Porcupine Tree have become one of the leading progressive rock bands over the last years since mastermind Steven Wilson started the band as a one-man-project in the late 80’s. Their 2005 release Deadwing offers a sonic journey from spacious soundscapes to compact and heavy songs that shows what this band still is capable of after all these years and why they are one of today’s big names in prog rock.
The album starts off with the almost ten minute long title track which already shows the heavier side of the band. A fast beat keeps going through the guitar-driven song, only leaving a break in the second half, where the keyboard takes over and gives a few calm moments.
But the band’s speciality is first shown on the second track “Shallow”. Rocking hard and fast from the beginning, the track suddenly changes to an accoustic pop song, just to change back into the rocking track for the chorus. This interplay goes on a few times until the full power brings the song to an end. What a stunning track this is!
Totally different is the next track “Lazarus”, a soft ballad which could easily be played in a mainstream radio program. But it doesn’t sound bad, surprisingly. It certainly fits into the album’s context and appears to be the counterpart of the hard rocking “Open Car”. This change between heavy and light songs and sounds is what makes this album so special, as it indeed works as a whole.
The twelve minute long epic “Arriving Somewhere (But Not Here)” seems to be the center piece of the album and is a tour de force by all means. No wonder this track has been the final encore of many Porcupine Tree concerts. A slow start creates tension, a driving rhythm starts, keeps the song going and the tension rising, then everything explodes with hard beats and heavy riffs – but the song isn’t over yet. A short and calm break follows and the band finally takes it home. Brilliant!
The following track “Mellotron Scratch” is a song that showcases the classic Mellotron strings, choir and flute sounds in all their beauty, creating a wonderful atmosphere with the other instruments. Mainly a pop ballad (once more), a guitar-driven break turns the song into an epic psychedelic piece with layered vocals that suddenly stops. It is similar to “The Start Of Something Beautiful”, which takes its time to create a rather quiet atmosphere out of different sounds that alternates with louder parts. Wilson’s soft vocals and lyrics in these calm passages make this track so special. The last song “Glass Arm Shattering” is a mix of a soundscape and a ballad and fits perfectly as a closing track with its reverberative sounds.
Porcupine Tree did everything right on Deadwing. Strong compositions, a great production with a powerful but also nuanced sound and a quartet at its best. Perfect!