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Porcupine Tree - "The Incident" (CD)

Porcupine Tree - "The Incident" CD cover image

"The Incident" track listing:

1. The Incident (55:15)
I. Occam's Razor (1:55)
II. The Blind House (5:47)
III. Great Expectations (1:26)
IV. Kneel and Disconnect (2:03)
V. Drawing the Line (4:43)
VI. The Incident (5:20)
VII. Your Unpleasant Family (1:48)
VIII. The Yellow Windows of the Evening Train (2:00)
IX. Time Flies (11:40)
X. Degree Zero of Liberty (1:45)
XI. Octane Twisted (5:03)
XII. The Séance (2:39)
XIII. Circle of Manias (2:18)
XIV. I Drive the Hearse (6:41)

Disc 2

1. Flicker (3:42)
2. Bonnie the Cat (5:45)
3. Black Dahlia (3:40)
4. Remember Me Lover (7:28)

Reviewed by on November 11, 2009

"Their newest album, “The Incident,” represents all that Porcupine Tree has accomplished, yet still provides enough to surprise and amaze die-hard Porcupine Tree fans, as well as new listeners."

Porcupine Tree has had a long career and has produced many interesting and thought-provoking albums. Their newest album, “The Incident,” represents all that Porcupine Tree has accomplished to date, yet still provides enough to surprise and amaze die-hard Porcupine Tree fans, as well as new listeners. After all, this is the band’s 10th album and the band as a whole has proven themselves as elite musicians who can stand the test of time.

While the band is considered progressive rock, it is important not to compare Porcupine Tree with other “prog” bands like Dream Theater. Porcupine Tree is not interested in showing off by playing non-stop instrumental solos. They are more interested in the sounds and layers that make up a particular song. This multidimensional approach makes for a wonderful listening experience because the listener is able to detect certain sounds and aspects of the music over time.

Porcupine Tree is also well known for being experimental and, in particular, the use of metal in the past few albums. Porcupine Tree has a large fan base in the metal community, but should not be mistaken as strictly a metal band. Porcupine Tree is a band who experiments with metal, adding more to their already established progressive, melancholic, ambient, and melodic sound.

If you are unfamiliar with this band, but enjoy bands like Opeth, Mastodon, Radiohead, The Mars Volta, Dream Theater, Rush, Yes, and Pink Floyd, then you should give this band a serious listen. For simplicity sake, I will go through the showcased album track by track. It is also important to note that “The Incident” is a two disk album, where the first disk is the whole movement known as “The Incident” and the second disk features four separate songs that are not part of the main song cycle.

The first disk starts off with the track “Occam’s Razor,” which is a short instrumental track that hits heavy with guitar, which will surely draw the attention of listener very closely. As the track progresses, it mellows out, leaving this eerie sound which quickly transitions to the second track “The Blind House.”

“The Blind House” is one of the strongest tracks on the first disk. This track utilizes the band's use of metal, with some sections of the song consisting of heavy instrumentals. Steven Wilson’s vocals are light and haunting. The chorus of the track is intense, with Wilson’s vocals soaring off of layers of instrumentals. Like “Occam’s Razor,” this song fades toward the end with an eerie ghost-like sound, before returning to a brief heavy sounding blasting of music.

This leads into “Great Expectations,” which has a certain unique sound. This track is charged by an electrifying guitar lead with mellow vocals. The song is a bit short, only clocking in at one minute and twenty-six seconds. This track ends abruptly and flows into the track “Kneel and Disconnect,” which is the one of the more mellow and ambient tracks on the album. This song is personal to Wilson, as it addresses a time in his life when he left a career behind to become a musician. The track is short and has a minimal framework, but the track is sure to please.

“Drawing the Line” is interesting in many ways. At first, the chorus seems a little displaced because of its pop/punk-like nature, which runs over top of the rest of the track and has a classic Porcupine Tree sound to it. While some fans may be turned off by the track, I think this is that particular track that takes time to get used to. Once “Drawing the Line” receives enough plays, I believe it has this ability to really grow on the listener and is undoubted one the strongest tracks on the album.

Following “Drawing the Line” is the track “The Incident," one that will be sure to please metal fans. For those who follow Porcupine Tree closely, I would compare this song with the likes of “Strip the Soul,” “Dislocated Day,” and “Sleep Together.” This track is haunting and a little more experimental than the other tracks on the first disk. It goes all over the place and upon multiple listens, you will find more and more in this song that you had not heard at first. The drumming on this track is also particularly interesting. The title track has enough appeal to attract a wide range of listeners with varying musical tastes.

