Porcupine Tree – ‘The Incident’: Track-By-Track Album Preview
Hammer scribe Dom Lawson weighs in with his report on the new album from prog-metal lords, Porcupine Tree.
With no messing around whatsoever, here’s Dom Lawson’s track-by-track guide to the Porcupine Tree. ‘The Incident’ will be released on September 14th.
A 55-minute ‘song cycle’ designed to be consumed in one fulsome hit, ‘The Incident’ is the first and dominant part of the new Porcupine Tree album. The second disc will feature four more new songs – ‘Flicker’, ‘Bonnie The Cat’, ‘Black Dahlia’ and ‘Remember Me Lover’, but here we take a stroll through ‘The Incident’ itself. Prepare to be squashed by a large block of awesomeness.
i. ‘Occam’s Razor’
As intros go, this is both startling and thrilling. A huge, dramatic chord is pounded out threefold with great force before a delicate guitar motif and some eerie effects slither from the speakers.
ii. ‘The Blind House’
The album’s first song proper begins with explosive introductory riffs that lead into a typically plaintive and ethereal Steven Wilson vocal melody. And then the chorus erupts, and it’s a cast-iron belter, redolent of Deftones in the guitar chord department but still unmistakably Porcupine Tree. Midway through, the song is stripped right down to some programmed clicks and clangs that add a slightly unreal and chilling Radiohead/Aphex Twin vibe to an already stunning opening.
iii. ‘Great Expectations’
A simple combination of acoustic guitar and poignant lyrics sung with typical grace and refinement by Wilson morph into soaring guitar work subtly reminiscent of ‘70s prog lords King Crimson, but bigger, brighter and more lustrous.
iv. ‘Kneel And Disconnect’
The flipside to Great Expectations, this piano-led ballad barely scraped two minutes, but it’s a brilliantly executed slice of sober melancholy that ends with a decidedly creepy piano melody…
v. ‘Drawing The Line’
…which leads into this sublime chunk of schizophrenia, with its elegantly percussive and downbeat verses and choruses that build from urgent, suspended chords to an irresistible sense of motoring momentum. Ridiculously catchy but genuinely eerie with it, this is one of the few songs on the album that would still make sense in isolation.
vi. ‘The Incident’
Porcupine Tree get their NIN-style electro-sinister vibe on, with some bleak and skittering electronics, a lurching, menacing groove and lyrics that hint at detachment from emotion and a creeping sense of fear. When Wilson sings “I just want to be loved…”, it’s hard to avoid the sense that he might not mean it in a good way. Then the gnarly metal riffs start to poke through the sonic mist, as if Meshuggah have invaded the studio and hijacked the song halfway through, adding another layer of stark horror. Stunning stuff.
vii. ‘Your Unpleasant Family’
With darkly humorous lyrics leading into a bold and triumphant sounding instrumental passage replete with sky-prodding guitar solo, this is a cleverly-crafted interlude that melts into…
viii. ‘The Yellow Windows Of The Evening Train’
…an ingenious collage of looped melodic shimmers and pulsing keyboards; a moment of unsettling respite before the album’s towering centrepiece.
ix. ‘Time Flies’
“I was born in ’67…the year of Sgt Pepper and Are You Experienced?” is one of the most ear-grabbing opening lines you’ll hear this year, and the epic, 11-minute song that follows is simply one of the best things Porcupine Tree have ever released. Full of the melodic simplicity and pathos that has always been present in the band’s best work, this is also a deceptively complex piece of music that veers from gently undulating jangle to cascading crescendos smothered in bubbling Hammond and on to a rumbling middle section peppered with low-end twang and an escalating atmosphere of dread and foreboding. Nice.
x. ‘Degree Zero Of Liberty’
The huge chords from ‘Occam’s Razor’ return, with added weight and yet more spine-tingling ambience, before a lilting guitar passage that bears more than a passing resemblance to Opeth at their mellowest drifts serenely by, preparing you for the head-mangling insanity of…
xi. ‘Octane Twisted’
…this. It begins as a restrained reprise of moments from earlier in the album, but soon erupts into a series of hammering riffs, thudding tribal drums and a hair-raising level of aggression from a band normally associated with the subtle approach. A juddering one-note riff that would be funky if it wasn’t so damn peculiar provides a rhythmic red line between the song’s more melodic moments. Again, there are definite shades of Opeth here, but this is less progressive death metal than pitch-black left-field rock.
xii. ‘The Séance’
Another melodic retread echoing an earlier part of the album, this does exactly what it says on the paranormal tin, evoking the shiver-inducing atmosphere of a chat with the spirit world beyond, shifting midway through from minor chord sobriety to…
xiii. ‘Circle Of Manias’
…an angular and brutish acoustic guitar figure that transforms into another of those infectious Meshuggah-style offbeat riffs, that spirals up and away into a night sky of interwoven grooves. Porcupine Tree might not be a metal band in the strictest sense of the word, but they do metal as well as anyone out there.
xiv. ‘I Drive The Hearse’
The mood suddenly shifts from threatening thump to gorgeous elegance, as ‘The Incident’ glides to a sorrowful but satisfying conclusion with this simply beautiful closing ballad. In a sane world, this would be a huge hit single. As it is, it’s one final moment of perfectly executed melodic genius at the end of a frankly staggering 55 minutes of music.