "Get on with the review" I hear you say, and so I shall.

My first thought of the album was there was no way 12 songs were on this album. As I was listening, I counted only 8 songs when it was in my stereo. Maybe it's to keep as many of their songs under a 7 minuet mark as they could, maybe they felt it better to separate 'movements'. But in my opinion, this weakens the album just slightly. I still think the first three songs are one song with quite a few movements, and I was surprised to find 'Prodigal' and '.3' two different songs. Perhaps they were taking a note from 'Pink Floyd' and their world famous album 'Dark Side'.

Anyways.the music found on this album is SUPERB. To my ears, this is the closest Porcupine Tree has come to a complete Masterpiece (keep in mind; this is the earliest album from them I have). The music goes through so many different faces and it has so many emotions attached to each song it's a real treat each time to listen to. I've never found it boring. I love their use of keyboards and the mellitron. It's very rare to hear them being used as they should be to create atmosphere instead of leading a song.

When I first started to really listen to the album I would listen to it while falling to sleep at night, a great way to really get into music with no other distractions. The only problem with this is I never reached the end of the album, so anything after '.3' was still a mystery to me. Looking back this was probably a good thing, since some of the weaker songs are found after '.3'.

My only concern with this album is that it contains filler (to my ears). As good a song as they are, I think 'Wedding Nails' 'The Creator Has a Mastertape' and 'Strip the Soul' are unnecessary tracks on the album. That being said, I still enjoy their sounds, I just feel they bring nothing new to the album. 'Strip the Soul' feels too much like '.3' 'The Creator Has a Mastertape' is played to fast (for my ears), and the hard guitar part near the chorus is a little much. 'Wedding Nails' seems to be a review of the songs just before it. I think these songs would have been better placed on their own EP, or perhaps on a 'special re-release' of the album as bonus tracks, but that's just my opinion.

My favorite song on this album is easily 'Collapse the Light into Earth' (odd, since it wasn't until a few weeks after really getting to know this album at night did I finally hear it). At first, I thought it was repetitive, uncreative, and boring. The repetitive aspect of the song still remains, but it no longer bothers me; in fact, it maintains the feel of the song. It's one of those few songs that I can listen to over and over again and never get board of it. I love the use of strings on the song, as well as a traditional piano sound; too many songs use a synthesized sound keyboard, so it's refreshing to hear a pure piano again.

Well, this review is getting a bit lengthy, so I'll sum up my thoughts. This is a great album, and I strongly recommend it to everyone, prog lover or not. This is one of those rare albums that can be enjoyed by any lover of music. I think the 'mellow' songs on this album are the strong points, such as 'Trains', 'Gravity Eyelids' (the pre-'Arriving Somewhere but not Here' perhaps?), 'Heartattack in a Layby' and of course 'Collapse the Light into Earth.' That isn't to say that the harder side of the album is less enjoyable. All songs are enjoyable in their own way, and there are no songs on this album I want to skip. There's a fluid movement from song to song which is needed for any album past a 3 star mark. There is just no point on the album (besides, perhaps, 'Collapse the Light into Earth') where I feel it's a true masterpiece of music; but it's really close to being one.

A solid four stars with an attached note: 'Get this album if you haven't already'

Report this review (#180614)
Posted Saturday, August 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars My conversion from skeptic to PT fan has been a rather slow one. I saw the band live in 2001 and was not impressed. I really liked Sky Moves Sideways and figured that was as good as it would ever get.

But, as we all know, time passes and tastes change. A bit. So now I'm buying up their albums and finding that I really like them a lot.

First off, I want to make an observation. This band is NOT prog, nor are they progressive. To me, this album is a perfectly logical follow up to the preceding 2 albums, and combines all the same elements that they've been using since at least Up The Downstair (though, of course, that was pretty much just Wilson). I keep reading about the heaviness. This isn't really all that heavy. At all. I don't hear anything heavier on here than on Signify (the song) or even Dislocated Day or the heavier parts of Sky Moves Sideways. Yes, Wilson has honed his songwriting more, tightened it up. But he still uses all the same elements he always has to create them.

Nonetheless, this is a great album, filled with great songs. The only reason I won't give it 5 stars is because it is simply not a masterpiece of progressive music. But it is a masterpiece of rock music for sure.

The first track is what leads people to believe that they've suddenly become heavy with this album. They haven't, but the main riff is a somewhat heavy and distorted one. It's also good, but hardly original or prog. The chorus of the song goes back to a more sedate style, with the some of that characteristic PT languidness, though still retaining a good pace and volume. It's also a great chorus. The song also features a nice bridge with some banjo for flavor. It works quite well, even though it seems like it shouldn't.

Up next is Trains, one of the most beautiful songs I've heard yet by PT. Great acoustic playing, great singing, and great lyrics.

Rather than continue this song by song, I'll just jump to the highlights for me (the first two songs are highlights, so I guess I've been sort of doing that anyway). The sequence of Gravity Eyelids, Wedding Nails, Prodigal, and .3 is probably the best group of songs I've heard from PT. We get some mild psychedelia, heavy instrumental riffery, great choruses, and some downright spacey stuff in the vein of Sky, spread across these 4 tunes. Great stuff that just puts in everything I like about PT. Heart Attack in a Layby is another great mellow tune, while Strip the Soul comes on heavy again with some great playing by the whole band.

Really though, I like every song. If I could somehow find something progressive about it I'd certainly give it 5 stars. But really, it's not very original or innovative or challenging musically. But none of that is required to make it a great album for me. But it is required to make it a great Prog album. What PT really does, that works for me, is create excellently crafted rock music, sometimes bordering on pop, and wraps it all in an incredible sound production. This is what eventually drew me in. When I finally stopped trying to understand why people said this was Prog, and just started to enjoy it.

So, this isn't Prog, but it IS great music. So I'll go 4.5 stars even, with the caveat that it's an excellent addition to any music collection, as long as you aren't expecting Prog.

Report this review (#184488)
Posted Thursday, October 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars One of the greatest example of neo-progressive rock by arguably the best in the business. Porcupine Tree have triumphed with their unique blend of soft acoustic melodica merged with heavy crunching killer guitar riffs. Wilson's voice is mesmirizing on every track. Barbieri's keyboards are a beautiful touch that permeate the album from beginning to end. It is a masterfully produced work that deserves all the attention it has garnered. Streets ahead of previous Porcupine Tree material and the best was yet to come following this album. But 'In Absentia' is an excellent way of being introduced to this important heavy prog band. They are complex in parts but never over excessive. And the melodies remain in your head well after the CD has ended. The production and art work are worthy of note too, a juxtaposition of sound, visual images and symbolism to paint a picture that is powerful enough to remember.

Highlights include the wonderful 'Blackest Eyes' with the inspired riff that propels it to its sudden conclusion. The time signature shifts are classic prog rock.

'Trains' is an excellent acoustically driven track that even sounds at one point like a train on a track, especially the ending. A lot of this track,and others, sound curiously like Pink Floyd meets Yes. There are undoubtedly huge influences from classic prog bands in this music. 'The Sound of Muzak' has a very catchy melody and Wilson is in full voice, as are the harmonies from other band members. Check this song out for a great example of melody and awesome musical interludes. 'Collapse the Light Into Earth' is a mesmirising slow moving track that uses techniques of minimalism and a huge wall of sound builds up to a crescendo. The track sends you to another place, and has the power to entrance the listener. Close your eyes and let it take you. It is as relaxing as anything the band were producing in their early days.

All the tracks are unique, inspired and demonstrate the musical complexity that is essentially Porcupine Tree. Many tracks appear on the live DVD 'Arriving Somewhere...' but the studio versions presented on this album are the best versions.

A real surprise! I was blown away by the musical dexterity and depth of this album. Following this was 'Deadwing' which is even better! Both are recommended!

Report this review (#184920)
Posted Tuesday, October 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Sound of Harrison

And then they were still PT... Ok it's a cliche, Maitland is gone and we have got another nice drummer, Gavin Harrison nice at long rhythms good at improvvisation (we'll see his work on FOABP five years later)... but what we have here in this work? Well PT comes out from a nice start and from UTD to LBS we got almost good (even excelent) works, so 5 albums and a lot of ideas from mr. Wilson almost... they have made some changes in these 9 years and In Absentia is much different from UTD (to be clear I've start to listen Absentia after UTD, then fuond the others albums, that's why I compare these two), not even Wilson ideas start to be weak or poor and if there isn't the psychedelic music from the previous albums we got a good masterpiece of the thing we call heavy prog. Enough talk about the past what have we got here this time? From the first track almost to Gravity Eyelids we got a perfect mix of nice drums (I like a lot The Sound of Muzak which remember me the way how Bill Bruford play the percussions), vocals (outstanding in Trains and Gravity Eyelids), guitars (Blackest Eyes Trains and Lips of Ashes), after the first part we got a nice-strong-full-of-music piece called Wedding Nails the expression of PT pure as they never made it before, concentrated in six minutes, but after we start to see less music Prodigal start to a more classic way, it's a song nice to sing but don't goes too far away from She Moved On, .3 is like the dark reprise from Wedding Nails with nice improvement on Prodigal's ambience (maybe the better piece of part two). There we go to a more aimless experimentation for Wilson (I hope it's) The Creator Has a Mastertape is strange, not a PT track, not even a new-PT featured piece... just pointless (the worst track of the album and one the weakest song for PT).

How nice is the reprise with Heartattack in a Layby, from the piano intro till the full grow of the music, till we got again a good opening with bass and drums in Strip the Soul (I think Wilson didn't like too much Heartattack in a Layby 'cause it could be better or a bit greater), the dark aspect of Strip the Soul comes out from the same spot of Russia on Ice reworked with an aggressive drums from Harrison, it's in some way interesting maybe for the guitar parts (maybe 2 minutes shorter and it'd be better). Collapse the Light Into Earth is a coda for the album, a perfect one I must say: perfect choice of tunes, perfect voice from Wilson.

4/5 stars, 1/1 for Harrison (the best choice that they could do) and for the 9 years long career of good music. Maybe the best prog album since the 80s and a masterpiece. To listen how many times you want.

Report this review (#190550)
Posted Wednesday, November 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars It surprises me how this album is many heavy progressive rock lovers' favorite album by Porcupine Tree. There are no epic tracks, few progressive arrangements, and no overall theme. Nearly all of the songs have a pop structure, and aside from a few atmospheric cases, this album is really Prog Related, not heavy progressive rock. The borderline metal aspect of recent Porcupine Tree is rather apparent throughout. For the most part, the last half of the album is not as strong as the first, but the music is still highly enjoyable. I would recommend this album to everyone new to Porcupine Tree, especially if they enjoy alternative rock.

"Blackest Eyes" The introductory guitar builds into a thrashing wall of metal, which in typical Porcupine Tree fashion, gets mellow to make room for Steven Wilson's meek but distinctive vocals. The chorus has one of the catchiest melodies Porcupine Tree ever recorded.

"Trains" Acoustic guitar and nostalgic lyrics form the foundation of one of Porcupine Tree's greatest treasures. It is easily the best song on the album. From the hard-rocking verses to the banjo-led interlude, and from the acoustic guitar solo to the melancholic lyrics, this song is full of homesickness.

"Lips of Ashes" Eerie strings and an acoustic guitar playing an odd riff for a 4/4 time signature, with electric guitar in the background, create a creepy musical effect, especially with the layers of harmonious vocals. It's a hauntingly beautiful but sadly static song, and therefore one I'm likely to pass by.

"The Sound of Muzak" One of the very first Porcupine Tree songs I ever heard, I was initially convinced by this that the band I was hearing was more conventional than progressive, perhaps like latter-day Rush. Even though the verses are in a hardly noticeable 7/4 time signature, the song retains a decidedly pop structure. Like that of "Blackest Eyes," the chorus is extremely catchy. But like "Trains," it happens to be one of my favorite songs on the album. The lyrics always make me think of how a lot of young people are not exposed to more than popular music (despite how readily available other music is these days). The trendy way to listen to music is through a personal device, an mp3 player, perhaps, and people often download only certain songs rather than full albums. So not only do they lack exposure to other (arguably more interesting) artists, they forgo many of the tracks on the album of the artist they are hearing.

"Gravity Eyelids" Opening with a Mellotron's choir and a faded out drum loop, Wilson begins singing "Gravity Eyelids" with a meek and at times falsetto voice. After the first verse and chorus, the bass and the real drums enter over the loop. While, like "Lips of Ashes," I enjoy this song a great deal, it's a bit boring, even when the thrash guitars enter. Quite honestly, a new vocal melody over the heavy section would have given life support to a somewhat dull but pleasant track.

"Wedding Nails" This is a heavy metal instrumental that honestly does little for me. Like everything on this album, it isn't bad, but it's merely something I tend to pass over.

"Prodigal" The slide guitar gives this song a southern rock feel even though it sounds more like mainstream alternative.

"3" Starting with a deep bass riff, spacey sounds fade in with mellow electric guitar and drums on this otherwise straightforward song. The ambient strings layered over the top make this one sound like something that could easily belong in the soundtrack of an action movie about urban drug lords. Wilson doesn't begin singing until three minutes in, over strings and acoustic guitar. Not bad, of course, but it is bland to a degree.

"The Creator Has a Mastertape" Distorted guitar begins this one, just before a fast-paced bass riff comes in over a beat. The vocals are distorted also. Most of the music is noisy and unpleasant; it's grating, really, making this by far the weakest track on the album.

"Heartattack in a Lay By" By far the best track on the second half of the album, this one is calm and has a definitive melody, especially in the chorus. The thick Mellotron and bass sit in the background, letting the song, and the counterpoint melodies in particular, breathe.

"Strip the Soul" Just like "3," this one begins with bass and airy noises, but soon becomes more of a metal song. Even the heavy acoustic sections are aggressive. It's an okay track, but not as strong as many of the previous ones.

"Collapse the Light into Earth" For nearly six minutes, Wilson employs the same basic chord progression, hammering it out on the piano. But it isn't just the music making this one wonderful, it's the vocal work. The strings are lovely, and the only distorted guitar creeps in toward the end. The song is beautiful, and sounds like something from Coldplay.

Report this review (#193354)
Posted Monday, December 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I think I am preaching to the converted here given the number of reviews for this album and for this band at this site. However, this was the first Porcupine Tree album I got into, and fairly recently too - and I can't stop listening to it (and the others too). 'In Absentia' got me hooked into Porcupine Tree and and I'm buying up their catalogue at a rate of knots.

First off the progressive issue - - this album and other music I have heard by PT is not progressive in an experimental kind of way, i.e. it is not exploring difficult structural, compositional and virtuosic angles in the way that bands like King Crimson, Univers Zero, Zappa etc often do. - the album doesn't really explore extended length compositions like early Yes or Genesis - the music is mainly song based and has a lot in common with conventional rock/pop music.

So what is progressive about it? Well . . .

- it is quite spacey/atmospheric - it uses state of the art production - the arrangements have a finesse and creativity that most (almost all) pop/rock productions lack - the music can twist off into semi extended sections which use quirky time signatures or explore instrumental textures

Basically though, I am dumbfounded that this band is not a commercial supergroup. Prog or not, this album and the other PT albums I have heard demonstrate an impressive marriage of state of the art production and arrangement with peerless songwriting. They set the standard for what rock/pop albums can be. Hedonistically enjoyable ear candy - but also intellectually and emotionally satisfying.

On the negative side I'm not too keen on the instrumental 'Wedding Nails' and two songs towards the end of the CD - 'The Creator Has a Mastertape' and 'Strip the Soul'. But nothing is absolutely perfect . . . Aside from these three 7/10 tracks I give all the others a clear 10/10.

I think this is good place to start - but all the other albums I have heard by the band - 'Deadwing', 'Fear of a Blank Planet', 'Lightbulb Sun', 'Stupid Dream' etc etc are excellent too . . . .

Unequivocably recommended

Report this review (#200015)
Posted Wednesday, January 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I think my favorite album...although with released as Deadwing and Fear Of A Black Planet its getting harder and harder to choose. Its certainly one of the most commercial efforts (I normally would mean this negative but in this case its not) what created an allbum that was not for nothing peaking the highest regions of the Prog yearlists.....not more than fair if you ask me.

The album mainly contains some shorter tracks, and as commented above....Steve seems to have changed heavy for psychedelic here...another thing that is really not bad.....although perhaps tendencies towards more heavy were already present on Lightbulb Sun and Stupid Dream too. Having said that I can only conclude that this album contains too much good songs. Too good in a way that its no need to comment them here all one by one. So I shall empasise here on a few favotites.

The first favorite one is Blackest Eyes, the first track of the album, that kicks in all of a sudden quite heavy soo to be go into a really catchy tone....and Steven vocal's come in the first time......Even while is using a distortion his vocals still sounds good....absolutely fabulous song where heavy riffs are taking turns with some great accoustic middle parts...

