Porcupine Tree - Deadwing
Lava
Progressive/Psychedelic Metal
9 songs (59:35)
Release year: 2005
Porcupine Tree
Reviewed by Boris
Archive review

Deadwing is the eight studio album from one-man-psychedelic-project-turned-heavy-prog-band Porcupine Tree, and arguably the band’s most important. It was the follow-up to 2002’s In Absentia which, though a great album, marked a drastic change in direction for the band and divided many of its fans. As such, Deadwing became the make-or-break album for fans both old and new, and the interest from both groups led to its success as Porcupine Tree’s best selling album at that point (it has since been surpassed). And the album does indeed try to combine the heavier, darker aspects of its predecessor with the psychedelic spacey feel of the band’s back catalogue to varying degrees of success.

The title track, which opens the album, is a 10-minute monster that starts off with layers and layers of electronic effects and pulsing bass drum until the main guitar riff—not quite as heavy as anything on In Absentia--comes in as the driving force of the song. Steven Wilson paints a picture and builds mood admirably, with his detailed lyrics (“And from the yellow windows of the last train”) and distant-sounding vocals, respectively. The song is pretty repetitive but never gets annoying thanks to a well-placed mellow mid-section, which is reminiscent to earlier, more ambient Porcupine Tree songs.

In its ambition to combine the sounds of old and new, the album unfortunately fails to find perfection in either one. Where In Absentia was able to bring the band’s unique visions of the future and love to the new sound, Deadwing sometimes scarily borders on generic alternative rock--Shallow and Open Car, the two heaviest rockers on here, definitely wouldn’t sound out of place on any rock radio station, and don’t have particularly engaging melodies as is the norm for the band. And Lazarus has a piano line that sounds way too much like a Coldplay song, but makes up for it somewhat with some beautiful vocal harmonies. Other songs that try to evoke the psychedelic Porcupine Tree of the nineties start to bore after a while--Mellotron Scratch never gaining the dynamic it really needs to take off and Arriving Somewhere But Not Here being far too long (though, apart from its length, its an excellent song). Actually, Arriving Somewhere may have been candidate for the best song were it not for the extra 3 minutes of unnecessary ambiance in the song—the meat of the song encompasses the mood perfectly as is. Album closer Glass Arm Shattering is even worse, taking almost 4 minutes until its unparalleled harmonies are in full bloom. God, if these harmonies were built up quicker or more prominent among the gigantic wall-of-sound, this song would be an absolute gem. As it stands though, the aforementioned Deadwing as well as the mostly electronic Halo and the deliciously bass-driven Start of Something Beautiful are the true winners here, because they’re always interesting (only Halo is under 5 minutes so that’s an accomplishment) and don’t sound like they’re trying to recreate other Porcupine Tree songs.

Special mention must be made to several people that clearly influenced this album, and the “new” Porcupine Tree in general. First, there’s drummer Gavin Harrison. Though primarily a jazz session drummer, his technique here definitely lends itself to a more progressive and heavy feel than did his predecessor’s. And he programmed all the electronic beats as well, doing a great job as even Halo sounds like it’s him drumming and just a machine. Second, there’s Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth. It seems that after befriending Steven Wilson, the bands’ musical paths started converging (Opeth getting less heavy while PT gets way more heavy). Also, Akerfeldt helps out in the production and sings backup vocals on a few tracks.

Killing Songs :
Deadwing, Halo, Start of Something Beautiful, Glass Arm Shattering (kinda)
Boris quoted 89 / 100
Other albums by Porcupine Tree that we have reviewed:
Porcupine Tree - Up The Downstair reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Porcupine Tree - On The Sunday Of Life reviewed by Goat and quoted 79 / 100
Porcupine Tree - The Incident reviewed by Goat and quoted 79 / 100
Porcupine Tree - Stupid Dream reviewed by Khelek and quoted 94 / 100
Porcupine Tree - Lightbulb Sun reviewed by Khelek and quoted 91 / 100
To see all 9 reviews click here
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