Porcupine Tree - Deadwing

Year of Release: 2005
Label: Warner/Lava
Catalog Number: 7567-93437-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 59:54:00

I'm sure I won't be the first to say this, but Porcupine Tree defies classification. Their music is considered progressive rock by those who must label it, probably because it doesn't belong anywhere else. The electronic beats are almost like dance club music, the riffs are more like heavy metal. The vocals are Pink Floyd at times, The Beatles at others. I can't help but think of Duran Duran when I hear this album. The sophistication of INXS is in there as well while its mass sometimes borders on Metallica. Another group that infuses ideas in a similar fashion would be Echolyn, however, Porcupine Tree is pumped up to such a degree that it's almost as if it's on anabolic steroids. It's got girth and it has certainly matured over the years. Even though it's packed on the pounds, Deadwing is by no means overweight. There is definition and ripples in its many muscles. It only lacks the cheese and pretension known all too well in the world of progressive music. For all its intellectual properties, the music is still very accessible. Its native skill, weathered experience, and careful refinement make it a force to be reckoned with. If you're not careful, you'll prick yourself on this rodent's sharp and pointy needles.

Porcupine Tree does it all... Better yet, Porcupine Tree has it all.

For those fans who really liked the last album (In Absentia), they'll certainly like this one too. While their previous outing had pieces that were diversely different from one another and worked just fine on their own, I'd say the pieces in Deadwing work best when they're together. They each seem to be formed from the same dough and simmered in a single pot. Simply put, they stick together like birds of a feather. All the strengths one could state about In Absentia could be designated to Deadwing as well. They took the time to handcraft every minor detail. There is nothing mass-produced about their product. It's more along the lines of a well-crafted microbrew.

The mastermind behind it all, Steven Wilson, also adds his brainpower to another behemoth named Opeth (Note: He's been involved with them since Blackwater Park. They released four albums before he began to assist with songwriting, production, Mellotron, and various background arrangements). This band goes heavier and hit's wider extremes, but there are a couple commonalities between the two. They each mix it up between acoustic and electric guitars. The vocals come at you from all directions, sometimes scratchy, sometimes clean. They use repetition to keep you complacent then jar you out of your seat. You're guaranteed to experience immense difficulty trying to figure out what comes next.

Steven is probably best known for his killer side-project Blackfield. He painted this work of art with another talented artist who goes by the name of Aviv Geffen. His cohort in this unbelievable creation is a very huge star in Israel. That's what I hear ... I don't follow Israeli music much, but Blackfield makes me think I should.

When Steven isn't working on Blackfield, Opeth, or taking some well-deserved R&R, he still finds time for a few other projects. The most notable is an offshoot called O.S.I. This particular project features musical powerhouses Mike Portnoy, Jim Matheos, and Kevin Moore. If that's not all, he even helped produce and refine a stunning album called Kallocain by the melancholic post-rockers Paatos. He works with all these talented artists and still finds a way to rise to the top. You know what they say about cream. Well, that's Steve Wilson.

Steven Wilson is slowly becoming the George Lucas of the music industry. What Lucas does on the big screen, Wilson does through stereo speakers. Steven shares the same genius gene as George and it pushes him to create his own world of fantasy in the musical universe. Now if only he and his merry men can be discovered by the masses, their careers will shuttle straight out into the far reaches of commercial space. I have trouble picturing anybody camping out for the next Porcupine Tree release, but I have no doubt people will really get into the music once they've heard it.

With Steven doing the directing, you know Deadwing has got to be good. Fortunately for those who have wagered on this stable steed, they'll be happy to know they've cast the winning bet.

Here's what comes to life on Deadwing:

"Deadwing" - Like Giamatti says in Sideways, this has an herb of Rammstein, a clover of Coldplay, and the slightest hint of Duran Duran's "Hungry Like The Wolf." You may not hear these influences, but I sure do. It covers the same amount of ground as Echolyn's Mei, but does so in a quarter of the time. While it has the posh and grace of these instant classics, it also has power and guile. This close encounter causes one deep impact as the ripple effects tear through the terrain.

"Shallow" - This solution is industrial strength. It contains potent enzymes to make the stains sizzle and evaporate away. This has been one of the tracks to make it onto the airwaves. It's a great song and it should be right up your alley if you're a fan of Collective Soul; but to be honest, when compared with the other selections, there are much stronger compositions to be found elsewhere on the album. It gets a little repetitive at times and might bore the usual progressive rock fan. With that said, the production of this pill is pristine and its contents are easily absorbable.

"Lazarus" - Even more so than "Shallow," this is the most radio-ready out of the bunch. It's cool and crisp like a glass of fresh-squeezed Coldplay. The taste, aroma, and essence are all so close; it may actually dupe the most loyal fans of either band. Instead of plummeting to the ground in a parachute, it skis down the scaly slopes on top of a piano. The bridge is well-timed and wonderful. It's a lesson in how to write a beautiful ballad. The song is smothered with all the right fixings. It's lean and trim, but packs a whole lot of pizzazz.

"Halo" - This lazy beast is bare-bones simple and moves at a sloth's pace, but it sure has the grooviest of beats. Each step causes the earth to shudder and shake. It gets your heart pounding as it encompasses all the senses. You can see, feel, hear, and even smell this monstrous hulk of an animal bearing down on you. This creature crashes through anything that stands in its way and its stride is so great it cuts your lead down to size in no time flat. This enormous anomaly is coming your way and there is no place to hide. You better hope it's not hungry.