“Your Unpleasant Family” is short and almost Beatles-like in sound. The title pretty much gives the listener a sense of what the track will be about. Personally, I feel that this track is the weakest track on both discs. The track is certainly not horrible, but it gets lost in the mix of the album as a whole, which has much stronger tracks all the way through it. The track leads into “The Yellow Windows of the Evening Train,” which is a short instrumental atmospheric track that gives the listener a nice calm break in the album. This track is wonderfully placed in the album because the track that follows, titled “Time Flies,” is the strongest track on "The Incident" and the overall highlight of the album.

“Time Flies” is the longest track and of the same nature as fan favorite “Trains,” from the “In Absentia” album. The music of the track really pulls together the strengths of the band, with everyone pulling their weight. Some parts of the track sound like something right off Pink Floyd’s “Animals.” This is not a problem, however, as Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree have often been compared and having a Pink Floyd influence in the music is not something that should ever the turn the listener away. The vocals on the track have a nostalgic feel to them. Wilson wrote the song reflecting on his childhood and all the incidents that has shaped his life. The opening lyrics of the track point to Wilson’s belief that there was something unique about him being born in 1967, when major albums like “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Are You Experienced?” came out. The middle of the track takes its own unique turn with a strong extended guitar part over dark sounds. This eventually ends and the track goes back to sounding like the beginning did.

“Degree Zero of Liberty” is much like “Occam’s Razor” and in a sense prepares the listener for the rest of album. “Octane Twisted” is a nice mellow track at first, but gets increasing heavy as the track goes on. Opeth fans will detect a clear influence from that band on the music, which is not surprising considering that the both Opeth and Porcupine Tree are friends and have a great amount of respect for each other.

“The Séance” will remind any Porcupine Tree fan of a track from “Lightbulb Sun." This track is short and moves quickly. The following track, “Circle of Manias,” is a heavy instrumental track that should also make metal fans happy. This track has a clear Tool/Meshuggah influence that keeps pounding for a couple of minutes before coming to the end track on the first disk and “The Incident” song cycle.

Being a firm believer that ending songs are essential to a strong album, I would say that Porcupine Tree has done just that with “I Drive the Hearse.” This track is melancholic, yet downright beautiful. The vocals are a particular highlight that flow perfectly with the sad and ambient music. The track picks up toward the end with an amazing climax of guitar and drums, which leads into a final repeat of “when I’m down I drive the hearse,” before the track comes to a gentle end.

The second disk kicks off with the track “Flicker.” This short mellow track is nothing too off the wall, but it is short and simple Porcupine Tree. “Bonnie the Cat” is another track that will be sure to make metal fans happy. The title of the track is a little off-putting, but you will sure to be in for a ride on this experimental and heavy track. This is followed by “Black Dahlia.” While the title is certainly dark and implies another attempt for the band to flirt with metal, it is not of the sort. The song could actually end up on a Blackfield (Wilson’s light rock side band) album with no problem, but is still a fun song.

The final track on the second disk, "Remember Me Lover," is easily the best one on the disc. In hearing interviews with the band, Porcupine Tree describes this song as a culmination of all they have done over the years, as far as all of the sounds heard on the album. While I think this is a stretch, the track definitely showcases the sounds heard from the albums “In Absentia” and up, which will make newer Porcupine Tree fans very happy.

There are very few bands in any genre that have had or still have the ability to produce a 10th album and still have it impress. This album proves that Porcupine Tree is here to stay. Porcupine Tree has become very reliable by impressing their fans, while still pulling in more and more new fans with each album they create. “The Incident” is by far one of the bands best albums, and in a world full of people who are so impatient when it comes to music, Porcupine Tree offers an album that commands the listener to take time out of their day and be pulled into a world of music that the band has created. In a sense, as songs become shorter and increasingly less passionate, Porcupine Tree will be running in the other direction and inviting anyone along who wishes to join them.

Highs: This album represents the bands past, while still breaking new ground into the future

Lows: The track "Your Unpleasant Family" is a little weak.

Bottom line: If you are a fan of progressive music or simply enjoy music that will make you think, you need to hear this album.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)