More accoustic work comes with what by now is I think one of the ultimate PT classics Trains...a song that completely blew me away...and reminds me alot of Stars Die and A Smart Kid, due the use of mainly accoustic guitar.....I like it when the drums kick in....what a melody....and then....halfway the song that countrylike intermezzo, where Steve is jamming over with his electric guitar...what a guitarwork here...and what a beautifull voice.....

The sound of Muzak.....I love that beautifull and an adequatie description of the music industry in here....perhaps the most adequate I have ever heard 'The music of the future will not entertain It's only meant to repress and neutralise your brain.' How true......Towards the end this song contains once again some touching guitarwork......steve keeps it going....

The other song I really can play over and over is .3.....I love that bass...and then that suddle keyboard......what a sound...that gets the drum and builds up.....they keyboards are absolutely amazing and so dreamy....reminds me of Pink Floyd....and it will stay like this for about half of the song....till the centre goes back to bass.....and some more psychedelic sound....After that the song finally gets some guitar....I love the way Steve is singing..'Black the sky, weapons fly lay them waste for your race.' Again some amazing keys here in the background...and then the songs bursts open and gets much heavier....some great distortion and guitar again.....One of the best songs on the album....

Another great song is Heartattack in a Layby...a song that only contains vocals and what seems to sounds as guitar and keys or only guitar......really beautifull vocals....and some haunting piano......that eventually gets accompanied by some accoustic guitar as we'l......

Collapse the light into Earth....again begins with only piano and sensitive....accompanied by something that sounds surprisingly equal to a mellotron....once again really beautifull vocals...that gets accompained by a beautifull orchestral arrangement in the background that eventuall takes over the mainstage and goes on till the end of the beautifull......

All in all one of their better albums that comes highly recomanded for prog lovers......

Report this review (#201867)
Posted Friday, February 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'd listened to Fear of a Blank Planet a couple of times before listening to In Absentia. It struck me as a good album, but not mind-blowing or Earth-shattering. I listened to In Absentia first time round. And wow.

The first track to really grab me was The Sound of Muzak: a perfect example of how Porcupine Tree convey emotions so very well. The next few tracks to impress me were Trains, Blackest Eyes and .3. Each of these songs are masterpieces: Trains being one of the most heartfelt songs I've ever heard, Blackest Eyes being incredibly dynamic and .3 being a classic ambient/psychedelic PT track. No single track on the album is bad or even approaching bad. Each track brings something different to the mix. In terms of atmosphere and mood, most songs are quite sad; however the dynamics and textures conveying those emotions vary incredibly.

This album is something of an anomaly in that it is one of the only Porcupine Tree releases not to have a 10+ minute track on it. Perhaps this album saw PT going mainstream. Sometimes going mainstream annoys me (the most prominent example being Genesis), but a switch to shorter tracks isn't necessarily detrimental to the quality of the songs. Some songs, while not prog epics, still approach the 8-minute mark and radio-friendly tracks are still in a minority.

This is one of the few albums which I feel I can safely recommend to almost anybody. It has heavy, metal-influenced parts for the metalhead, mellow, keyboard-driven instrumental parts for the progger, and all-round tracks for the average listener. Truly an essential.

Report this review (#203398)
Posted Tuesday, February 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars As one of the people in charge of Heavy Prog, I felt it was my duty to write at least a review for one of the most representative bands in the subgenre - something I had not yet done. On the one hand, the sheer number of reviews written before mine (many of them by some of the very best reviewers PA has to offer) kept putting me off my task. On the other, I knew I wanted to add my own opinion to the avalanche of rave reviews so far received by Porcupine Tree's 2002 album, In Absentia.

Don't get me wrong, I do not dislike PT by any means. I'd much rather listen to them than to the likes of Dream Theater, and I find their music interesting at the very least. That said, I cannot for the life of me understand why so many people see them as the 'second coming' of prog. They are a very tight, technically proficient outfit, and have in Steven Wilson a superb songwriter, musician and producer. However, when it comes to analysing what counts most - i.e. the MUSIC - I have to wonder at all the hype. Let's face it, what you can hear on In Absentia is definitely not what would have been called prog in the Seventies, or even later. There are bands and artists around (some even languishing in Prog-Related) that - in terms of musical structures - are much more progressive than PT. The Mars Volta may not be (and are not) everyone's cup of tea, but there is little doubt as to their authentically progressive approach to composition. Conversely, PT surround their music with progressive paraphernalia, but it all remains on the surface - if you delve a bit deeper, you will find rather conventional pop-rock songs, with very simple time signatures and a mostly chorus-verse-chorus structure. This is not a crime, of course - Rush have been doing that for twenty years, but they are not hailed as the saviours of modern prog: on the contrary, they have often been accused of selling out.

Given the sheer number of very detailed reviews already posted on the site, I will avoid a track-by-track analysis, and just offer my general impressions. As it is customary nowadays, the album is VERY long (close to 70 minutes) - which means that, by the time it reaches the eighth track or so, it has somewhat overstayed its welcome. The twelve songs alternate between crushing guitar riffs (this is the album where PT's sound started to turn definitely heavy), rather catchy choruses (like in album opener Blackest Eyes a deceptively upbeat tune about rape and stalking, or the iconic The Sound of Muzak), and psychedelic soundscapes reminiscent of the band's earlier output. The instrumental Wedding Nails takes the band into decidedly metal territory, while Gravity Eyelids and album closer Collapse the Light Into Earth show the softer, more atmospheric side of PT's sound, the latter with a vaguely Radiohead-ish vibe. On the whole, Trains comes across as the best offering on the album, bringing together all the threads that make up the band's music.

When it comes to rating In Absentia, in spite of my misgivings about the album and the band, I cannot ignore that this is probably the most influential recording by PT, and the one in which they showed their full potential, as well as Steven Wilson's charisma as a musician and frontman. Therefore, I will take a leaf out of my dear husband's book, and rate it 4 stars for the site, and a solid 3 for myself. As I stated at the beginning of my review, not really anything ground-breaking as such, but a good album nonetheless, and one that many prog fans will enjoy.

Report this review (#204239)
Posted Tuesday, February 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars In Absentia is the Seventh full-length studio album by British progressive rock act Porcupine Tree. The band has gone through quite a development in sound since their debut release On the Sunday of Life..... (1991). Starting out as a one man bedroom recording project playing psychadelic progressive rock and growing into one of the most influential and succesful modern progressive rock bands is quite the achivement. I haven´t been much of a fan of the early releases from the band even though most were good efforts ( nothing outstanding IMO though). In Absentia has totally changed my view on Porcupine Tree though and finally Steven Wilson & Co. have created a sound that fully captures my attention.

While the music is still unmistakably Porcupine Tree, a couple of new elements have been added to their sound. Steven Wilson had acted as producer for progressive death metal act Opeth on their 2001 release Blackwater Park and on Deliverance (2002) and Damnation (2003) both of the latter was recorded during the same sessions as documented on the Lamentations (2003) DVD release. Maybe the Swedes have had an impact on Steven Wilson because Porcupine Tree have surely gotten a lot heavier than they used to be. Especially compared to the two more mainstream oriented and polished predecessors Stupid Dream (1999) and Lightbulb Sun (2000). There´s an emphasis on beautiful song melodies but there´s certainly also an emphasis on experimenting with song structures and genres. The music is not overtly complex though and the experiments never take away the melodic focus in the songs. The heavy element which is heard in songs like Blackest Eyes, Gravity Eyelids and Wedding Nails is only a new added element in the sound not a dominant feature in all songs so by all means don´t expect this to be a heavy metal album. There´s some excellent mellow and beautiful songs on the album in addition to the more experiemental and heavy songs. Songs like The Sound of Muzak ( which has one of the most infectious choruses I´ve ever heard), the ambient .3 ( which reminds me of the Dutch pop/ rock act Hooverphonic) and the closing Collapse the Light Into Earth are all good examples of the more mellow side of Porcupine Tree on In Absentia.

The musicianship is fantastic. Excellent and tight performances by all musicians involved. I really enjoy Steven Wilson´s beautiful vocals ( even though he has quite an anonymous voice he really knows how to use it to full effect) and his occasional fierce guitar playing. The rythm section is outstanding too and ex-Japan keyboardist Richard Barbieri has a tasteful style to my ears.

The production need a special mention as it is fantastic. Absolutely wonderful clean and modern production. Some people might miss a bit of organic warmth but I couldn´t wish for a better sound.

In Absentia is by far the best album Porcupine Tree had released when it came out and finally an album by the band that I enjoy for the whole duration of its playing time. There was always something on the earlier albums that I found dull or superfluous and that annoyed me every time. With In Absentia the band have cut away all unneccesary and disturbing elements from their sound and what is left is an almost perfect album of progressive rock. As close to a masterpiece as you get without being awarded the 5th star by this reviewer ( and I might change my mind in the future). A BIG 4 star rating it will be and a recommendation from me that this is a must hear album.

Report this review (#205343)
Posted Wednesday, March 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'In Absentia' - Porcupine Tree (8/10)

'In Absentia' is the Porcupine Tree record I've always found to be overshadowed by it's two counterparts of the same era, 'Deadwing' and 'Fear Of A Blank Planet.' Both were complete and utter masterpieces, but what of 'In Absentia' itself? There is certainly masterpiece-quality songs on here, alot of them at that. But there is little to no flow that ties the songs together. If I was rating this simply based on it being a random collection of songs, sure, I would give it five stars. But I'd prefer to mark it based on how it fares as a complete work.

The only songs that I wouldn't consider amazing are 'The Creator Has A Mastertape,' 'Lips of Ashes,' and 'Strip The Soul' which don't really appeal to me, especially the first mentioned. Everything else is fantastic Porcupine Tree worthy of the band's reputation of creating high quality and uncompromising music.

But how can I listen to something that doesn't feel like it should be listened to from start to finish? Sure, the first few times I listened to In Absentia, I went from start to finish and didn't really mind the fact that the songs don't match up and form a whole... But it really got to me after about five listens, and I decided to pursue a different course, which would be to listen to songs out of order in my preference, seeing as it didn't really make a difference due to my lack of appreciation for the set-up of the album.

As always, the sound quality and production is up to a traditional Porcupine Tree standard of excellence. The song 'Heartattack In A Layby' remains one of the most beautiful songs I've ever listened to...

'In Absentia' is great for the music itself, but in terms of what a really effective album should look like, it's a bit upsetting that such a potentially masterful work could have been detracted so much by a relatively easy to remedy issue. However, for the songs themselves, this is certainly an excellent addition to any prog collection, and it's a definate worthy buy, especially if you're not too concerned with album structure.

By the way, if anyone can justify why the album is rated as Porcupine Tree's best, feel free to message me and we'll talk.

Report this review (#206752)
Posted Thursday, March 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is the album that made me an instant Porcupine Tree fan. "In Absentia" swept me of my feet with its awesome song-writing, production, lyrics, and did again later when its grotesque concept began to unfold. I had heard them be associated with psychedelic acts like Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream, but this album is completely at odds with that comparison.

The album dazzles you with it's first four songs, all cleverly written. Packed full of hooks, rhythmic twists and turns, and melodic guitar solos, the first fifteen minutes are exactly what they should be. Unfortunately, it starts to slow down after this, and doesn't pick up until the very end. The songs in the middle aren't bad at all, but they pale in comparison to the few book-ending the album.

The album begins with the prog-metal riffing of "Blackest Eyes," a song that combines very heavy guitars with pop-rock sensibility. The composition is totally focused - this album shows Steve Wilson becoming a fine song writer in addition to being a solid guitarist, singer, and band leader. This first song starts the album off high energy, and sets the mood for the rest of the album.

The following song, "Trains," is possibly the highlight of the album. Largely acoustic, yet far from a ballad, the full band also makes a welcome appearance. The new drummer, Gavin Harrison, gets to show of his chops; this guy is really something. His style reminds me of the later era drummers for Zappa's group, full of weird ideas that he pulls off flawlessly and keeps the song interesting. He will only get better on later albums, but I digress. This song has a great hook in the chorus, not poppy, but very accessible. An instant classic.

"Trains" plays into the next track "Lips of Ashes," a creepy-feeling psychedelic tune. Steve Wilson graces us with one of the few guitar solos on the album, a rare treat. He really takes care of the production here - you can here every nuance clearly. This song too plays into the following one, "The Sound of Muzak," a highlight of the album, but lyrically unrelated to the album. It's fascinating 7/4 verse and beautiful vocal harmony in the chorus make it an excellent song. Its lyrics distract from the larger message of this song, but this is made forgivable by the quality of the music.

The first four songs, all 5 star material, give way to songs of slightly lower quality. The constant melancholic mood starts to dominate the sound scape, perhaps too much so. Some of these I would consider filler material, and though none of them break the eight-minute mark, the songs tend to drag.

"Gravity Eyelids" is a good song with creepy lyrics, Steven Wilson entering the mind of a rapist/murderer/whatever the concept seems to be. Despite being the longest track on the album, it is unmemorable, though. It is followed up with "Wedding Nails," a mediocre instrumental that sounds as though it were any other Porcupine Tree song, only with vocals removed. The album could have done better without it. It does have some cool ambiance and a noise section at the end to redeem it.

"Prodigal" is where the melancholic mood starts to grate. The song is only average by Porcupine Tree standards, and seems overshadowed by those from the beginning. At this point in the album it feels bit tired. ".3" and "The Creator Had A Mastertape" are each unique songs and good in their own right, but only continue the trend begun by "Prodigal."

Things start to look up a bit towards the end. "Heartattack in a Lay By" is a ballad so unbearably depressing you have to love it. It features a gorgeous vocal harmony in the outro. "Strip the Soul," is a good prog-metal tune that expresses the concept at its most brutal. The sixteen-minute version on the "Out Absentia" B-Sides album is better though - should it have been mastered, it would have been a boon to this album. The album finishes strongly with "Collapse the Light Into Earth," a luscious piano ballad that could possibly be considered post-rock.

For those of you who didn't know, "In Absentia" is a concept album. Not tremendously focused, all the songs are definitely linked into what seems to be the memoirs of a person who might be either a rapist, serial killer, pedophile, abusive parent, or something of the sort. Possibly all of the above; the lyrics are quite open to interpretation. I for one prefer Steve Wilson's ugly and unabashedly pretentious lyrics to those of other contemporary prog artists like Dream Theater and Spock's Beard.

All in all, In Absentia is a very good album, no bad songs, but some very noticeable low-points. Two thirds of this album is great stuff, accessible and mature. Prog fans of any sort are bound to find something they like on this fine disc.

Report this review (#212214)
Posted Thursday, April 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Porcupine Tree ? In Absentia

Review by ProgKidJoel

Porcupine Tree's "In Absentia" is considered to be the best the Tree has delivered to date; A great mix of rock, prog and space rock help to make this as memorable as it is enjoyable. This is the album which got me hooked on the fruit of the Porcupine Tree, and is one of my favourites the band has released to date. Offering listeners a deep venture into the many worlds Porcupine Tree has to offer, this one takes some time to sink in.

1. Blackest Eyes

Opening with one of Porcupine Tree's best riffs to date, this is an incrediblely solid opener for the album, and is a fan favourite. Incredible sonic quality and musicianship make this track special, and also make it a stand out. A metal intro and an alternative-rock chorus and verses, this track is nearly as interesting as it is addictive. The guitar section is easily the most impressive and innovative on this track, and supplies a solid base for the rhythmic section to work around. One of my favourite from the album, this track is nearly as horrifying as it is uplifting.

5 out of 5

2. Trains

My favourite track from this album, this is easily one of Porcupine Tree's best tracks. Also one of my all time favourite songs, and indeed, one of the best the Tree has to offer, this track in unforgettable. A flowing acoustic melody give this track a great life, and its solos are as refreshing as they are melodic. In my completely honest opinion, this track makes the album worth a purchase on its own. A fan favourite in Europe, its easy to see why one could fall in love with this song. An inspiringly beautiful lyric is what makes this track extraordinary. If you haven't heard this track, you haven't heard one of the best Porcupine Tree have to offer. Once again, the musicianship Steven Wilson shows in his guitar work on this track is amazing, specifically acoustically. The beautiful ambience of Richard Barbieri's synth work is another highlight, providing a brilliant contrast and overtone to this brilliant song.

5 out of 5 (I would give it 6 if I could)

3. Lips of Ashes

Another amazing track, this song reaches back a little farther into Porcupine Tree's psychedelic routes. Amazing acoustics lead this track, and layered vocals add another dimension of beauty to what I thought this track could bring after the amazing "Trains". Eventually leading into an amazing melancholic guitar solo, this is another highlight from the album, and is a track no-one can miss. Amazing musicianship is the obvious main attribute of "Lips Of Ashes", and it does not disappoint on this (Or any other) front. Melting into an eventual silence, this track truly will give you shivers down your spine. Another unmissable from IN ABSENTIA, I can't stress how much you need to check this track out.

