Release DetailsLABEL Atlantic Records
RELEASED ON 4/24/2007
Fear of a Blank Planet
posted on 4/2007 By:
There was a thread posted recently on the MetalReview.com forum that talked about getting “burnt out on metal”…basically, does it happen to you, and if so how do you cope? It was a very interesting little read, and the consensus was that indeed “yes”, most listeners of extreme music do get tired of the heavy from time to time and simply need a break of sorts. Enter Porcupine Tree – one of the bands that I always feel comfortable turning to in times of 'metal burnout syndrome', and if you haven’t caught wind of the band yet during your music listening tenure, then it is my hope that after reading this review (or Dave Pirtle’s splendid review of Deadwing, the band’s prior release) that you will use the music this band competently writes and effortlessly plays to your advantage during those times of metal exhaustion.
For those unfamiliar with the band, main man Steven Wilson and company play an easier listening progressive rock style coupled with mild experimentation in ambience and a strong 70’s psychedelic influence. But that hardly covers it all because there is so much tossed into the “melting pot”, as Wilson calls it. The band’s previous album, the aforementioned Deadwing, even saw the band flirt with a more metal edge in a couple of songs, which was probably a result of Wilson having worked with Swedish metal darlings Opeth on the Blackwater Park, Deliverance and Damnation sessions. While In Absentia and Deadwing are arguably the band’s most prized and fully fleshed out recordings – thanks in part to more folks becoming more familiar with the group – Fear of a Blank Planet is a return to the band’s middle, darker era that saw them find their stride with a trilogy of releases that might go down as the band’s best work ever – the eerily addicting Signify, the catchier and more straight-forward Stupid Dream, and the drearily dismal vibe on the all-out jam that was Lightbulb Sun, my personal favorite.
The album’s title track gets things going with a little acoustic intro followed by a solid n’ rocky drum beat that drives it most of the way, and the slower section about midway through the track sets up the first of a few metal-ish moments that pepper the record. If you’re into excellently written lyrics – somewhat of a lost art these days – you’ll love what Wilson and company have come up with. As I stated, this is some of the darker material that the band has offered up in years, and the lyrics match the gloomy theme perfectly. "My Ashes" is a slower piece that focuses more on the lyrical message than the song itself, as Wilson tells a story of the little boy that literally gets fucked up by his parents and literally struggles to carry on – indeed a very, very common scenario. King Crimson’s Robert Fripp and legendary Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson each make a guest appearance, with the latter’s guitar solo at the 4:00 mark of "Anesthetize" adding a welcome touch. The song covers a myriad of different emotions ranging from softly strummed hues to an all out metal assault toward the middle of the seventeen minute song. The rolling double bass coupled with thunderous tom fills almost knocked me on my ass the first time I’d heard the track. "Sentimental" follows with its piano driven intro that evolves into a beautiful chorus that almost brings hope to the album's sad nature, but it's still murky enough to keep the box of tissues within reach, and "Way Out of Here" is a slowly building track that shows the band’s expertise at the use of dynamics as it rises to peaks of agonizing emotion and falls just as hard. Closer "Sleep Together" is yet another song that starts out softly and has a string arrangement around the 6:00 point that reeks of climactic proportions and ends the album extremely strong. I'm sure it's just me but that part of the song brings me back to my youth and reminds me of The Beatles' legendary song "I Am the Walrus" each time I hear it.
Bottom line: Porcupine Tree simply do not disappoint, and the group is as consistent as any band that composes and records music. Period! With a lengthy catalog of stellar releases to back up that statement, I encourage any and all fans of good music to seek out the mesmerizing and beautiful sounds this band explores and ultimately delivers. If this will be your first taste of the Porcupine Tree experience there’s no doubt you’ll be aching for more before the midway point of the first listen to this record. While this may not be the band’s best work, there’s no arguing that the group is worthy of being among the other bands in your catalog, metal or otherwise, and the perfect remedy for 'metal burnout syndrome'.
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