Steven Wilson is a busy man. Besides being a much sought-after producer, he’s also active in several projects, including No-Man and Blackfield. However, his main band is Porcupine Tree. Together with the current line-up he recorded several highly acclaimed albums. The first album to include drummer Gavin Harrison is In Absentia. This also marked a musical shift towards a heavier direction.
Prior to In Absentia, Wilson worked as a producer on Opeth’s breakthrough album Blackwater Park. This sparked his interest in metal and that shows on “Blackest Eyes”. This song starts with a particular heavy section, before settling in a more rock orientated groove. “Gravity Eyelids”, “Wedding Nails” and “The Creator Has A Mastertape” have the same heavier Opeth-inspired treatment. Despite the heavier direction, those songs still fit the traditional Porcupine Tree grid like a glove.
In Absentia has its share of more laidback compositions as well. Pink Floyd-esque psychedelica is still a very big part of the musical equation on “List Of Ashes”, “The Sound Of Muzak” and “Prodigal Steven’s” soothing and dreamy vocal style does the rest. “Trains” has this peculiar Jethro Tull charm to it. Porcupine Tree’s main strength lays in its ability to write complex and multi-layered music with all sorts of little details, but for some reason Wilson and Co know how to keep it accessible for non musicians as well. My only little point of critique is the fact that the heavier songs don’t gel so well with the lighter hearted songs on the album.
Steven Wilson is also responsible for the production of In Absentia. The warm and organic sound makes this album real ear candy.
Despite the fact that the combination of the heavier songs and the lighter songs isn’t as refined as on Deadwing and Fear Of A Blank Planet, this album still contains some of Porcupine Tree’s most memorable songs. Perhaps not a prog rock classic, but In Absentia is still a mandatory listen when you’re into intelligent and forward thinking music.