5 out of 5

4. The Sound Of Muzak

A track about the death of true music and the commercialism of money-making scams, AKA 90% of recent pop music, this is another stunner on the album. Guitar work is on yet another high here, and once again, the heaviness works more than perfectly with the drum track and the ambience provided by the keyboards during the chorus, as do the once again overlaying melting vocals of Steven Wilson. This is a truly brilliant track, and it contains one of my all time favourite guitar solos. Once again, technical and artistic musicianship is on a high here. A truly iconic masterpiece, and another track with no PT fan or prog fan can miss.

5 out of 5

5. Gravity Eyelids

Once again, Porcupine Tree prove that they can still space out with the best of them! This is more than likely the track which inspired the somewhat shocking album art, and it's easy to see why. This track is obviously not a technical thriller, but artistically, this track will take you on a truly horrifying ride. Richard Barbieri shines here if he ever does, and even though through ambient sounds, this is what make the track special. Mr. Barbieri's piano work at the chorus is also truly beautiful, as are the overlapping vocals. The percussion in this track is incredibly rhythmic, providing an incredibly bass for a build-up which can be described as nothing less than epic. At around 3:45, this track takes a turn for what is even better than I thought was possible from this track. Reaching a much heavier rhythmic approach than originally expected, this track is somewhat similar to Porcupine Tree's 2005 track from Deadwing, "Arriving somewhere (But not here)". Gavin Harrison proves, perhaps for the first time, that he has some incredible chops as a rock drummer aswell as a light jazz player. Closing in the same way that it opened, it stands as one of the most solid and interesting tracks Porcupine Tree released up until that point, and provided a solid center for the album.

5 out of 5

6. Wedding Nails

My least favourite track from this album, Wedding Nails revolves around technical overture. Although proving that Porcupine Tree are excellent musicians, this instrumental is very repetitive and does little justice to either side of Porcupine Tree. Its six minute length also seems a little unnecessary, considering this is basically a repetition of the same riff. By no means terrible, the only reason I can't say this track is a standout like the five which preceded it is because it doesn't really do any justice for the abilities of Porcupine Tree. Closing in another ambient melt, this track isn't bad; its just not great.

3 out of 5

7. Prodigal

A great track in its own right, the chorus seems heavily reliant on Pink Floyd's obvious influence. Once again, the echoing vocals provide an excellent contrast to the somewhat poppy feel of this track. A great rock n' roll riff brings this track to life, and makes it highly replayable and interesting. "Rain keeps crawling down the glass; The good times never seem to last." Although only a small sample of the lyrics, its clear Steven Wilson put a lot of thought into this track, and indeed, into this utterly astonishing album. A nearly balladic rock song, this is another stand out on the album, which provides a lovely contrast to the two tracks which preceded it.

4.5 out of 5

8. .3

Another somewhat melancholic and psychedelic song, this track is really interesting. This is where Colin Edwin begins to shine on bass for IN ABSENTIA, and from here on in, he doesn't disappoint. Mr. Barbieri's amazingly ambient keyboards once again play a leading role in the harsh gravity of this track, which, if listened to directly after Prodigal as was intended by Porcupine Tree, provides yet another bleak and fascinating contrast. Eventually reaching an interesting vocal and acoustic guitar melody, this track always reminds me of "The Moon Touches Your Shoulders" from "The Sky moves Sideways". Similar to Gravity Eyelids, this track closes in the same way it began, albeit somewhat anti-climatic.

4.5 out of 5

9. The Creator Had A Mastertape

A very dark track, the musicianship is amazing on this track, particularly in the rhythmic section. Colin Edwin and Gavin Harrisson gel brilliantly for the first time here, and it provides an insane contrast to the use of stereophonics and great guitar work. The chorus is a bit? Shocking? More thrash than conventional metal or prog, the chorus is composed of incredibly distorted guitar chords, but not in a good way. Another quite boring track, this is hampered by a mass of repetition, much like Wedding Nails. Once again, this is not an outright bad track, but it is rather uninteresting compared to the other many greats on the album. The lyrics, however, are something to behold in this track; Telling a dark, shocking story whilst playing perfectly over the track.

4 out of 5

10. Heartattack In A Layby

Another excellent track, this is once again reminiscent of old-school space rock Porcupine Tree. A lot more quiet than the track that preceded it and the track that comes after it, I love this track to bits. The lyrics are once again amazing, giving us an interesting flow with the highly muddled guitar and keyboard work. Layered vocals are what making this track so amazing, especially in the outro. At around 2:35, this track changes to an incredibly beautiful layed vocal track, which is easily my favourite moment on the latter half of the album, and gives out an incredibly melancholic and pseudo-relatable feeling.

5 out of 5

11. Strip The Soul

Another somewhat repetitive track, this is by no means bad, but just does not really appeal to me as most of the other tracks on this album. Highly rhythmic vocals make this track interesting, as does the lead into the chorus. Eventually, you may grow bored of this track, although you will hear something different on nearly every listen of this song. I can't say this is a favourite, although it is quite interesting and provides another amazing contrast to the track which came before it. Eventually this track flows into about 4 guitar overlays, each one as amazing as the other, and the guitar solo is particularly interesting here. Although not the most interesting solo, it works nearly perfectly with the track and helps to add depth and replayability to what is an otherwise rather stale track.

4 out of 5

12. Collapse The Light Into Earth

A beautiful piano led track, this is one of the most perfect album ending tracks I've ever heard from any band. An amazing progression helps this track come to life, and provides something that is nothing other than f**king amazing. I can't stress the brilliance of this track; its just simply perfect. Vocals are on a high here, as is the ambient playing of Richard Barbieri. Entering into a more than perfect flow of symphonic violins, this track couldn't be better. I find it hard to express the perfection of this track; the vocals, lyrics, simplicity, complexity, context, emotion provoking ability, I don't truly understand what makes this track so amazing; it? Just is. The violins and vocals work in a perfect tandem, which is nothing other than pure emotion being thrown forward from the minds of prog's young shining stars. So brilliantly climatic, I don't know what else I can tell you about this track, other than you perhaps won't see what's so amazing about it unless listened to in order with every other track on this absolute masterpiece. Please, do yourself a favour, and here this track in surround; it will make you think differently about this band forever. Closing in the same piano riff which opened it, this is simply inspiring on a level above human comprehension.

5 out of 5 (Once again, 6 if I could)

Closing comments: This album is much better than its parts, although they are all amazing in their own right, the fact that they are compiled and have such an amazing flow. Possibly a concept album, Steven Wilson, as a believer of self-interpretation, gives very little hints to the inspiration and/or backing story to this masterpiece.

This one is unmissable; Porcupine Tree fans and new listeners alike will see the brilliance of this album, and I hope you do too!

Just buy it! 5 out of 5; Absolutely perfect. -Joel

Report this review (#213033)
Posted Thursday, April 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have just finished listening to this for the first time, and I am truly amazed. This is definitely a near perfect piece of progressive rock, and there are not very many people who can dislike it. Porcupine Tree is very talented. I find that they are one of those bands that I know is really amazing, but just can't really get into. Prior to this, I only heard the Alternate Version of "The Sky Moves sideways" from the eponymous album, and I just used that to judge all of Porcupine Tree. That's the only song I ever listened to, being that I am drawn to very long epics.

But this album sounds a lot different than that, yet I can still believe it's from the same band, because I can hear just the little things. In Absentia is the album that definitely helped me overcome the hard time I had getting into Porcupine Tree, and after listening to this album, I can safely say that I will probably be a Porcupine Tree forever after this, and begin to collect all their stuff.

The album is an amazing mix of progressive rock and hard rock, it has some heavy metal elements in there, as well as ambient and surreal stuff from krautrock. None of the songs are super long, but the album still provides a feeling of continuity by segueing quite a few of its tracks together, which is another element of progressive rock that I love.

Having listened to that album from begining to end, I honestly don't remember all of it, because the memory general has a hard time grasping it after only hearing it once. It needs repetition. However, I believe I will remember this whole album as one album rather than any specific songs from it. There are no songs that are absolutely outstanding over the others, because all the songs are very special, and have that little artistic perfection in them.

This album is amazing, and original. If you ever had trouble getting into Porcupine Tree, just listen to this album from beginning to end. By the last song, it will be known to you whether or not you're a huge Porcupine Tree fan.

Report this review (#219194)
Posted Sunday, May 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I don't remember myself giving a 5 star rating to any album, but this one deserves it.

I'm not going to write a lot about it since all the other reviewers have made a lot of excellent statements about this great album, all I can say is that this is the best porcupine tree record, the production is excellent, and the songs are incredible. This album has some beautiful moments (Trains, Lips of Ashes, Heartattack in a Layby, Collapse the light into Earth) as well as some strong-heavy parts (Blackest Eyes, Gravity Eyelids, Wedding Nails, Strip the Soul).

If you're interested in hearing porcupine tree I recommend you this record, for me this album is the point where PT develops their sound and takes it to a new level.

Report this review (#228491)
Posted Sunday, July 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars In Absentia was the first encounter I had with Porcupine Tree. I was really starting to appreciate Opeth at the time and heard the band always cite Porcupine Tree as something special, so I decided to look them up. After hearing a small sample of The Sound of Muzak, it was all over. I quickly purchased the album and fell in love. There really is no way to give the album justice with only words; it's simply beyond description. I hope I can help a prospective listener with my synopsis though!

There couldn't be a better opener than "Blackest Eyes" for this album. As soon as the ambient guitar starts to get drowned out by the creeping feedback, you know something big is coming. Then it happens, the centerpiece guitar riff comes in and knocks you right on your ass! What really make this song though are Steven Wilson's vocals through the verse, and especially the chorus sections. The harmonization is simply blissful. From start to finish, this song gives you a snapshot of what you can expect from the album. 5/5

"Trains" continues to bolster the album and is another one of the stand-out tracks. I find myself at a loss for words to even accurately describe this song, I'll try though! Opening with acoustic guitar and solo voice, the song has a catchy vocal melody that will get you humming along in no time! Then the band comes in and blasts the tune to new heights. The serene and peaceful music evokes an image in my head every time I hear it! The banjo and guitar middle section further carries on the mood of the song, and then the heavy reprise of the main theme just brings everything together beautifully! 5/5

A more mellow side of Porcupine Tree, "Lips of Ashes" brings a whole different atmosphere into the album, sounding almost ghostly but sublimely beautiful at the same time. The hypnotic acoustic guitar is almost like a lullaby. Great song! 4/5

"The Sound of Muzak" is another stand-out track. I always love when a group can make a rhythmically complex song sound catchy and wonderful. It took me a while to even realize that the song was in 7/4! That's always an added bonus; very prog! Of course the harmonization in the chorus is absolutely brilliant, the layering is just so powerful, it gets me every time. The guitar solo in this song is also one of my favorites of all time; Steven Wilson phrases it so well! 5/5

"Gravity Eyelids" was a song that took me a while to get into; the lurking sound in the first half of the song isn't as active as what has been offered in the previous tracks. But once the song gets to the halfway point, you realize the whole beginning was just a build-up to the climactic metallic section. The song then meanders its way back to the mood it started with, ending the same way as it began. Good track, not as strong as what's been given already though. 3.5/5

"Wedding Nails" is another one of my own personal stand-out tracks. The opening riff is just so quirky and epic, especially when it progress into the section with the shifting octaves; a Steven Wilson trademark. Then the song goes into a very experimental solo section which is absolutely awesome and finds it way back into the main riff, except in a new key this time around! Some people think that the song drags a little, which I sort of agree with, but I appreciate the end of the song more often than not. Very good song to serve as the album divider! 4/5

"Prodigal" is such a powerful and melancholic track. The almost humorously depressing lyrics and rocking chorus are what gives this song its own identity. Of course there are the trademark beautiful vocal harmonies, but I guess that's expected by now. Overall, just a straightforward tune that is great to just rock out to! 5/5

".3" is another song that took me a while to appreciate as much as the rest of the album. The hypnotic and groovy bass line starts things off and the song slowly starts to form its atmosphere. Then the strumming of an acoustic guitar brings the song to its epic climax and moves toward the end with great orchestral work adding to the atmosphere. 4/5

"The Creator Has a Mastertape" is a very morbid and creepy song which has an intensely violent atmosphere to it. The lyrics perfectly add to the song's atmosphere and tell a very chilling tale indeed. Gavin Harrison on the drum kit shows his tasteful chops in this track with his very busy style drumming. Very good song. 4/5

"Heartattack in a Lay By" is a song that's in the same light as "Lips of Ashes", although this track is notably more depressing. The vocals are what make this track shine, Steven Wilson masterfully layers the vocals to make them sound so sweet and serene. The lyrics also evoke great images! Good song, but not among my favorites. 4/5

"Strip the Soul" is next and in this song, Colin Edwin revives a familiar bass line heard earlier in the album on ".3". This song is very strong lyrically, based on deceased serial killer Fred West. Musically the song is pretty strong as well, the main riff has great head- banging potential and the jazzy keyboard solo section is pretty interesting as well. Very good song, made even better by the story it tells. 4/5

"Collapse the Light into Earth" is yet another one of my favorite tracks on the album; such a minimalistic song but so powerful at the same time. The orchestral work is definitely what makes this song so amazing. The only way to accurately describe this song is as the perfect closer to a masterpiece of an album! 5/5

I hope my review helps persuade you, prospective listener, into giving this band a try. I say with utmost confidence that you won't be sorry you did!

Overall rating: 4.5/5 rounded up to a 5/5


Report this review (#229937)
Posted Tuesday, August 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Believe it or not my dad told me about Porcupine Tree initially. He read a comparison to Pink Floyd in a magazine, something like "new Pink Floyd" I was just beginning to really get into Floyd at the time; I was listening to all their albums, etc. So he showed me and suggests I check them out. I remember thinking that was cool, and Porcupine Tree was an interesting, cool name, but I was skeptical. I was very anti-modern music then, I wasn't full blown into prog yet, and I really was just into classic rock, I wasn't looking to explore any new bands. Well, my next birthday, my dad got this album for me; it was probably 2003 or 2004, maybe 6 months after he had discovered them. I'm pretty sure this was the only PT album the record store carried too. I don't think I listened to it for quite a while though. But, I remember when I finally did, I was blown away, I couldn't believe a new band like this was out there, they were/are awesome. I also remember telling friends about them, but seriously getting shrugs and chuckles at just the name of the band. I did however convince one friend of mine, Justin, to check them out and I think he bought an album too. Since then I think I've introduced PT to a few more people. This was my introduction to PT, and I've been hooked ever since, acquiring almost their entire catalog. After about six years, I'll finally be seeing them live later this month in Chicago, I cannot wait.

The album is flawless, every song is great, they all fit together and flow perfectly. PT's sound changed on this album a lot, compared to their previous work. Their music got a lot harder, borderline metal at times, but not quite, which I like. I love all the songs, the entire album. I'm not going to go into details about every song, just listen. This is a five star album and a must have for any prog collection. In Absentia is also a great introduction to PT as well.

Report this review (#236814)
Posted Thursday, September 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars 9/10

"In Absentia" has a new, explosive, change of sound for Steven Wilson and his band!

"In Absentia" was most definitely the heaviest PT record at the time, and certainly completely different from all the previous albums. In an interview, now available as an eleven minute track in the EP "Futile", Steven Wilson, PT leader, explains that during this period he was listening to some Extreme prog metal bands such as Opeth and Meshuggah, and that they were his main influence for writing all the heavier songs. The style of the album is, other than having some new, heavy moods, has. Like many previous albums, some pop, prog, jazz at times, ambience and psych. It is, stylistically speaking, PT's most eclectic album to date. The structure of the album is kind of different: no short songs ,as well as no excessively long songs (not longer than seven minutes), and there twelve songs, even though this amount of tracks isn't new for the band. In this way, you can't really feel the album as a journey that you must listen to all the way through, but more like a collection of songs, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, like in this album.

