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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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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
5 stars 'Fear Of A Blank Planet' - Porcupine Tree (10/10)

Although it will arguably never reach the same level of success and achievement as it did in the 1970's, progressive rock is not dead. In fact, some of the decade's best music was crafted by progressively-inclined acts. Porcupine Tree is the defacto leader of modern prog rock these days, with a string of masterpieces under their belts that more than justifies the attention they have received. Throughout the late '80s and '90s, musical mastermind Steven Wilson developed Porcupine Tree from what was originally a tongue-in-cheek psychedelic experiment into something more serious. Though a bit older than some of the other bands on this list, Porcupine Tree never really hit their stride until the 00's, opening the new millennium with such now-classic albums as 'Lightbulb Sun' and 'In Absentia'. Virtually perfecting their atmospheric blend of art rock by 2005's 'Deadwing', Porcupine Tree then set their sights on something different. Emphasizing their existing feelings of melancholy and exchanging their psychedelic tinge in favour of metal, 'Fear Of A Blank Planet' saw a much darker side of the band's music than ever before.

The album is a six piece concept revolving around the tribulations of modern life, through the eyes of a teenager. Porcupine Tree expose and reflect upon the sort of ambivalence and apathy that plagues the middle-class lifestyle today, with Wilson's brooding lyrics touching upon everything from prescription drugs, hypocrisy and media to the emotional results of this environment; isolation, helplessness, and thoughts of suicide. Make no mistake; Wilson tackles these topics with a poetic soundness that keeps 'Fear Of A Blank Planet' from ever becoming a weepy mess. Most of the loose narrative here is told through the eyes of your everyday pill-popping, disillusioned youth, and Wilson manages to adopt this persona in his lyrics without getting preachy or didactic, much like a prog rock J.D Salinger. As one might guess, the music isn't too far off the lyrics in terms of its moodiness. There is plenty of dynamic here, ranging from soft electronic ambiance to moments of extreme metal aggression- possibly a reflection of our protagonist's bipolar disorder? All of the chaos within the mind of this teenage everyman is channeled through Wilson's brilliant-as-ever production.

'Fear Of A Blank Planet' rests in a perfect balance between a sense of cohesive flow and distinction between songs. The title track gives us a dense blast of dark art rock and introduces the subject matter. 'My Ashes' and the spacey piano-driven 'Sentimental' are a more relaxed slice of Porcupine Tree, toning down the energy and heaviness without losing any of the feel. 'Anesthetize' is the album's seventeen-minute cornerstone, an absolute monster of a track that summarizes everything the album is about, featuring both the album's most mellow, and most aggressive moments all within one composition. 'Way Out Of Here' is possibly the most immediately appealing track, with the melancholy now amped up to 11. Finally, 'Sleep Together' ends the journey on an ambiguous note, with exotic string sections blazing and dark electronics filling up the sound. The album ends with Wilson singing about relieving the pressure, and burning his possessions. Has he found enlightenment and broken through his apathy, or killed himself? These things are left up to the mind of the listener, and makes 'Fear Of A Blank Planet' the greatest statement from one of today's most impressive rock groups.

Conor Fynes | 5/5 |


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