Author Topic: Porcupine Tree's Deadwing  (Read 1495 times)

Offline Destroyer Of Senses

  • Philmusicus Noobitus
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Porcupine Tree's Deadwing
« on: June 01, 2005, 02:20:49 PM »

It's been my avatar since I re-joined this forum.  It's also perhaps my most anticipated album release all year.  Because I'm catching one of their two shows in Seattle this weekend, I thought I'd finally cave in and share my thoughts about the album.

First, a backgrounder.  Most people would be familiar with Steven Wilson in metal circles as the producer of Opeth's last few albums--namely Still Life, Deliverance, and the super proggy Damnation.  He managed to coax out some of the best songs, harmonies, and instrument sounds out of Mikael Akerfeldt and the rest of his crew.

Porcupine Tree has personally moved to the top of the prog heap as my favorite band.  The balance of excellent songwriting from Wilson, all around balls-out musicianship from all instrumentalists, especially drummer Gavin Harrison, and killer production makes this album a progressive rock watermark and the birth of a new generation of artists hailing from this genre.

Deadwing is supposed to be the concept which accompanies a film that Wilson has written a screenplay for with a friend.  God knows if we'll ever know what really is going on in the album or whether we'll see a movie at all.

Here's a track-by-track analysis:

1.  Deadwing - The keyboard loops get louder and louder to give the listener the uneasy anticipation of the sudden THUD of the song's real start which reminds me so much of Zep's Achilles' Last Stand.  Clocking at 9:46, you wouldn't even notice it all go by until the song is over.  I can't also stress enough the killer Adrian Belew guitar solo...atonal and yet it still works for the song.

2. Shallow - Probably the most "accessible" of their songs in this set.  It was also the first single, I believe.  Heavy guitars, heavy guitars...give it to me, indeed.

3. Lazarus - Steven is at peak songwriting form in this tune as he borrows some of what he learned on the Blackfield project.  He ran away with this one and made it PT's.  It's one of the most awesome ballads I've ever heard.  The piano adds a touch of finesse to the song.

4. Halo - This track would attract a lot of Tool fans to PT if they ever heard this song.  Polyrhythms for everyone.  This song has one of the most awesome instrumental breakdowns as Wilson rages against hypocricy in varying time signatures.

5.  Arriving Somewhere But Not Here -  This is Porcupine Tree the way that a lot of the long-time fans enjoy.  Clocking in at 12:02, this is the centerpiece of the whole album.  It starts off really moody with all the atmospherics, then the minor key guitar arrangement that Wilson so enjoys.  Sooner than later, the band kicks in to give the song it's full personality.  There's also so much of a Pink Floyd vibe going on in this song but you don't have to be on anything to enjoy all this good stuff.  Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt lends his pipes in the background and some guitar as well to make this song hit anything it passes through flat.  Who said that you need to have your amp cranked to 11 to blow you away?  This track is proof positive that you can still rock out and have an "airy" quality at the same time.

6.  Mellotron Scratch - At first, this was my least-liked song.  It grows on you after a while though, especially toward the end where it reminds me of Jimmy Page's arrangements as Steven follows his lead and layers things one on top of another until the band crescendos and takes the song home.

7.  Open Car - If the Tool fans liked Halo, this track would captivate them even more and convert them to lifelong fans--it's in an odd 8/16 pulse or something.  I like the breathy quality of the chorus after the tense, distorted guitars you hear in the verses.  It's a great study in contrasts, especially if you love analyzing guitar parts.

8.  The Start of Something Beautiful - This track is also a look back at the Voyage 34 days for the band.  If I counted it right, this one goes on a 9/8 groove for a main riff...trippy.

9.  Glass Arm Shattering - Another slow, atmospheric number.  It's almost like gazing at stars on a clear summer night in the country...or what you may experience floating in space.  The vocal harmonies that build up makes this a great official end to the album.

10.  Shesmovedon (Bonus Track) - This is a re-recording of the classic from the legendary Lightbulb Sun album (this album is still the pinnacle and the absolute record to pick up from the band.  Hopefully, Snapper--their record label--can re-release this thing already.  It's so hard to find at record stores).  This song conveys so much spite over a soured relationship, it's so palpable.

To sum it all up, this has got to be one of my favorite albums of all time.  It's a guaranteed desert island disc because it goes through the whole mood spectrum with each and every song.  I don't think there's a dud in the set at all.  If you want to listen to more Steven Wilson, pick up Porcupine Tree's Lighbulb Sun as mentioned above, Stupid Dream, Warszawa (a live set with songs from Lightbulb Sun and Stupid Dream...a great substitute if you don't have either records yet), In Absentia (my first PT album), and Blackfield.