"Blackest Eyes", "Trains", "Sound Of Muzak" are three very big hits for a prog band, mainly because they're very melodic, catchy, and at times exquisitely heavy. " Lips Of Ashes" finds itself in the middle of these three hits, and it's probably the weakest song here. "Gravity Eyelids", however, is a masterpiece, seven minutes of an increasing climax, and before you know it the song explodes from a calm keyboard driven mood into a fantastic heavy riff. "Wedding Nails" is a great instrumental piece, almost all of it guitar driven, unlike other PT instrumentals. "Prodigal" is a beautiful song, very underrated, a lot of soft and dreamy moods. "3." Is a spacey, keyboard driven song, almost all instrumental, but with many great moments. "The Creator Has A Mastertape" is kind of odd, with a heavy bass driven verse, and has generally speaking kind of an energetic feel to it. "Heartattack In A Lay By" is a soft, beautiful song, with a very melancholic and sad sounding melody. "Strip The Soul" is another heavy masterpiece, with plenty of great moments that you won't forget. The last song "Collapse Light In the Earth" is another calm song, but very beautiful, with a heartbreaking melody that warms you up everytime you listen to it.

In conclusion, "In Absentia" is an album that is essential if you like progressive rock music, since it did go down in prog history as one of PT's best and most complete albums.

Report this review (#237863)
Posted Monday, September 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars The Prototypical PT Album

In Absentia regularly gets the highest marks among PT albums, was the first album of theirs I bought. I've been putting off this review for along time due to ambivalence, taking the time to review the new Incident prompted me to go back to this classic. And like that album, I'm torn between giving the album 3 and 4 stars. Two things contrast the album in mind: In Abstentia's stronger pop songwriting, and its overscrubbed production. Part of me enjoys the individual songs on In Abstentia better, as they're just more hummable and singable. But this album really is more of a crossover prog album, using prog elements to enhance what are essentially pop songs.

Steven Wilson's depressive, sarcastic lyrics appeal perfectly to the teenage goth set, but don't hold up much to scrutiny for an adult. The snipes at modern music on "The Sound of Muzak" satisfy a certain itch, but the irony is that Wilson himself is guilty of creating modern Muzak as much as anyone else. Truly tasty musical choices are rare, including the banjo on "Trains" or the Mars Volta-isms on "The Creator has a Mastertape." I also miss the crunch of later albums, seen here only in very small doses. The repetitive psychedelic sections are okay, but really only perk my ears when more exotic or spooky tonalities are used.

The biggest problem with this album is that it just seems too deliberate, too careful, too nitpicked. On "Wedding Nails" the main riff is quite stiff and it's not until the second guitar comes in that a groove finally starts. The second section using the Ministry-like two note riff is much better, but still struggles to maintain the raw emotion of Jorgenson's outfit. I know this is a prog site, but I just want to scream to Wilson to let his heart out a bit and not think so hard. At the same time, my favorite song on the album is the relatively straightforward melancholy dream-pop of "Prodigal."

Most of this has been pretty negative, but one thing is clear. Steven Wilson is very talented both as a musician and as a producer. He has one of the best left brains in the music business, and this album was made at his peak in that regard. Wilson's mastery of sound, his sense of melody and rhythm, all of the fundamentals and more are here. The music is enjoyable, and seems like work that would appeal to a relatively wide audience compared to much of the music on this site. I find myself turning to this album only once in awhile, and rarely for its entirety.

This still remains a 3+ album, a worthy addition to any fan of modern prog. The skill level alone makes a lower rating seem false, but this in no way reaches masterpiece level. My choice of a 3 rather than 4 has more to do with my taste than anything else.

Report this review (#242965)
Posted Sunday, October 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars According to PA it's most popular and the best PT album. Whenever I really liked their Stupid Dream, I purchased that one as well. And was disappointed!

You can read tens of reviews for this album there , mainly very positive. I don't know, what is the reason, may be it's just question of taste. So, I can't see the reason to repeat all good or bad opinions in detail, just will try to make some comments.

First of all, the album is a bit ... different. Different not only from Stupid Dream,for example, but different from what I understand as prog-rock in general. For sure, they use many prog elements ( mainly used by other great prog musicians before), but common musical platform is something different.

When I want to listen to brit-pop, I can do it without using PT ( to be honest,I hate brit-pop). There are for sure many bands playing this style music better (Oasis,at least). If I want to listen to progresive brit-pop, I can take Radiohead ( and some their songs are really better, than this PT imitation). If I want to listen heavy music, I can take one of hundreds perfect heavy rock albums ( you understand, that it's no even reason to compare PT with best heavy bands in their field of music). So - what the reason to purchase this PT album?

If only I want to save my money, and instead of buying 3-4 excellent CD's of perfect musicians ( each in their own style), I will buy this mixed cake under the name " music style: whatever you want"? I believe, that using that trick PT got much wider audience ( let say true - number of buyers), but is it enough reason to name this album excellent? They stole part of cake from Radiohead,Opeth, some indie bands, so hope it gave them good additional income. But what did it give to me, as to prog-rock fan?

Not everything is so bad. Album is long ( I own european edition with 3 bonuses), so they filled all possible CD space for money paid. Second part of the album includes more prog songs ( less indie,less brit-pop,I mean). And if there are not big masterpieces, at list that part is more listenable. Can I listen this CD? Yes, but not too often . Do I like it ? No way! There for sure are better PT albums in this world!

Report this review (#243705)
Posted Friday, October 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
2 stars I used to believe that the older a person gets and the more music we listen, the less capacity of surprise have left, but as I age it has increased, still I'm able to find fantastic music where I didn't expected, and strong disappointments when I believed I would be before a great album, "In Absentia" is one of the second cases.

After reading countless reviews that describe this album as a masterpiece (even from reviewers with whom I share common taste and others I respect a lot), bought this album in 2005, and my first impression was very negative. Being that is common for me to acquire the taste for a Prog album after some time, waited four years until I wrote a review, but sadly my opinion hasn't changed. With this I'm not saying all the reviewers are wrong, because maybe the problem is my personal taste, but I believe "In Absentia" is one of the most unexciting albums I ever listened.

People talk about a Heavy Prog album with Space Rock elements, to be honest I only find an alternative album with some Hard Rock elements, but very little of Space Rock, and less of Prog.

"In Absentia" starts with "Blackest Eyes", and after a heavy introduction based mostly in distorted guitar, comes an endless display of Alternative Rock without the imagination of RADIOHEAD, but all the characteristics I dislike of this sound....Repetitive, downhearted vocals, lack of emotion and seems extremely long because the lack of versatility (despite it lasts 4 minutes), incredibly the next song "Train" reinforces my opinion, I can't understand why they bothered to make two tracks, when easily they could have made a monotonous epic of almost ten minutes, because both songs are absolutely similar.

Saying that "Lips of Ashes" is different could mean something positive, but not in his case, the song is slower, more repetitive and tedious than the previous two. I won't deny that the introduction is nice and spacey with a mysterious use of keyboards and guitar, but as soon as the vocals enter they fall again into that gloomy sound so common in Alternative bands.

When "Sound of Muzak" started I noticed immediately we were before a very good song, with nice variations, excellent drumming and at last vocals that don't induce to suicide, but it's also obvious that the influence of RADIOHEAD is more than casual, specially to "Paranoid Android".

After the first minutes of "Gravity Eyelids" I was tempted to press the skip button, because it seems as they are playing the first two tracks again, but around the second minute, a nice Mellotron made me continue even when the structure kept being as boring as in the beginning of the album. The second half of the song is much less depressive, specially because the heavy guitar, but not enough to save it.

In the beginning of "Wedding Nail", PORCUPINE TREE at least gives signs of life, the excellent guitar - keyboard interplay is enough to place me in a better mood, because a couple more songs like the previous and I would probably need Prozac. Around the middle, the experimental interplay between guitar and spacey keyboards (really jamming), places this rack as the most Progressive Rock oriented until this point. Interesting and nice to listen.

But nothing lasts forever, "Prodigal" is another slow and repetitive Alternative song with vocals trying to sounds like COBAIN. Even when the choirs are interesting, the general atmosphere is so lack of energy that a depressive person could blow his head. Again at the middle an instrumental break makes us think that things are going to change, but after some seconds, is more of the same.

"Dot Three" starts with an interesting but short bass intro that leads to another space Rock oriented keyboard passage, the drumming is so mechanical and weak that had to check the credits twice to verify if the drummer was human.

Despite this fact, Richard Barbieri does an outstanding job with his oneiric synths, an Steve Wilson supports well with his acoustic guitar...But when he opens the voice, my need for Prozac increases exponentially. I wonder if this band wouldn't be much more solid if they only played instrumentals.

"The Creator has a Mastertape" intro reminds me of STEVE HACKETT later albums, and that's already something, at least this time the vocals are so distorted that sound alm9st decent despite the lack of variations.

The instrumental breaks (1:57 and 2:55) are so violent and unexpected that reminds us we're not before a band of zombies, this guys are alive, sadly they seem to forget it most of the time, after a couple more instrumental breaks in the same vein, the song fades down in an extremely beautiful Mellotron coda.

As usual after a good track, the band returns to that sad, nostalgic and low-spirited atmosphere, as if they were not enjoying what they do, and the result is one of the most uninteresting songs in history.

The album ends with "Strip the Soul" and "Collapse the Light into Earth",mention both together because the sequence repeats, a strong vibrant song and another saddening tune, at least "Collapse the Light into Earth" has a nice piano and better string arrangement at the end, but not enough to rescue the album.

Believe it or not, I would had loved to listen a great album and rate it with 5 stars as most of the reviewers, but I would be lying if I did so, "In Absentia" has one excellent song, two or three good ones and the rest is average or less, so I have no alternative to rate it with two stars.

As in the beginning I have some questions...Are the other reviewers crazy when rating this album with 5 stars?....Am I incapable to find a beauty that is so evident to others?....I believe none of both, it's simply the personal and God given taste.

I know I'm going to receive a lot of negative feedback from the fans of PORCUPINE TREE, but that's the price you have to pay when yo don't like a high rated album and give your honest opinion.

Report this review (#248445)
Posted Friday, November 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars A stellar album from Porcupine Tree

"In Absentia" is widely considered as the bands best. While it is their best place to start, I prefer "The Sky Moves Sideways," "Signify," and "Fear Of A Blank Planet." Still this album is a great one.

A description of the music: The most I can say about the sound that won't be said in the first point listed in the "PROS" section is that this is probably their darkest album. The outro to "Strip The Soul" is almost undoubtedly the darkest thing they've ever written. Also, as you'll find in most of the bands music, it contains many vocal unisons in the choruses.


The diversity: This album can be seen as part of the bridge between Porcupine Tree's heavy era and their psychedelic era. The means that you will find both aspects on this album. Their psychedelic era can be found especially in tracks like "Lips Of Ashes" and "Heartattack In A Layby." Their heavier tracks include "Blackest Eyes" and "The Creator Has A Mastertape." You will also find a hint of the crossover sound found in "Stupid Dream" and "Lightbulb Sun" in the song "Prodigal."

Drumming: This is Porcupine Tree's first album with Gavin Harrison as their drummer, and he really shines. He makes excellent use of fast-paced rolls and complex time signatures. His strongest track is probably "The Creator Has A Mastertape."

Lyrics: The lyrics, along with much of the music, are dark. Most of the songs on the album are about serial killers, and Wilson effectively displays the persona of these serial killers with ease. He also shows he is capable of writing lyrics that send chills down your spine and make a sad story out of it like in "Heartattack In A Layby."


The final track: While it may be a little harsh to bass an entire con on one average length track, I really feel the main thing this album was missing was a strong closer. "Collapse The Light Into Earth" may have a strong string section, but it's basically the same piano line repeating with a simple chorus. And I really found this song needed a lot more.

The proginess: Another problem that some might find is the fact that quite a few of these tracks being classified prog is questionable. An example is "Trains." Even though it is the strongest track on the album in my mind, there is relatively no prog. Most of the album is like this in the sense that the only prog thing about it is the time signatures.

Song ratings:

Blackest Eyes: 9/10 Trains: 10/10 Lips of Ashes: 10/10 The Sound Of Muzak: 8/10 Gravity Eyelids: 7.5/10 Wedding Nails: 8/10 Prodigal: 5/10 .3: 10/10 The Creator Has A Mastertape: 9/10 Heartattack In A Layby: 9/10 Strip The Soul: 9.5/10 Collapse The Light Into Earth: 3/10

Recommended for: Fans of a bit more simplistic prog. People who don't mind a slightly poppy sound.

My rating: 4 stars. A great album, but it has its flaws. If it had a stronger ending, 5 stars would be a consideration.

Report this review (#273797)
Posted Tuesday, March 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars 3 in a row, is it possible. Yes, to be honest, Porcupine Tree have been making nothing short of masterpieces all this time (just heard the Incident today, omg)

This album saw a more slightly more heavier side, but still keeping within the alternative rock like style with a healthy dose of prog.

Again, faces and eyes are present on the artwork (must be a fetish of Mr. Wilson).

Their seems to be a concept present, about a serial killer, and if there is, the story is more cryptic if anything. Maybe it's a bildungsroman...who knows.

1. Blackest Eyes - Amazing song and one of their best, no flaws at all. Killer riff as well. They do this song amazing live as well.

2. Trains - A more relaxed song, but still with a rock like edge to it, they never fail to impress.

3. Lips Of Ashes - Amazing eerie song. Spine chilling to say the least.

4. The Sound Of Muzak - Amazing satiracal song about modern music (a bit like 4 Chords That Made A Million). I love the line " The music of rebellion makes you want to rage, but it's made by millionares who are nearlly twice your age." Completely ironic and true. The chorus is also amazing.

5. Gravity Eyelids - Again an amazing chorus. I love the atmosphere of the instrumentals. Amazing song, epic and interesting.

6. Wedding Nails - Obvious King Crimson style instrumental. Dead on though.

7. Prodigal - The more upbeat long song. Another great chorus and the counterpoint vocals are quite extraordinary.

8. 3 - Again, amazing instrumentation.

9. The Creator Has A Mastertape - Very weird. This song is very interesting, I love the almost monologic like vocals and the amazing kick ass riffs.

10. Heartattack In A Layby - Very beautiful. The piano sections are very beautiful and the chorus is very memorable.

11. Strip The Soul - Kick ass! Quite angry for a Porcupine Tree song.

12. Collapse The Light Into Earth - How do you end a Porcupine Tree album, slow and nice obviosuly.

CONCLUSION - It's Porcupine Tree, expect nothing but an amazing piece of music.

Report this review (#276138)
Posted Saturday, April 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars In Absentia is a fantastic effort from Porcupine Tree and it shows a

heavier edge to their sound. This is one my most favorite albums, ever.

I don't want to spoil the story of this album for you too much, so I'll

try not to reveal what the concept is. Here we go.

Blackest Eyes - Amazing opening song. The blend of heavy and light

sections is just perfect, wonderful vocal parts and some awesome

lyrics...though the whole album is amazing lyrically. Porcupine Tree

seemed to have found a good balance between Prog and Pop, yet still

retain an amazing sound overall. 5/5

Trains - Beautiful. That's the only word you can use here, this track

is just completely amazing. Fantastic vocal performance by Steven on

this one. The opening acoustic guitar part is very catchy, and this

song will very easily be stuck in your's almost impossible to

forget any moment of it. 5/5

Lips of Ashes - A very sad and dark track. Again, stunning vocal

performance and some good unison lines between the guitar and vocals.

The guitar solo is also quite nice and adds to the song. Again, the

lyrics are a piece of art in their own right and should be listened to

as carefully as anything else. Great. 4/5

Sound of Muzak - Wonderful track. The opening guitar riff is great, I

believe it is in a 7\4 time signature and it's very proggy sounding.

The lyrics are also completely awesome, as they describe the current

state of music and the music business. I think all of us progheads can

relate to them to some extent. The vocal harmonies are great, and as

usual Steven delivers a very tasteful solo. Cool song. 5/5

Gravity Eyelids - A melancholic track, this one. Very nice ambient

keyboard work and again, great lyrics that really paint pictures of the

story in your mind. I like the piano that comes in before the chorus as

well. The vocal harmonies during the chorus are brilliant as well. The

drumming on this track is conservative, but for some reason it's still

really great. Maybe it's just me. Anyways, another good track. 4/5

Wedding Nails - A great instrumental by PT. It has a fantastic main

riff that develops throughout and every instrument is played extremely can really hear how in tune the band is with each other one

this one. Steven plays a really interesting and creative's

hard to describe sounds almost diseased or sick. Awesome

drumming from Gavin and a nice ambient breakdown section that features

some good keyboard work. Of course we can't forget Colin's amazing bass

playing and you can really appreciate the synchronicity between him and

Gavin. Awesome track. 5/5

Prodigal - I like the slide guitar on this one.....A very moody and

features yet more amazing lyrics. The keys are also very cool on this

one. I like the way the track builds up and the heavier guitars enter.

Steven also has another melodic solo on this song and it's very nice.