"Arriving Somewhere But Not Here" - This song is both accessible and progressive at the same time. Like a ravenous dog, it begs to be played on the radio. To me, this is the sort of song that bridges gaps between genres. It's long and winding, but its epic length goes by in a flash. It would be a great choice to expose commercial listeners to the "long" song. I go back to this one more than the others, so it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyways, it's my favorite song on the album. It has great harmonies, both heavy and passive passages, and excellent interplay between all the instruments. It touches upon everything that is sane, crazy, progressive, and catchy and it does so without lingering too long in any one place. Not once does it go stale. It's the result of remarkable musicianship and songwriting combined. As a side note, I'm a huge fan of the song "Jungle Boogie," which Quentin Tarantino chose to open the movie that made him famous. This immortal cut by Kool and the Gang, which one can find on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, is situated somewhere towards the end of this song. It's not obvious, but it's obviously in there. The bass is brash and booming. It's in perfect synch with the drums. Instrumentally this track sounds most like the overtures from Spock's Beard's Snow. If the rhythm section is what you like, this song will knock you into la la land. Listening to it is literally an out of body experience.

"Mellotron Scratch" - With the mention of a Mellotron, you may expect this to be the most progressive of all the pieces. However, this is not the case. It's closer to the folk of Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" or the ostentatious nature of Oasis. It has some of the jaggedness one would find in songs by John Cougar Mellencamp. It sways and flows like a catchy commercial favorite, but it's nocturnally subdued. The vocals are a combination of The Vinyl Kings and The Beatles. They are also Spock's Beard when they're doing their best Gentle Giant impersonation. The outro is the gentlest awakening from a peaceful nap. Ambient light fills the room while a cool breeze lightly scratches the skin on your cheek. I found the time spent with this track to be very invigorating.

"Open Car" - Each of the passages found here gives me the woolies. You're given the choice of taking a ride with a creepy stranger or remaining stuck on the side of the road. It's really no choice at all as you're stranded out in the middle of nowhere. There are encouraging and inspirational moments, but they come coupled with the eeriest elements. As the signpost shows up ahead, you are nearing your final destination, but the deranged driver gives the impression this disturbing ride may be your last. Before it's too late, you better come up with some last ditch effort to bale from this hell ride on wheels.

"Start Of Something Beautiful" - In addition to "Arriving Somewhere But Not Here" this is another highlight for me. It's hard to pick between those two. Typically, I go straight to track five and then upon its completion I go straight to eight. Afterwards, I'm back to five again. This usually goes on for several repetitions. There is so much in both of these songs that one spin is never enough to satisfy my cravings. With this one specifically, the song is extra delicate and dreamy. This confection has layers of chocolate confetti, blissful butterscotch, and a fudge-marble ribbon. It's rich and sweet and meant only for the slowest kind of consumption. This is the sort of song that will make you salivate profusely.

"Glass Arm Shattering" - Towards the end of the album we encounter another heavenly transition. It's slow and sluggish, giving us time to savor the last remaining moments. The vocals harmonies and instrumental melodies remind me most of RPWL. It's a strong, but submissive finish. It's quite the opposite of the earth-shattering opening. This album is like a cardiovascular workout with this song being the cool down followed by a gym rinse.

"She's Moved On" (Bonus) - Hopefully, I'm not spoiling the secret, but you're treated to an amazing hidden track after the most dreadfully long delay. The remake is better than the original, which makes it another highlight of the album. This could be the third or fourth best song on the album, but it's certainly no runner-up.

All the tracks are tremendous and the competition between them is quite stiff. It's hardly a gamble to purchase this album, but be forewarned, it ends with what you'd call a photo finish.

A "solid" 4.5/5

Deadwing / Shallow / Lazarus / Halo / Arriving Somewhere / Mellotron Scatch / Open Car / Start Of Something Beautiful / Glass Arm Shattering

Steve Wilson - guitars, vocals, piano, keyboards, hammered dulcimer, bass
Richard Barbieri - keyboards, synths
Colin Edwin - bass
Gavin Harrison - drums, percussion


Adrian Belew - solo guitar (1, 4)
Mikael ?kerfeldt - harmony vocals, second guitar solo (5)

On The Sunday Of Life... (1991)
Voyage 34 (1992)
Up The Downstair (1993)
Voyage 34: Remixes (1993)
Staircase Infinities (1994)
Moonloop E.P. (1994)
The Sky Moves Sideways (1995)
Signify (1996)
Coma Divine - Recorded Live In Rome (1997)
Stupid Dream (1999)
Voyage 34 - The Complete Trip (2000/2004/2005
'4 Chords That Made A Million' (2000)
Lightbulb Sun (2000/2008)
'Shesmovedon' (2000)
Lightbulb Sun - Special Edition (2001)
Recordings (2001)
Stars Die: The Delerium Years 1991 - 1997(2002/2005)
Metanoia (2002)
In Absentia (2002)
In Absentia (European version) (2003)
Warszawa (2005)
Deadwing (2005)
Porcupine Tree (2006)
Fear Of A Blank Planet (2007)
Nil Recurring (2008)
The Incident (2009)

Arriving Somewhere... (DVD) (2006)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: September 25th 2005
Reviewer: Joshua "Prawg Dawg" Turner
Artist website: www.porcupinetree.com
Hits: 1031
Language: english


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