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Porcupine Tree - In Absentia CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

4.26 | 2627 ratings

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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.

Raff | 4/5 |


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