.3 - A cool intro by the keyboards and guitar. I like the spacey

ambient sound to this one....yet it still manages to sound full. I like

the orchestration. The guitar effects are great, heavily chorused

electric guitar and layered with acoustic guitars. Another good vocal

performance from Steven, lots of good harmonies. 4.5/5

The Creator Has a Mastertape - A creepy track to be sure, both

lyrically and musically. Everything about this track is heavy, but with

breaks here and there. The vocals and guitar again join together for

harmonies, but this time it's sounds very disturbing...but in a good

way. The drumming is also very, very, good on this one. Lots of energy

behind Gavin's performance. A good track. 4/5

Heartattack in a Layby - I like this one. Nice piano and guitar one in

this song. Of course, the lyrics are good...but again, they are rather

sad. The vocal performance is good and John's harmonies with Steven are

perfect. Very nice. 4/5

Strip The Soul - Cool bass playing on this song for sure. The lyrics

are again, quite disturbing and they definitely get the point across.

The song is well orchestrated and the breaks are well placed. The

chorus is very good, and you'll find it sticks with you. There are some

very interesting guitar lines on this track, so listen for those. 4.5/5

Collapse the Light into Earth - A beautiful track. I think it's a great

ending to the album, even though it is a little on the lengthy side.

It's very simple, but it proves you can do something great with a song

that isn't particularly complex. 5/5

This is one of PT's finest albums in my opinion. Fantastic production,

amazing music...just great all around. I hope you listen to it and

enjoy it as much as I have!

Report this review (#277577)
Posted Sunday, April 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is the first of 4 Porcupine Tree releases that I own and will review. I have been very appreciative of the fact that this website let me discover this band. I am not sure anything of theirs that I have picked up is perfect, but they are very close, all of them. The best songs on this album: "Blackest Eyes"- awesome song! One of P Tree's best. 5 stars "Trains"- also great. 5 stars. "Gravity Eyelids"- 4 1/5 stars. Almost perfect, but a little repetitive. "Heartattack in a Layby" and "Collapse the Light into Earth"- both cool slower songs. 5 stars each. The rest of this is not as interesting to me, but no bad songs, all are at least 3 stars. So, overall I give this 4 stars. It's not my favorite Porcupine Tree (Deadwing or Fear of a Blank Planet are), but it's still a very fine album. 4 stars
Report this review (#278052)
Posted Thursday, April 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Another wonderful album from the masterminds that are Porcupine Tree!

I will start this review by saying that I personally enjoy this album very much, as well as the band. Very different sound, heavier, somewhat more commercial, better songwriting... and did I mention Gavin Harrison, an astounding rock/jazz/metal drummer with an array of sounds and styles, makes his studio debut on this great album?

"Blackest Eyes"- Nice opener. Great heavy parts as well as a great verse/chorus melody, though some of this can get mildly repetitive. 4.5/5

"Trains"- Wow... what a great song! Great relatable lyrics and powerfully conveyed emotions. (Great job Steven!) Addictive acoustic guitars and ambience a la wiz-kid Richard Barbieri as well as groovy drums and Colin Edwin's smooth bass. 5/5

"Lips of Ashes"- Good song, not one of my favorites... not sure why, just never stuck with me. Beautiful vocal melodies and all-around great ambient sounds. 3.5/5

"The Sound of Muzac"- A decent song, one of the first songs I initially heard by the Tree. At first, this song seems really great, but after a few listens, the lyrics seem repetitive and immature in my opinion, as well as some of the music. 3/5

"Gravity Eyelids"- Another perfect song equipped with seductive keyboard ambience and a latter palm-muted/non-palm-muted metal riff. 5/5

"Wedding Nails"- A heavy metal instrumental with a taste of Rush and Crimso, especially the Fripp-like inorganic dark solo. Fast and catchy, thanks to Steven and Colin. Somewhat repetitive but the structure is great and changes a semi-tone for differentiation. 4.5/5

"Prodigal"- Brilliant song (similar to many on Stupid Dream) with nice slide guitar and a very Floyd-influenced melody. Great, sad yet uplifting music and lyrics. Explodes at the end to end this wonderful song, one of my favorites by Porcupine Tree. 5/5

"Dot Three"- Dark and evocative song.. Full of atmospheric sounds and textures and e-bowed guitar. Simple drums yet they go great with this song meant for a calmer reception. The few lyrics go great with the music and Barbieri couldn't have created a better sound for this tune. Such a great Tree song. 5/5

"The Creator has a Mastertape"- Not much to say about this one.. Dark, thrashy guitars, quick drums and vocal distortions give this song an industrial feel, but a very good feel at that. The few guitar notes that begin this song give you the feeling you are in a dark tunnel and a man with an axe is slowly following your steps... Disturbing lyrics that go well with the great and foreboding music. 5/5

"Heartattack in a Layby"- A slow and emotinal track full of anguish and anxiety. Nice dark guitar and great piano and atmosphere. Ending vocal harmonies are some of Steven's best. Wonderfully depressing (irony?). 5/5

"Strip the Soul"- Creepy song. Starts with a bass line similar to ".3" One of the heaviest songs on this album. You can really hear a Tool-like influence here, maybe too much... Lyrics are once again darkly-themed and powerfully conveyed across the music track. Also very groovy. Nice off-beat drums and Barbieri's signature tunnel- and cave- ambient keyboarding. A little repetitive on the guitar side. 4.5/5

"Collapse the Light into Earth"- Piano- and vocal-themed song and possibly one of the best by PTree. One of the best tracks on the album. Sad ending for a sad/depressive-themed album. A very personal and emotional song... a real attention-grabber. Ambiently-distorted guitar nearly ends the track as the piano slowly fades out. Brilliant. 5/5

To make this short, any fan of genre-breaking rock music should definitely purchase this album immediately. It is an emotionally wonderful album full of metal, piano, and a multitude of other sounds not conventionally used in the music of today (besides Progressive Rock).

A very high 4 stars for this album. One of Porcupine Tree's most unique and musically diverse releases.

Report this review (#279638)
Posted Tuesday, April 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a CD that has grown interesting to me, after each listening. At first, I was not very much impressed, but I discovered a very specific piece of music here, after repeating putting 'In Absentia' in the CD player. Very complete and interesting descriptions have been posted here, in the last years, and I don't intend analysing each track in detail, because a lot has been reported, with acurate delivering. In fact, I have a hard time deciding between 4 and 5... It is sure a super addition to a prog collection, but is it a masterpiece ?

What I like and that's the originality, is that it is kind of heavy, but only by moments. The former CD's of Wilson have been more psychedelic or space-like-Floyd ambiance. And I went more for a score of around 3, meaning 'good' CD's, but not approaching this one's quality. The hard sound is easy to accept (I prefer symphonic, and here it is much different, sure not bad though), and the rest is beautifully done, where each and every track adds something technically and musically 'top-notch'. It is out of common place that such a CD is well recognized as a superb addition to a prog collection, and that it does not include a strong 'epic' !! I feel it is in a class by itself, because of the 'prog-related' music and (maybe) because of concept type of album Wilson has created.

There is emotion, spirit, an atmosphere that goes along with the concept of life's different days of living. It transpires well. There are different moods but always focused around the main concept. Some tracks hit you directly with power and amazing originality together. A very good album; I figure it is the best of PT ! A score of 4.5 would be quite reflecting my feeling of it. It is good each time, which is a remarquable quality. (The score of 5 is supposed to be for exceptions... This one just barely misses)

Report this review (#280002)
Posted Friday, April 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
The Quiet One
3 stars Prog Rock is Absent, Alt. Rock is Present

Well, that title is false, just trying to make a relation with the word Absentia with the style of the album. However, it is true that this album has a lot of allusions to modern day's rock style entitled Alternative Rock: a genre that can rock pretty hard and does not contain extremely lame lyrics so as to be considered today's Pop, though it has the basic structure of verse-chorus-verse-chorus.

Porcupine Tree certainly were a full-blown Prog Rock band back in the 90's, however they changed radically with the release of Stupid Dream, playing more melodic and simple music, and to confirm that they were taking that path they released Lightbulb Sun the following year. The psych/electronic roots were clearly leaving, while a catchier and melancholic style of rock was approaching, it's worth saying that it's a very unique approach to Alt. Rock with Pink Floyd as an obvious influence.

The album is full-filled with either hard rocking tunes with well-thought catchy choruses or moody songs with great atmospheres reminiscent of Pink Floyd. Sorry for the lack of originality, but for me the best songs from In Absentia certainly are Blackest Eyes with its infectious metal riff and it's great moody contrast, Trains with it's lovely acoustic-feel allthrough and .3, this last one being a magnificent spacey semi-instrumental, the atmosphere created with the keyboards and strings is absolutely brilliant.

The rest of the album is okay-ish, definitely well-composed songs, but nothing particularly memorable; some mediocre metal riffs (Wedding Nails and The Creator Has a Mastertape) and the melancholic/poppier tunes just seem rehashes from the better and more memorable ones from Lightbulb Sun and from Stupid Dream (Heartattack in a Layby and Collapse the Light Into the Earth).

Good bunch of ideas, and it's really something great if it's put aside with other Alt. Rock releases, but In Absentia per se is not really such a big deal, especially considering that A) Stupid Dream had already done most of this 3 years before, and B) It's definitely Porcupine Tree's most famous release among Prog fans, yet it barely has any Prog substance, though this latter won't affect the rating.

3 stars: Its flaws don't harm the album that much to consider it a poor release, but it's a borderline good album. Mind you, Porcupine Tree did much better before and after in the same vein: Lightbulb Sun and Deadwing.

Report this review (#280761)
Posted Thursday, May 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
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.

Report this review (#283555)
Posted Wednesday, May 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars My mind was absent, all the way down to hit the stop button.

I'm not a Porcupine Tree fan, don't ask me why. Their hard rock riffs and their space rock should be enough for me to like them, but I always get to their albums expecting the ultimate alternative rock-pop-prog piece and I just give up. Really. This, being the most beloved album from them end up being one of the most boring experiences I have lately.

Now, I really don't want to be mean or bash them, no. I do come with open mind to their music trying to find what is so exciting about them, as there are legions of fans all over, but again I felt disappointed. To the point, what we have here: A lot of heavy guitar riffs, well made and very catchy, some atmospherics themes, most of them pointless and soulless, some kind of catchy lead vocals, the most weak thing about PT because Wilson is very lame at that and long arrangements that let me wonder what is the point that a good sequence that last a minute they always take it farther and end up been totally pointless, without direction. I'm not criticizing the musicians, all of them are quite good really but most of the songs get lost somewhere, like the ideas weren't well developed at the end.

The only song that really shines in this album is Wedding Nails, the rest of songs have it's good moments but boring in most of the rest. In the first listening I thought this would be another 3 star review, like Deadwing, but as long as check out more and more the album went down the hill and I think it's a 2 stars review. Only for fans, I keep wondering what people hear in this album to consider it a prog Masterpiece. I think it's fanboyism, because this is not a strong prog album, maybe a good alternative rock album with catchy songs, but far away of a masterpiece. One of the biggest disappointments I have suffer so far.

Report this review (#284017)
Posted Saturday, May 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars In Absentia draws from various influences, and doesn't fit one genre, like other PT albums. This one has a fairly alternative style, yet is not devoid of progressive influences.

This album often is praised as one of Porcupine Tree's finest albums, and I'd have to agree. The songs are pretty interesting, and the atmospherics created by Steven Wilson are enthralling. It starts with Blackest Eyes, which contains a riff that would not be out of place on a metal album. Creating ambient music and surreal soundscapes, the album continues to flow impeccably until the end. The album features very diverse tracks, from the aforementioned heavy Blackest Eyes to the captivating ballad Heartattack In a Layby, or even to the ambient sounds on .3.

Several songs on this album are hailed as some of the band's best, such as Trains and .3, and I'd have to agree.

The only song on this album that I find hard to digest is Gravity Eyelids, which is a little too long and uninspired. However, I find nearly every other track fantastic. I highly recommend this to any prog fan or even any open-minded music lover.

Overall: 4.8

Report this review (#294958)
Posted Tuesday, August 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This was my first Porcupine Tree album, other than a tape of one of the early albums that a friend gave me. And I must say, the songs themselves just don't thrill me. On the other hand, Steven Wilson's arrangements just blow me away. Every so often, when listening to this album, I find myself thinking that this tune sounds too much like plain alternative rock, or that song just doesn't interest me. Then, something thrown into the mix just strikes a chord with me, and I find myself really liking the song that a moment ago seemed to be going nowhere. It appears that Wilson has an encyclopia-like knowledge of different musical styles, there's that much in there.

After many listens, the only song that doesn't grab me is Prodigal, which, for some reason, evokes Bob Dylan's Lay Lady Lay in my mind.

Report this review (#308298)
Posted Thursday, November 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars What does it mean when PT gets heavier as it ages? The former master of PINK FLOYD imitation and prog revivalist has now decided to try to carve his own sound. With drummer extraordinaire Gavin Harrison, and seasoned keyboard master, Richard Barbieri, he has a great foundation to build upon.

This is the most universally acclaimed PT album has never quite grabbed me. The production is amazing but the dynamics are all over the place and the melodies are sometimes blotted out by the instrumental play--or they're just plain boring. While I appreciate Steven's efforts and creative drive, most of the songs and dynamics on this album do more to bore or alienate me. I find myself only going back to three songs: "Trains" (10/10), "Blackest Eyes" (10/10), and ".3" (9/10). 'nuff said.

Report this review (#377596)
Posted Monday, January 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars "In absentia" is the second album from Porcupine Tree I heard after the excellent "Fear of a Blank Planet".And it's bright! Marking a change in sound, rom psychedelic rock of previous albums for a heavier sound with plenty of influences Opeth (with whom Steven Wilson had worked before), this album opens a new phase for the band.There highs and lows, of course, considering that the album has 12 songs ranging from 3-7 minutes.Can be noted traces of psychedelic sound on tracks like "Lips of Ashes", but when the sound is heavy, that's where I like!

One example is "Blackest Eyes".This is perhaps my favorite track from the band ever (after "Anesthetize" of course) is quite commercial, the type of music you might hear on any radio station, so what? It is powerful, and opens the album with style.

Other highlights: " Trains (this song is beautiful, I love the use of banjo in the middle)","Lips of Ashes"(great psychedelic song), "The Sound of Muzak"," Gravity eyelids", "Prodigal", "3" , "Strip the Soul" and "Collapse the light into the earth" .

5 stars for this masterpiece.

Report this review (#394889)
Posted Saturday, February 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is an excellent album. I'm not going to break this down track by track trying to rate each track. However, I will say that there isn't track on here that I don't like or that I would call a filler. This is 68 minutes and 18 seconds of quality music. PT has the uncanny ability to make music that keeps the listener interested at every turn. This album is anything but dull. At times it may sound a little on the pop side, but just when you begin to think a track is heading down the pop path, it changes, shifts directions and incorporates a more progressive edge and complexity than originally expected. I can not think of many 68 plus minute albums that keep my attention from start to finish and have me wanting more, but PT has managed to accomplish that with Absentia. Its interesting that some of the tracks that seem to be the lowest rated in other reviews are my favorites here. I particularly like Wedding Nails, The Creator has a Mastertape, Strip the Soul, and Collapse the Light into Earth. I suppose that speaks to the all around strength of this album when you see so many different choices for best tracks mentioned in the reviews. I should add the fact that I'm rarely impressed by many of the current bands and mostly listen to 60's and 70's prog, so I will surprise myself by giving this album a rating as high as five stars but it deserves it.
Report this review (#400642)
Posted Monday, February 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
Andy Webb
Retired Admin
5 stars The sound of music fills the halls

Porcupine Tree is a name well known in the progressive community. The band started in the late 80s as a solo project for multi-instrumentalist Steven Wilson. His facetious and obscure recordings eventually culminated to On the Sunday of Life in 1991, which exemplified Wilson's early, silly recordings with the quirky, psychedelic atmosphere of the album. Eventually Wilson formed a full band and released two more albums in the first of Porcupine Tree's three distinct eras - this one being the Delirium era. With little transition space, the band flew into the Snapper era with Signify, which had a much more straightforward rock sound with little to no psychedelic elements remaining, which was a far cry from the previous album, the spacey and trippy The Sky Moves Sideways. This era lasted again for two more albums, and in 2001, with the release of Porcupine Tree's 7th studio album In Absentia, the band flew full force into the Metal era, if you will, with the music being exponentially heavier and more eclectic than previous eras. The album, blasting forth with the killer "Blackest Eyes," shows Wilson's obvious willingness to expand his band's diverse sound, and the next track, the significantly lighter "Trains," shows the Wilson is not willing to bore the listener with just one sound on this record. Even through a near paradigm shift of this band's sound, In Absentia remains a fan favorite, and easily on of the band's better albums.

