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


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

4.26 | 2607 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars On this record are not only some of Porcupine Tree's heaviest moments ever, such as a few of the instrumental breaks in the massive Anesthetize, but also some of their most delicate, such as the gentle My Ashes.

Do not fear: the band is not just repeating ideas from earlier CDs and trying to improve upon them, as many bands do (and Porcupine Tree is often accused of). Rather, Porcupine Tree branches out in some other directions, such as oddly written and timed synthesizers, something akin to thrash, soundscapes reminiscent of mid 70s King Crimson, and a measure of grungy punk sound. The highlight of this album may very well be the drumming of Gavin Harrison, not a newcomer to prog or music at all, but nevertheless one who suddenly decided to let everyone know that, yes, he can drum particularly fast but also with an uncommon amount of flair. That is not to say that the rest of the band is not in top form, either. Wilson's guitar and voice are at the peak of their respective sounds, while Barbieri provides some well produced and very cleverly used synths and keyboards. The only downside to the band's performance here is the absence of a strong bass sound, which has in the past been a strength of Porcupine Tree, but here Wilson follows the metal train and blends the bass in with the crunchy guitars.

Fear of a Blank Planet opens with its title track, a song actually somewhat reminiscent of the opening title track on the band's prior release, Deadwing. That is not to say it's at all the same, nevertheless. Some unhappy lyrics, a nice guitar solo, and a surprising drum fill that lends the music to a rather heavy riff all form the majority of the song, until it comes to the ending portion, where it fades gently into the next track. My Ashes happens to be that very song, but admittedly there is little terribly new about this song. It hearkens back to In Absentia or Lightbulb Sun. That is not to say, however, that it isn't a worthy song. While perhaps the least exciting and clever on the album, it still features a sweet melody and a refreshing background noise of a record and a needle. Of course, any loss of excitement that My Ashes might provoke in a listener goes away fairly quickly as Anesthetize steps up to the stage. The longest track on the album (indeed, the band's longest track next to The Sky Moves Sideways), it clocks in at just under eighteen minutes. Anesthetize is divided into three sections. The first is a minimalist part building towards a guitar solo by Alex Lifeson of Rush, all the while driven by an eccentric but steady rhythm from Harrison. The second part begins in a rush of heaviness, as the double bass goes wild and Wilson's guitars crunch down hard. This is also the only section that really features any sort of a chorus. Near the end of this middle third comes what is perhaps the most shocking Porcupine Tree moment to date: the guitars lose all semblance of melodic gentleness and the drums go into full thrash-mode. While this may turn off a number of the band's listeners who are only interested in their melodic side, it certainly throws every fan for a loop--and many prog fans like being thrown for loops. The final section is gentle and pacific, layering harmonies over a oceanic soundscape, softly winding the track down and away.

Following on the heels of this impressive track is Sentimental, an acoustic and mellow track somewhat reminiscent of Trains. While a nice song, this is a fairly unremarkable one. Or perhaps that's simply an aftereffect of following Anesthetize. Hard to say. Either way, the tempo and energy picks back up again once more with the song Way Out of Here. Featuring a lot of distortion in the chorus and a continuation of the album's dark and depressive lyrical content, the track plays forward without really slowing for the first half. Partway through, however, the music fades away, and Robert Fripp of King Crimson guests to build up a sparkly soundscape. Once this rising force climaxes, the song dives back into the metal ideas, featuring a whole lot more intense drum work from Gavin. The final track then wanders onto the album: Sleep Together, an unconventional closer for Porcupine Tree. Quiet verses and loud, grungy power-chorded choruses make up the song. The finale of the song features some humming string synthesizers, bouncing around on a strange melody but really shaking up the conclusion of the music. The production and mastering on this portion of the album especially is impressive.

In the end, this is quite probably Porcupine Tree's most varied and strongest album to date, edging out the favorite In Absentia on account of a bit more experimental and creative energy. It's also not a bad place to start with for the band overall, either.

LiquidEternity | 5/5 |


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