July 2005

Porcupine Tree - Deadwing
Lava Records 2A-93812A
Format: CD
Released: 2005

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Steve Wilson, Porcupine Tree’s front man, credits his recharged interest in heavy metal to his work as producer for the Swedish metal band Opeth. Wilson began forging a heavier sound for his band with 2002’s In Absentia, Porcupine Tree’s first release on a major label in the US. Prior to that disc, the British band’s progressive rock had built up a solid following in the UK and Europe after more than a decade of recording and touring. In Absentia smartly combined the brutal force of metal with a richly experimental progressive-pop sound.

Porcupine Tree’s newest disc, Deadwingł is even harder edged than In Absentia, but it is as melodically subtle as its predecessor. Wilson has a strong pop instinct that makes even the heaviest tunes on Deadwing lodge in one’s memory. He also shrewdly balances its heaviness against sections of complex beauty. The crashing opening of each verse of "Shallow" gives way to a gentler vocal over acoustic guitar and piano, leading to a powerfully brutal chorus. "Arriving Somewhere But Not Here" highlights all of Porcupine Tree’s strengths: lilting vocals over atmospheric keyboards; gorgeous, dense multi-tracked harmony vocals; and long instrumental passages that play melody against volume and distortion.

In addition to the standard two-channel CD, DTS is releasing a multichannel mix of Deadwing (Wilson also prepared a DTS release of In Absentia about a year after its initial release). Wilson is a master at creating records of great aural detail, so surround should only enhance the power of this disc.