As I've stated above, this album is an extremely eclectic blend of Wilson's musical ideas, tastes, and abilities. Whether it's the sound of a crushing metal riff, peppy acoustic strumming, or the spacey illustrious notes of an Appalachian dulcimer, this album has its share of diverse musical influences. Switching lanes constantly throughout the album, the music fails to stay constant and keeps its diverse pulse throughout the entire album. Different from their previous sound although it may be, the album's diverse and inviting new sound has me, and it should you, captivated by the sounds that captivate this album.

One thing I enjoy about a good portion of Heavy Prog is the lack of emphasis on virtuosity (don't get me wrong, I understand quite a number of HP bands have an emphasis on virtuosity as well, and I love virtuosity, but a break at times is nice). Porcupine Tree is one of these bands. From their psychedelic roots, Wilson has obviously developed an appreciation for atmosphere, which this album is full of. The feeling brought out by Wilson strumming or the essential filling that Richard Barbieri creates with his ambient key fills, based upon his experience in ambient and new wave bands, is essential to the Porcupine Tree sound. Colin Edwin's steady bass lines lay a fantastic foundation for the band, and the new guy on this album, stickman Gavin Harrison's skillful and precise drumming mesh together for a spectacular new sound for the band. The new era is truly an amalgamation of Porcupine Tree's diverse influences and feels.

In the end, In Absentia presents itself as a wild change in direction for the band. Whether you are a fan of their Delirium or Snapper era won't really make a difference of whether you'll like this album because it is so diverse and far reaching of influence virtually everyone will like some piece of it. The band still has the distinct ability to make not overly complex but complex enough music to keep most progressive fans listening, and the composing power of the great Steven Wilson is enough to keep many fans listening still. From the heavy metallic songs to light folky songs, the album is easily one of Porcupine Tree's most diverse and easily one of the best they've released to date. 5- stars.

Report this review (#482172)
Posted Thursday, July 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5/5

There are two main problems with discovering Porcupine Tree as recently as I did (early 2010). These are: the huge back catalogue (made worse when one includes all the special releases, different editions, and rereleases); and the tendency of the band to shift styles. Internet research led to the realization that there was absolutely no consensus about which album to start with. Should I get Deadwing? In Absentia? The Sky Moves Sideways? Hyperbolic accolades surround almost every album.

The fact that the handful of songs that had caught my attention were from all over their history did not help. However, I liked "The Sound of Muzak" (as long as I ignored the lyrics), and I liked "Blackest Eyes", so In Absentia was looking like a safe bet. Then I put on a pair of headphones one night, fired up Youtube, and tried a studio version of "Trains".

I cried: out of sheer astonishment, I guess. I was thunderstruck--whoever this Wilson guy was, he had done the impossible: he had identified and nailed everything I loved about music, and did it all in six minutes. I went and bought In Absentia.

So imagine my surprise when I got the CD home, shoved it into my player, and...was disappointed. Subsequent listens have not dispelled this sense of anticlimax. I prefer to assume there is a good reason why In Absentia is so well-loved, but whatever that reason is, I can't find it.

And I wanted to love it, I wanted to very much. It starts out with such enormous promise: "Blackest Eyes" followed by "Trains" is as mighty an opening pair of songs that Wilson has ever put together. But once past those first transcendent moments, the album sags and never fully recovers.

So what happened? The best I can come up with is that In Absentia is an album by a band in transition. Wilson had just produced Blackwater Park by Opeth, immersing himself in the metal vibe, and In Absentia is the album on which Porcupine Tree turns the corner from the melodic-short-song phase into a harder-edged style. It is also the first album on which their new drummer, Gavin Harrison, appears.

Perhaps the band was not yet comfortably in one camp or the other, but whatever the case, the mix of styles either as a collection of tracks or within each track individually doesn't quite come off. After the first two songs, the material never manages to rise above "decent", and in some cases is simply banal. Wilson writes so much material that there generally is more available for any given release than can be accommodated, and songs have to be culled. The drawback of making the rejected songs available on EPs or elsewhere is that mistakes in track choice become obvious. For example, "Drown with Me" could easily have replaced "The Creator Has a Mastertape", and made for a better album.

At any rate, In Absentia gets 3 out of 5 stars because it is so uneven, but I have bumped it half a rating just because it is such a fan favourite, and, well, "Trains" is on it... But far from wanting to hear the album repeatedly, I had to browbeat myself into playing the whole thing through more than twice. Some people would claim: "You have to give it a chance". All I can say is that I have been in this music-listening biz for many years, and my collection is full of albums that took a while to love. I recognize those particular signs, the album that doesn't grab you right away, but something about it draws your attention, makes you revisit it. In Absentia doesn't have that quality--it is, alas, just uninteresting.

Report this review (#484298)
Posted Sunday, July 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A good Porcupine Tree album, and that's it!

It has happened to me several times, albums such as Rush' Moving Pictures or Focus' Moving Waves that are often categorized as the band's pinnacles are just average albums to me, with excellent songs and a great structure overall, but nothing outstanding. With Porcupine Tree's In Absentia happens the same to me, since the very first time I listened to it (at least five years ago) until today my love for it has not changed, I like it and enjoy it when I listen to it, and really love a couple of tracks, but as an album, as a whole, it is just one more in my collection.

The reasons are simple, this album did not click with me as others did (subjectivity) and also despite people use to call it as Porcupine Tree's best, I believe it does not even show an improvement to their previous works. Here we can find catchy tunes and commercially speaking successful tracks that people passionately love, such as "Blackest Eyes", "The Sound of Muzak" and "Trains" , songs that everyone know and want to sing, but that (objectivity) do not represent the band's best or finest compositions, not at all.

What I like here is that In Absentia offers a diverse amount of styles, because we can listen to progressive rock, alternative rock, spacey moments and even some heavy prog ones. All the tracks are good, well composed and performed as usual, but I believe the album as a whole is not that strong, it has highs and lows. Besides those previously mentioned "commercial" tracks (which I like but not love) I would highlight "Heartattack in a Layby" which is a wonderful soft song with amazing backing vocals and spacey hints; and the closer "Collapse the Light into Earth" which is one of the best ending tracks I've ever listened.

The 68 minutes that runs here are not that pleasant to me, in fact, there are moments when I get tired and bored, tracks such as the same "The Sound of Muzak" or "The Creator has a Mastertape" can be easily skipped. Honestly, this album does not even enter in my PT's top 3, I know it may have been a landmark, but it does not have that heavenly effect in me that albums such as "The Sky Moves Sideways" or "Lightbulb Sun" had in me, albums that I truly enjoy from start to end. So my final grade for this well-known album is three stars.

Enjoy it!

Report this review (#487751)
Posted Wednesday, July 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars An interesting but too long album by Porcupine Tree. Unfortunately, not all songs are great and I can not digest "The Creator Has A Mastertape". Spades of psychedelic music naked and raw and distorted guitars that go beyond the Prog Metal but, in hindsight, have also in the Alternative Metal roots. Construction of the songs that have only two visions: POP or Psychedelic Rock, looking for a mix that is not always successful. The production is clean and the power increases too, so there is no trace of magic and feeling.

It is interesting to note, however, as Porcupine Tree is a solid and penetrating band: you can not have at least an album if you love Prog. Yet I can not seem to empathize with Porcupine Tree.

Report this review (#637730)
Posted Wednesday, February 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Porcupine Tree's In Absentia certainly caused a stir when it came out - some prog-heads even going so far as to suggest the time Steven Wilson spent with Opeth had rubbed off on him - but listened to in the context of their whole discography it's clear that it's an evolution of their sound, not a reinvention of it. You can still just about hear the spacey psychedelic prog foundations of the band (which they'd never really given up) and you can also still hear the Radiohead- inspired indie rock/prog rock crossover of the triptych of Stupid Dream, Lightbulb Sun, and Recordings.

On top of this, there's an injection of a heap of hard rock, heavy metal, and heavy prog (a la King Crimson - see, for instance, the opening of The Creator Has a Mastertape) influences which add a third new layer of musical genetic material into the rich mixture Porcupine Tree habitually offer. And to be honest, this isn't even the most prominent feature of the album - sure, there's a big dose in the lead track, but there's also several gentler songs which wouldn't have sounded out of place on Lightbulb Sun.

And come to think of it, the title track of that one had some fairly hard riffing on it too, didn't it? Just like I said: evoltuion, not revolution. But what an evolution!

Report this review (#652412)
Posted Friday, March 9, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars This record, although long, keeps the listener's attention the entire time. The transitions are beautifully done, and there are both amazing soft sections and bombastic heavy sections.

"Blackest Eyes" opens up the album quite perfectly, and the best thing about this song is the chorus. I love the lyrics, and I am not one who normally cares for lyrics (although I do a lot with Porcupine Tree). Some fantastic drumming by Gavin Harrison can be found on this track, and you can even hear his jazz influences.

"Trains" is one of the band's more known songs, and it's understandable why. The song isn't too complicated for today's average music listener, and there is no gigantic guitar solo. However, my favorite moment in the song is the short acoustic guitar solo a few minutes in. It's a great song, and very accessible.

"Lips of Ashes" drops the ball for a few minutes. Some love it, but I have never liked it. I consider it the weakest point of the album.

"Sound of Muzak" picks up again. I also love the lyrics in this song. There's a great guitar solo, and some very cool jazzy drumming from Gavin Harrison. What else could you need? Highly recommended song.

"Gravity Eyelids" has a great first half, but the second half is the part that I love. It begins like one of the softer songs, but ends like an awesome heavy prog song. Very cool feel to the heavy part, as well.

"Wedding Nails" was one of the first Porcupine Tree songs that I heard, and I fell in love. It's not even the best song on the album, though. I love Gavin Harrison's ride cymbal on this song. The only not-so-great part is the dragging middle. The guitar solo is just "eh" as well.

"Prodigal" is a very cheery song. Some great guitar work that sounds a lot like it was recorded during the Lightbulb Sun era can be found here. Overall, it's a great track.

".3" has a great bassline. It gets a little old after a while, personally, but it's still a pretty good song. Great vocals, though. Doesn't drop the ball, although it has the potential to.

Nobody seems to like "The Creator Has a Mastertape", however, I really love the song. I love it mainly because of the bassline and the drumming, and how they give the song such an upbeat rhythm. Very cool song, and very underrated in my opinion.

"Heartattack in a Layby" is a very depressing song, but very good. I think you could compare it to something like Radiohead during the OK Computer era. I love the guitar work here, and the chords really hit the soft spot.

"Strip the Soul". How can you dislike it? I especially love the acoustic middle section, and the wah guitar. Great track that never gets old.

"Collapse the Light Into Earth" has got to be one of the greatest endings to an album that has even been conceived. As a standalone song, it may seem very repetitive, but as an ending to the album, it is perfect. When the orchestra comes in at full blast, it gives me chills. An ending as perfect as "I get up, I get down!" in CTTE and Thick as a Brick's reprise ending, this really sends chills down my spine.

Fantastic album, and I highly recommend it as a starter album to Porcupine Tree.

Report this review (#764081)
Posted Monday, June 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars In Absentia could be described the first "full & heavy sound" Porcupine Tree album, benefiting from the arrival of the great drummer Gavin Harrison and the steady improvements to the overall musical maturity of the PT members in the preceding 10 years of the band's history.

As all albums in the world, In Absentia has its stronger and weaker moments. I feel that Mr. Steven Wilson's singing is one of those dead horses that do not need any additional flogging, so I'll leave it alone. It is what it is; it's a part of the PT heritage, and nothing is going to change it (for better or worse).

My favorite track is the purely instrumental :) Wedding Nails, but apart from the Trains with its somewhat awkward lyrics I would rate all the songs uniformly "strong 4 stars" or higher.

I view In Absentia as a potent prelude to the PT's pinnacle studio album, the FOABP (when I say FOABP, I mean the LP version, which incorporates the absolutely brilliant Nil Recurring).

On balance, 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4.

Report this review (#766453)
Posted Thursday, June 7, 2012 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#808585)
Posted Wednesday, August 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars What a man needs to do in order to avoid the negative media onslaught

For years, decades, after progressive rock fell from grace among the mainstream media (big newspapers, television and communication networks), many (if not all) artists linked to that genre of rock music have been subject to some kind of attack, which criticized and looked down on their qualities and strengths, as if they were something to be ashamed of. As a result, some have changed their musical direction (Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Rush, PFM, Banco Delle Mutuo Soccorso, Mike Oldfield, etc), others have halted their musical output completely (King Crimson, Van der Graaff Generator, Focus, Magma, etc) and, surprisingly, a number of artists even started to deny they were ever connected or ever produced progressive rock in any way; that last option is the case with Steven Wilson.

After releasing two of the best space rock albums since a very long time in the mid 1990's (Up the Downstairs and The Sky Moves Sideways) and getting some attention from the press, probably negative, Wilson and Richard Barbieri decided to move towards other musical territories which were more widely accepted at that point in time in the UK, the britpop. It was a very smart move because that genre allowed them to have some musical liberty with the psychedelic elements in their sound, because britpop incorporated some (light-aired) degree of psychedelia. Indeed, from Signify on to In Absentia Porcupine Tree downgraded their musical abilities and stopped challenging themselves in order to excel in writing great music because, after all, the objective was to put out pop sounding albums, with some progressive songs here and there. All these years amounted with In Absentia being their least impressive, most boring and less inventive album in Porcupine Tree's career after their debut, but with one fundamental difference: on their first album, Steven Wilson was trying to do the best thing he could musically.

Here, the music recorded has no fundamental difference from their two previous albums, Stupid Dream and Lightbulb Sun. The songs here are in fact so generic that it is possible to interchange almost every song from any of these two previous albums with In Absentia and there would be little noticeable difference to how they sound, if there is a difference at all. There are, however, some exceptions: the opener, Blackest Eyes, is quite an unique song and seems to be some kind of prelude to the new musical direction the band would take in the near future, despite still retaining the simpler, more pop-inclined sound so characteristic of this PT's era; Wedding Nails also is a nice breath of fresh air, having a similar tone to Blackest Eyes, but having a more experimental edge to it; and the duo made by Prodigal and 3, with their clear psychedelic influence, are also a positive deviance from the overall musical sameness this album is. After 3, however, the album spirals down to a low I wished the band never were, even though the last track manages to avoid the album from ending in such a terrible place.

The poor result this album has to my ears can be blamed on, to some degree, the fact it is what can be considered a transition album: it is the bridge linking the band's previous era with its next. I mean, it (mostly) retains the pop-directed rock from the late 1990's, it has the return of the spacey elements Deadwing and Fear of a Black Planet would bring back (even though this element was also present in Lightbulb Sun) as well as brings something new (the newly acquired heaviness) to the table. Still, Signify was also a transition album and it managed to be miles better than In Absentia.

Besides the forgettable songwriting, this album also has another problem which I find relevant. On mostly all of Porcupine Tree's albums, the keyboards play an important part in the band's overall sound, specially because Steve Barbieri is the main songwriter besides Steven Wilson, but here they are put in a background position, giving place to the guitars and drums, giving the album more of a rock and roll feel than progressive rock feel. OK, I know Gavin Harrison is an phenomenal musician with abilities way above average and that Steven Wilson writes the majority of songs, but is that enough to kill, to throw off the window the entire atmosphere the keyboards create in progressive rock? Again, another of many poor choices made in this particular album. Some songs still retain the keys as an important part of their sound, which are, not coincidentally, Wedding Nails and 3.

Rating and Final Thoughts

In spite of definitely being the lowest point in Porcupine Tree's discography and not having that many good moments, In Absentia manages to have just enough songs in it to keep me from giving it the lowest rating possible. Bad songwriting, forgettable songs and bad choices in mixing the instruments together are some of the most clearly seen flaws here. I'm just glad they moved on from this.

Report this review (#863996)
Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Porcupine Tree kicks off their prog-metal era with perhaps their best effort, In Absentia. Of course there is more to it than the metal, as this is probably the group's most eclectic effort. They mix the pop-rock of Lightbulb Sun and the Pink Floyd touches of The Sky Moves Sideways with some alternative and metal all in a progressive context to create a truly diverse album. Though it consists of 12 rather short songs, each brings something unique to the table.

Blackest Eyes' is the perfect opener, with its driving metal riffs. But it also has some more reserved acoustic sections with vocals.

'Trains' is an acoustic number with a sound similar to their last album Lightbuld Sun. The bridge with the banjo is alone enough to make this one of the band's greatest songs. 'Lips of Ashes' is perhaps the only "weak" song on the album. It's downtempo and doesn't really have too much going for it.

But the highlight of the album can be found in 'The Sound of Muzak.' The song is based on a killer riff in 7/4, along with a drum groove that shows that Gavin is truly one of the greatest on his instrument.

'Gravity Eyelids' seamlessly blends the more atmospheric Pink Floyd sound with some metal riffs similar to Opeth.

'Wedding Nails' is the pure metal, rocking song of the album. Again, this sounds very similar to Opeth in parts, which is no surprise as Wilson has worked with them. 'Prodigal' is another highlight of the album for me. It's main melody just kind of floats by to give a loose, ethereal atmosphere, yet there is still plenty of harder rocking parts throughout. '.3' is another atmospheric song with a very chunky bass line, which again, just sort of floats by.

'The Creator Has A Masterpiece is probably the quirkiest, and darkest song on the album. I've always believed this one is a perfect testament to the unparalleled production abilities of Steven Wilson, as the dynamic sound is surreal.

'Heartattack In a Layby' is pleasant, and has some soothing vocal melodies, but nothing really amazing.

'Strip the Soul' shows the band confronting a more alternatives sound. The bass line is deep and heavy, and the guitar produces some crushing riffs which combine with some Pink Floyd touches to create a rather unique atmosphere.

'Collapse Light to Earth' is a gentle tune with a rather sentimental piano melody. While hardly the best on the album, it is a perfect closer.

Despite a few weaker songs, I believe this is probably the band's biggest achievement. Besides having high quality songs from beginning to end, this album is probably the most well-produced album I've ever heard. For these reasons, I believe this is a must have album.


Report this review (#875741)
Posted Friday, December 14, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars In Absentia is Porcupine Tree's first foray into Prog Metal. It arguablly is also their best. From the opening of the album (Blackest Eyes) to the finale of Collapse Light into Earth the band COOKS! Whether somber or upbeat, the beat always pulses. Blackest Eyes is one of the strogest songs leading off of a PT album since The Sky Moves Sideways.

But PT can do more than just thunder - they can be more subtle in their music, like Trains, Gravity Eyelids, and Collapse Light into Earth. Here they are just plain hypnotic. lulling one along as if riding on a train; moving weightless through the realm of sleep; or sinking deep into the bowels of the earth.

Strip the Soul peels back the layers of ones soul with its grinding attack, Wedding Nails pounds along, and .3 hits like a jackhammer. The aural assault is impressive as Wilson and company run the gamut of emotions, which is a core concept of the lyrics on this album - especially the darker emotions that try mens souls.

A brilliant album, with something for everyone. Highly recommended, five stars.

Report this review (#901431)
Posted Monday, January 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars . . . In my not so humble opinion.

"In Absentia" is an essential prog masterpiece. Every respectable prog collection should have this album in it. Porcupine Tree is one of the most popular prog bands of the nineties and this century and "In Absentia" is the best, most complete album front to back in their catalog. When my Dad asked me about modern prog music, this is what I played for him, and he loved it. This album hits you from the very beginning of "Blackest Eyes" through the soulful end of "Collapse the Light Into Earth".

For starters, the song writing by Steven Wilson and company is phenomenal, "Blackest Eyes" mixes the heavy and the acoustic almost interchangeably, the contrasts between the differing sections grab you while the dark, brooding lyrics sink into your soul. "It's so erotic when your make up runs . . . " "Trains" is one of the catchiest songs Mr. Wilson's ever written, the chorus sticks with you for days, while "Lips of Ashes" is almost entirely Richard Barbieri atmosphere. "The Sound of Muzak" again features a wonderfully catchy chorus.

Each and every song on this album has a notable moment to it from the progression at the end of "Prodigal" to the groove and atmosphere of ".3". This album has been reviewed by countless people at this point, if you haven't listened to this album yet, do yourself a favor, go find yourself a copy of "In Absentia" and enjoy it. Every aspect of this album is fantastic. Easy five star rating from me.

Report this review (#1246904)
Posted Wednesday, August 13, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars I give this album a 4.5 out of 5 stars

This album is basically a heavier version of the 1999 album stupid dream. While some songs in stupid dream used a melodic approach. In absentia continues to use the same approach but going to a more metal atmosphere. (Thanks to opeth) In my previous review of porcupine tree's 2007 album "Fear of a blank planet" I stated that FOABP is one of their best albums. In absentia is also one of their best album even a bit better then "fear of a blank planet".

Is in absentia prog rock? Who cares. Even if In absentia wasn't prog, that won't matter because I'll still rate this album 4.5 stars if the album was prog or not.

Blackest eyes (B+)

Trains (A-)

Lips of ashes (B+)

Sound of Muzak (B+)

Gravity eyelids (A-)

Wedding nails (B-)

Prodigal (B+)

3. (B)

The creator has a mastertape (C)

Heart attack In a layby (A-)

Strip the soul (C+)

Collapse the light into the earth (B-)

Overall album rating (A-)

Overall verdict of this album is great, it's a solid album holding some great tracks. The problem with this album that it albums holds some "decent" songs in the album. Tracks that stand out are gravity eyelids, trains, heart attack in a layby. Gravity eyelids goes back into their previous style but in the last half of the track it goes all metal and personally it holds as one of their best songs. Trains is definitely the closest thing that had the potential to become a masterpiece. But because it sounds so commercial it's nothing special but it's still a great song. And sound of Muzak is their overrated song but it holds a nice melodic chorus and shares a few progressive rock elements in the song (4/4 and also moving into 5/4)

But would I waste 15$ bucks just to buy this album? Yes I would. The fact that this is porcupine tree's best work yet proves should be in everyone's collection who like prog metal/prog rock, alt metal and etc. would enjoy in absentia.

Report this review (#1284841)
Posted Saturday, September 27, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars This was one of the albums that helped me further delve into Steven Wilson's projects and progressive music in general. While I had listened to more metal-inspired progressive music, such as Symphony X and even Opeth, I was unaware of Porcupine Tree and the entire progressive rock movement from the 1970s. In that way, In Absentia is a fairly dear album to me.

My rating of this album, though, is not based solely on a sentimental nature; the songwriting is top-notch, and each track manages to flow cohesively and even stand on its own. Much of the nature of Porcupine Tree's sound here lies in the subtleties of the music, and each song possesses its own atmosphere. While there are a few tracks that are not up to par with the ones that I consider the best on this CD, I find that the entire experience is incredibly pleasurable.

Even though some may argue that the music on here is not true progressive, I find that it merits a 5 star rating even on this site because of the progressive tendencies of many of the songs and because of the simply incredible songwriting on here.

Report this review (#1285946)
Posted Monday, September 29, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've found as I've gotten older as a musician, a composer and a fan of listening to music in general, I've found my tastes in music change. As well as pretty much everyone does at one point in their life or another. Ever so slightly, but they do change. The most notable of mine which takes the form of moving slowly away from the more symphonic prog (Yes, Flower Kings, etc.) and moving more into more digestible, shorter tracks, but still filled with emotion and juicy stuff. I've hoarded onto Haken's entire discography for quite some time, yet haven't truly listened in depth to their stuff until just recently, and am also currently on a Porcupine Tree binge.

I've never been a fan of pop music, yet I'm always a sucker for a catchy lick, a cool lyric, and maybe once in a blue moon, a high pitched falsetto. My sheer addiction to electronic infused indie pop and rock music can attest to that, but PT fills that niche as well, believe it or not. I've had "Trains" on my driving playlist for quite some time, and it's become one of my favorite tracks ever. The beautiful simplicity to it, the complex rhythmic and yet completely accessible structure, and maybe just the overall mature sound of it is just hypnotic. It's the same case I've made for "Piano Lessons". Both are mature examples of a British prog pop sound.... I think. Or I could just be making stuff up, I'm not sure.

After all, the opening sentence of PT's bio on this site sums them up nicely; there is no one word to describe their sound or genre. Maybe it's just the smoothness of which their music is composed and performed. Or maybe it's their British accents. I am, after all, a sucker for British accents. Or maybe that's just to do with my love for famous British automotive television shows (RIP Top Gear).

Either way, Porcupine Tree as a subtle way with inserting catchy and sophisticated songs in between straight up hardballs with a subtle and rhythmic complexity that prog fans adore. Part of it falls to Steven Wilson's masterful composing skills, and part of it lies with the extraordinary drumming of Gavin Harrison. I personally believe as a drummer, Harrison is underrated. Each drummer strives to create their own unique sound: Bernard Pretty Purdie for the "Purdie Shuffle", Mike Portnoy with his chest-crushing bass sounds out of his set, Terry Bozzio with his 5-million tom drum set (or is it 5-million and 1? he might have added a few more, I'm not so sure). Point is, in every facet of life, you have to stand out from the crowd with a distinction completely unique to your self.

Harrison's greatest contribution is his ability to fool you. He doesn't focus on blistering solos around the kit or furious double bass onslaughts. He doesn't try to be clever and throw a 12/25 polyrhythm in 5/8 bar. His style is much simpler than that, yet is still clever. He throws accents on the offbeat, displaces it, relies more on syncopation. He'll play, for example, in 9/8 on a track in 3/4 and fool the listener it's just a standard 3/4 groove. You can never play in time with him because every time a rhythmic cycle turns around, he'll throw the snare on a different beat, add in an extra bass hit, throw in another fill, displace the beat not once, but TWICE in the same measure.

In short, it's genius, but subtle. Very subtle.

I recently bought his books "Rhythmic Illusions" and "Rhythmic Perspectives" for drumset, and it's both a fascinating read, and great to practice. First off, unlike most drumset methods books, he introduces every excercise or set of excercises with explenations on how to perform it and what illusion it emits or what it's supposed to convey. You get a feeling that he actually wrote the book himself, rather than just let the publication company rip off some of his beats from PT tracks and simply stuck his name on it. And that philosophy really echoes in his drumming style. You get a sense that he isn't just "rocking out". He's creating a groove, and then playing with it a bit. An extra snare hit here, a displace bass drum hit there. All resulting in a groove that you can feel and bounce to, but you can't air drum to it, simply because no two grooves are ever the same to him.

This frankly is what upset me with the disbandment of Porcupine Tree. Wilson and Harrison are like Yin and Yang, Lennon and McCartney, Hall And Oates (ok, maybe scratch that one). Point is, both cannot survive without the other, and yes, while I do still like Wilson's solo stuff, the drumming tends to be more static and less interesting sometimes, luckily without detriment to most of his music, but it still isn't the same. Harrison's solo stuff hasn't fared that well, where you stay for the drumming, but ignore everything else.

Maybe this is why I've been listening to more Porcupine Tree. I've had this stuff for so long, yet haven't listened it so much until a few years ago. Maybe it's for nostalgia's sake, I don't know. But In Absentia is one of those rare albums where you can't quantify it into a singular sound or motive, yet it's so distinctive and pronounced, you'd never be able to mistake it for anything else. Yes, it's a bit heavier than their previous work, less psychedelic and less jam band-y, but tighter, more focused, more concise, more mature.

This album really does have everything. From the ballad-like "Trains", to the instrumental "Wedding Nails", from the ethereal "Lips of Ashes" to the grunge-echoing "Strip The Soul". It's album that's a testament to the time of its recording, yet manages to be so much more that it's still a fresh and inviting listen each and every time, even 13 years later, and when you come across music like that, you know you've found a future classic right there.

Faults? The drums do sound a bit tinny at times, and the heaviest sections on the album, such as on "Strip The Soul" and "Wedding Nails" have a bit too much bite, and not enough sound, more of a gut punch than musical phrasing. Apart from that, the composition and songwriting is just mesmerizingly brilliant.

Now, is it for everyone? Admittedly, no. No prog album can be recommended to every prog fan. Even fans of progressive rock are divided in styles. Most fans of traditional symphonic prog will probably find it too depressing for their tastes. Some people I know actually loathed Porcupine Tree for phasing out of the psychedelic phase, to which I responded "Well, that's what happens when you mature; your tastes evolve". And frankly, I don't think there's any better evidence of maturity than In Absentia. It finally caps a superb trio of albums with Stupid Dream and Lightbulb Sun. Sure, In Absentia isn't the most accessible album. In fact, Stupid Dream has the most pop-like songs that PT has recorded. Yet, it's still a complete piece of music that just can't be ignored by any fan of music in general. It's unique, it's catchy, it rocks hard, and delivers a unique listening experience every time.

I may regret comparing Wilson and Harrison to Hall and Oates... or Lennon and McCartney.

At least I didn't compare them to Pinky and the Brain.

Report this review (#1387667)
Posted Wednesday, March 25, 2015 | Review Permalink
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
5 stars This is the first of the louder and harder PT albums. It is also one of the best of one of the greatest current progressive bands in the biz. Personally, my favorite is "Deadwing" which is the release after this one, but this one is so very close to being the favorite. It has been reviewed on this site so many times already, so there is really nothing new to say that hasn't already been said. So, I'll keep it short and sweet, but I still have to add my 2 cents worth since I'm PT junkie. If you are a progressive rock fan, then you should have heard this album by now, and if you haven't, then you have some work to do. While it is true that not everyone loves PT and not everyone thinks the lead man Steven Wilson is a prog God like I do, but you can't deny Steven's influence and his contribution to the genre in these current times.

This album is definitely one of the louder PT albums, and the guitar work and loudness of the album works very well. SW's lyrics have always been dark, even in his other projects, of which he has many. But that doesn't mean they have always been loud, in fact some are quite mellow and beautiful. But the harshness in this album and the following two releases is very well executed and drives home the meaning of the lyrics most effectively. The album starts out instantly very loud with the heavy introduction to "Blackest Eyes", but PT uses dynamics very effectively, so the music is constantly changing, even in their heavier albums. The contrast of soft and loud leans more towards the loud side in this album of course, but that really makes the contrast very noticeable and effective in all of the songs. The most beautiful of the contrasts occurs in the transition between the last two tracks; namely of the harsh and abrasive "Strip the Soul" and orchestral and expansive "Collapse the Light into Earth" which is soft and simply lovely with the repeating piano chords and the beautiful harmonies in the chorus. It's examples like this that make PT an album-oriented band and also makes them the masters of dynamics. If only more modern music artists could be this dynamic.

Anyway, after all is said and done, this is a masterpiece of prog rock especially in the use of contrasts and dynamics. It is essential and Porcupine Tree deserves to have it's name up there with the best of the best in progressive rock. Definitely essential. 5 stars.

Report this review (#1425104)
Posted Monday, June 8, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars I am a huge PT man and this was the album that introduced me into the magical world of Prog( I was a huge PF fan tho but that was it till I heard this album). This album to me sounds like a concept Album, though there are people who feel otherwise, I'll try to say what I made out of this album

1. Blackest Eyes- 10/10 that riff at the start keeps you hooked to the song, it was just..magical.I actually didn't like metallic riffs till I heard this for the concept, you see this album is about a killer but for me it shows the duality in yourself, which is the angel and the devil part, you get the idea from the lyrics that the main character has had a messed up life "I got wiring loose inside my head I got books that I never ever read I got secrets in my garden shed I got a scar where all my urges bled I got people underneath my bed I got a place where all my dreams are dead Swim with me into your blackest eyes" this song is basically the introduction of the character, you feel sad for him and the rest of the song is about how he looks at his childhood and wonders what he has become, the lines "A few minutes with me inside my van Should be so beautiful if we can I'm feeling something taking over me" reflects that he is desperately craving for killing, its when the bad side of you takes over the good one

2. Trains- 10/10: I wish I could give it 20, but hands are tied..this song in one word is and Steven share the same love for trains, which is not because they are powerful,fast and blah blah, its because we have memories attached to that, this is what the song is about, the killer looking back at the happy moments of his life, maybe his love life, "Train set and match spied under the blind Shiny and contoured the railway winds And I've heard the sound from my cousin's bed The hiss of the train at the railway head Always the summers are slipping away" this reflects that once he was a human, he had feelings 'always the summers are slipping away' means when you are with someone you love but no matter how much time you spend it feels short, and you want more..but can't get it, total desperation how you keep searching for a way to make it stay..the last four line describe, the sexual fantasies of him which later turns into obsession as the album progresses..overall its a pt classic and is about how desperate you fell when everything you had just goes away

3. Lips Of Ashes- 9/10 this one builds a scary atmosphere which complements, the theme and steven's voice perfectly, this is where our character first murders someone..and then fulfills his fantasies on the helpless human being, the line 'you and I connection failing' has got double meaning, one is the simple one where the victim is slowly dying...and the other to me seems is how you lose connection with the good part of yourself and 'drill down inside' of the bad part

4. Sound of Muzak - 8.5/10: this is the song that maybe doesn't fit well with the concept, its about steven's anger (or maybe the killers?) anger towards the music industry, how the untalented people are being millionaires while talented young people are forced to starve, how the music is engineered to suit you, which is something I believe should not happen, you discover music, its not the other way round

5. Gravity Eyelids- 8.5/10: this song bring backs us to where we left during lips of ashes, its the longest song on the album and lyrically similar to lips of ashes(I mean in concept), you can see the killer part of him has fully taken over, he is becoming a psycho who craves for sex, you can see how he talks to his victim in this song, how he asks her to smile and be calm(scary!)there is no much need to explain the lyrics much as I it straight in your face, with sexual lyrics and murder

6. Wedding Nails- 9/10 in one word, thunderous, just look at that guitar, but wait there is concept here too, what do you associate with wedding? bells right? wedding bells symbolize happy marriage, but the song contains nails, which signifies something is wrong, and he's not happy, maybe he tried to settle with his life but again the killer instinct of him takes over and he wants to murder again, you can see the anger explained through the music itself

7. Prodigal- 8/10 in this song we have aviv(co partner in blackfield) as a backing singer, he was also present in sound of muzak, lyrically its about how he tried everything to be his normal self,religion,smoking, but he was cheated, which only increase his hatred than anything else, he tells himself to close his eyes cause like all things in his life the rejection and disappointment will pass too

8 .3- 7.5/10: this song is 75% instrumental but yet brilliant, the lyrics reflect the modern day life, how you always fear that the atomic and nuclear warfare will eventually wipe out the human race and this is how the killer feels too

9. The Creator Had A Mastertape 8.5/10 "He captured and collected things And he put them in a shed He raised a proper family So he could tie them to a bed"

this song is about how he tortures his family everyday an the regret he feels but yet he can't help himself, he's helpless

"He worked himself into the ground And drove a spike into his head A voice said "Are you happy now? 'Your sordid home is running red"

10. Heart attack in a layby - 10/10 touching, imagine you loved someone all your life, and she hates you, still you kept loving, you did everything to make her happy only to find yourself depressed,insulted and suicidal..but one day she says she's sorry for everything and you're happier than anything, you just wanna go there,kiss her and grow old together, this is the song about but with a twist, you can hear the song is sad, inspite of the happy(somewhat) lyrics at the start, the girl says sorry to the guy and he's so happy that he decides to sit cause his body is aching, but he doesn't realize he's having a heart attack and dying, its like when you wanted something all your life, and in the end were fingertips close only to realize you still didn't get it....its like give one drop of water to the thirsty and then leave him to die #we'llgrowoldtogether

11. Strip the Soul- 9/10: this song is the climax where he eventually tortures his family to death, it has quite disturbing lyrics, "Spread it wide, my wife, my life, push the camera deeper" which gives details about his life

"This machine Is there to please Strip the soul Fill the hole A fire to feed A belt to bleed Strip the soul Kill them all"

he eventually kills them and buries them yet he believes they are with him

"They are not gone, they are not gone, they are only sleeping In graves, in ways, in clay, underneath the floor Building walls, overalls, getting bored, I gotfaulty wiring Brick it up now, brick it up now, but keep the bones"

12- Collapse the light into earth- 9/10: this is where the album ends, he finally finds the real self and the title of the song serves as the metaphor as how light wipes out all the darkness on earth

overall a good album to anyone who wants to check out porcupine tree

Report this review (#1451770)
Posted Tuesday, August 11, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars With albums like this you really don't know where to start, because each song flows into each other and plays a significant role in the album. So I will give a short review for each track, since this album is obviously a five-star masterpiece.

1. Blackest Eyes: An excellent opener. As heavy as it's needed to give PT a turn of style. A true classic.

2. Trains: A favourite of mine and many fans' as well. What's not to love in this track? Everything is perfect. Definitely one of PT's finest.

3. Lips of Ashes: A nice break from the first two masterful tracks with something very atmospheric but a tiny bit forgettable. Nothing to worry about as things get only better.

4. The Sound of Muzak: One of the most popular of the bunch to date. It is the only song from the album Wilson still plays live as a solo artist and maybe that is thanks to its "catchy chorus". I don't find the solo all that mind-blowing but it is a nice touch. Also, it's the first song in which Gavin Harrison really shows his teeth.

5. Gravity Eyelids: For me THE "In Absentia" song. I don't know why but it reminds me of the cover art. An excellent piece for sure, with a nice explosion in the middle.

6. Wedding Nails: The first song I really liked from the album. I have to admit that it doesn't offer much more after the first listen, something rare for prog, but I'm always in the mood for it when it comes. A wake up call.

7. Prodigal: For a long time it used to be my favourite song in the album, before it was replaced by "Trains". Everything about it is perfect, I wouldn't change a single thing. As solid as it gets.

8. .3 : Maybe the first (and only) not-that-good song. Is it because preceding "Prodigal" is so good or is it just a little Who knows, maybe I should give it a few more listens before I completely love it like the rest.

9. The Creator Has a Mastertape : Starts with a kick but drags a little too long. Always fun to listen too and the drums are fantastic.

10. Heartattack in a Layby : The first time you listen to it it's not anything special but after a few listens it shows its true beauty. And it's a very scary type of beauty. One of Wilson's favourites, if memory serves.

11. Strip the Soul : Another good track that maybe drags a little. Nice grooves but the noise at the end isn't all that welcome.

12. Collapse the Light Into Earth: Can you think of a better closer? I can't. Listen to it and you will understand why. Pure bliss...

In general one of the easiest five-star ratings I have given.

Report this review (#1547043)
Posted Saturday, April 2, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars In absentia by Porcupine tree brought in a heavier music style for this album. I wouldn't call the album 100 percent progressive metal as it has songs like Trains and The sound of muzak which are songs that aren't nearly as heavy. The two heaviest songs on the album are Wedding Nails and Blackest eyes. Porcupine tree's mix of metal songs and lighter songs mix in well with each other and they bring a nice contrast that balances and blends the album's sound together well. Gavin Harrison is the new drummer that the band would keep until they broke up, and he is a great drummer, bringing more color into the sound and creating a great rhythm section with the bassist. In absentia is the perfect mix of progressive rock and progressive metal and it is one of the best porcupine tree albums. I will give In absentia a five star rating because it is a definitive Porcupine tree record and it is an excellent blend of progressive rock and metal, being the perfect listen for anyone who is looking for that sort of thing.
Report this review (#2119449)
Posted Saturday, January 19, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars Review Nº 398

"In Absentia" is the seventh studio album of Porcupine Tree and was released in 2002. This is an album marked by several changes in the group. It was their first album with their new drummer Gavin Harrison, who substituted their previous drummer Chris Maitland, and it was also the first album to move into a more heavy sound. It shows the band moving to progressive metal musical direction, contrary to their past albums with a psychedelic and pop rock sound.

While not a formal traditional conceptual album, many of the songs still have common themes related to serial killers, youthful innocence gone wrong and criticism of the modern world, related with our Western civilization. The album's title is also ties into this, with the Latin phrase "in absence" or "in one's absence", which is often in reference to a person's rights when mentally they are unable to be represented in court in the normal and legal situations.

The line up on the album is Steven Wilson (vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, piano and banjo), Richard Barbieri (analog synthesizers, mellotron and Hammond organ), Colin Edwin (bass guitar) and Gavin Harrison (drums and percussion). The album also includes the collaboration on backing vocals of Aviv Geffen and John Wesley.

"In Absentia" has twelve tracks. All songs were written by Steven Wilson, except "Wedding Nails" written by Wilson and Barbieri and "Strip The Soul" written by Wilson and Edwin. The first track "Blackest Eyes" begins as a very heavy and distorted song making us believe that it's going to be a heavier song, but suddenly it changes into an incredible melodic song with heavy parts. It's a catchy melodic song with some nice contrasting aggressive guitars. The second track "Trains" begins with a simple acoustic riff, with Steven singing beautifully, and then it slowly blends into a catchy progressive rock sound with an amazing chorus and melody. This is one of the best tracks on the album. The third track "Lips Of Ashes" is a melancholic, slow and hypnotising song. It has a dreamy psychedelic feel with some distant Pink Floyd's echoes. This is a very simple song with dark, haunting and beautiful vocal passages, a reminiscence of the old times. The fourth track "The Sound Of Muzak" is one of the most interesting songs on the album and is just as good from a lyrical perspective as it's from a musical perspective. It's quite uplifting and it features some nice guitar work. The fifth track "Gravity Eyelids" is a melancholic slow song with some Mellotron sounds and a hypnotising rhythm in the background. It's a typical depressing Wilson's song with some aggressive riffs and with that typical Barbieri's synthesizer solo. The sixth track "Wedding Nails" is the only full instrumental track on the album and it has a heavy exploration of riffs, breaks and time signatures. It's a very heavy and noisy track, perfect for concerts, but somewhat out of misplaced on the album. The seventh track "Prodigal" is an interesting track, a friendly and a sunny piece that becomes a bit heavier towards the end. It has some more remote Pink Floyd's influences and sounds more like a track from the "Signify" period. The eighth track "3" is a psychedelic and atmospheric track. The orchestral sounds give to it a beautiful feel of melancholy and desolation. This might well be the track that appeals most to Porcupine Tree fans that prefer the 90's period. The ninth track "The Creator Has A Mastertape" is one of the heavier songs on the album, featuring distorted vocals and extremely heavy riffs. This is a great song with a very dark atmosphere and a heavy tone, but surely it isn't for everybody. The tenth track "Heartattack In A Lay-By" is an extremely good, beautiful, depressing and melancholic track. It has very subtle and breakable arrangements, with nice acoustic guitars and beautiful vocal effects. The eleventh track "Strip The Soul" is a catchy song with good lyrics, good chorus, good vocal passages and good musicianship. It starts very recognisable as a Porcupine Tree track with a great bass line, heavy metal guitars and distorted vocals. The twelfth and last track "Collapse The Light Into Earth" is a very beautiful little acoustic song that ends the album on a very high note. This is an excellent and sentimental ballad that can really get direct to my heart.

Conclusion: If we analyse "In Absentia" we'll easily find this is a transition album of Porcupine Tree. It blends lots of different musical styles without be focused on any in particular style. It's really amazing how Steven Wilson lets that so many and different musical styles influence him and how he assimilates them incorporating all of them into his music. Undoubtedly the last relationship of Wilson with metal bands has been a source of inspiration on this album, particularly the latest two studio albums of Opeth, "Blackwater Park" and "Deliverance", which have been produced by him. But of course, this isn't a completely metal album. There are some tracks with experimental pop melodies and others with enigmatic and psychedelic fragments. In this sense, "In Absentia" has more to do with "Signify" than with "Stupid Dream" and "Lightbulb Sun". Concluding, "In Absentia" is a great album with no weak points, but probably, with too many different musical influences. Probably, I would rather prefer an album totally heavy or totally psychedelic.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#2488468)
Posted Tuesday, December 29, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars Porcupine Tree is one of the most important modern prog bands of the mid 90s and early to mid 2000s, going from space rock to alternative rock with huge Beach Boys and Pink Floyd buzz, to Crosby Stills and Nash, Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Nine Inch Nails infused Prog Rock with metal undertones. This album was the start of a new phase in the PT discography, where they went from space rock - Pink Floyd like music, to being a very unique blend of Beach Boys, CSN, and Pink Floyd like music with a metal twist. In Absentia introduced a new member of the band, world renowned drummer (that would eventually end up with King Crimson), Gavin Harrison. Having heard the Deluxe Edition released in early February 2020, I learned more about this spectacular album then I did when I first heard it. Although, the concept of this album was known to me before reading through the notes of the Deluxe Edition, now back to the review.

In Absentia is one of my top 20 (maybe even top 10) favourite albums of all time. This album combines all the elements that I find appealing in progressive rock music, mixed with a folky and psychedelic approach that comes with extreme harmonies and melodic acoustic guitar. Another interesting element about this album is the Tool like track that is Strip The Soul (shockingly enough, better than Tool in my honest opinion). So let's get down to business and review the tracks themselves.

Blackest Eyes: The opener, a very strong way to introduce the music found on the album, with large and gorgeous harmonies, heavy guitars and hammond organs, and lots of amazing layers of acoustic guitars. 5/5

Trains: Like a Crosby Stills and Nash track with a slight heavy bite, the harmonies are yet again amazing. I think that this track is a very good example of Porcupine Tree trying something unique in progressive rock. 5/5

Lips of Ashes: This is much more on the side of Crosby Stills and Nash, with a huge dark twist to it. Amazing yet again. 5/5

The Sound of Muzak: Odd times, complicated patterns and lots of harmonies, this song shows a lot of newer elements not found on previous albums such as Lightbulb Sun and Stupid Dream. 5/5

Gravity Eyelids: Ambient, dark, and the concept of the entire album start getting more and more obvious with this song leading the dark and grisly side of progressive rock lyrical themes. This is the longest track on the album, reaching in at 8 minutes in total. 10/10

Wedding Nails: Instrumental, complex musicianship, and yet again, ambiance. Incredible. 5/5

Prodigal: Arguably the best track on the album, its my fathers favourite song on this album. I find the sound of this song to be a summary of the previous tracks wrapped into a neat little bow. Incredible. 5/5

Dot 3: Sort of a continuation on Prodigal, fading out from Prodigal and straight into Dot 3. Its lyrics are limited but they fit the tone of this track, Richard Barbieri compliments the actual string section found on this track. Absolutely fantastic 5/5

The Creator Has A Mastertape: A complicated song, not musically, but just the way its written, hard to get into but its still very good. This song is quite loud for sure so... its understandable why some find this song hard to get into. 4/5

Heartattack In A Layby: In my eyes, the best song on this album... love the vocals, guitars, ambiance, and just... everything about this song. 5/5

Strip The Soul: Tool in the eyes of Porcupine Tree, I just can't say enough about this song, its amazing, lots of odd times and bass riffs that just punch through your subs. 5/5

Collapse The Light Into Earth: Piano, string sections and heavenly vocals. A perfect closing to a perfect album. 5/5

Time to get to the concept.

This album is mainly focused on the mindset, and activities of a serial killer. The development of the story throughout the entire album progresses from childhood to death, making a very compelling story for listeners with a dark side and listeners who love concept albums following in the footprints of The Lamb, The Wall, and other amazing concept albums. 20/20

To sum up, this albums music, songs, and concept just make for a very enjoyable modern progressive rock record. Fantastic from end to end.

Total Grade: 84/85 Total Grade Precentage: 98.82%

Rating: Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music.

Report this review (#2501882)
Posted Wednesday, February 3, 2021 | Review Permalink
5 stars Porcupine Tree represents a link between the progressive "old school" and its more modern variations. Born in 1987 and unfortunately disbanded in 2010, right after their most commercially successful album. Porcupine Tree have given the world music scene, in their two decades of activity, ten records. Always on impressive quality levels, always an expression of compositional refinement with a refined taste, never banal, never bent on easy fashions or easy- listening solutions.

Heterogeneous, yet in its own way guided by a common thread, the disc is characterized by instrumental compositions that are all in all accessible to listen, made up of acoustic guitars, keyboards, refined but always catchy melodies and skilfully managed odd tempos, and combines them with bitter lyrics , which deal with unpleasant and somber themes. Even if we cannot speak of a concept album in the strict sense, we can still find a red thread that embraces the whole album. Giving so much importance to the texts in a composition like this is fundamental, without them the proposed music would change its intent towards the listener. There is suffering, anguish, the desire to get lost in the inner oblivion of man.

British offer a palette of sound possibilities made more of research and experimentation in the studio than of complex and "convoluted" instrumental passages. There are no particular songs to report, there are no moments, you have to take the package and fully enjoy it; among the 12 tracks of the standard edition it is difficult to find one that can be defined as a filler. In any case, a work of undoubted artistic value, strong in a freshness of ideas that will coincide with a point of positive and deserved turning point within their path.

Report this review (#2535432)
Posted Thursday, April 15, 2021 | Review Permalink
5 stars In absentia... of boredom!

And although some may have misinterpreted it, I want to say that this album is one of the most valuable and entertaining that has been produced in this century. In spite of its great quality, as far as my tastes are concerned it is not one of the most exciting, but here I always try to give an unbiased opinion, and it would be a foolish attitude not to recognize the greatness of this album. Its production is a master class! Steven definitely knew what he was doing when it came to creating this piece.

The mental fields are carefully set with typical alternative rock effects in guitar and vocals (and singing) and thus turned into grounds of nostalgia, reflection and comfort, but also darkness. "Strip The Soul" is one of the best examples of this, where the aggressive and perfect performance of bassist Colin Edwin must be highlighted. It is one of those albums that may not convince you the first time, but after a couple of times you start to become a fan due to its unforgettable riffs and choruses. At all times the sound is great and well achieved. This album couldn't possibly deserve less than 4 stars, and I've almost decided to give it 5. I wasn't sure at times due to repetitions and fragments that overwhelmed me, but little by little you get the whole essence of the album and, once the end comes, it's already won you over.

Report this review (#2632010)
Posted Monday, November 8, 2021 | Review Permalink

PORCUPINE TREE In Absentia ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of PORCUPINE TREE In Absentia

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.