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Porcupine Tree

In Absentia

Review by Steve Alspach

Steve Wilson's pet project (the group started as nothing more than just a fictional band several years ago) released their latest work, In Absentia, last year. The album is a thoughtful blend of melody, metal, and progressive. There is a slightly dark edge throughout the disc, though.

The performers on this CD are: Steve Wilson, guitars and vocals; Richard Barbieri, keyboards; Colin Edwin, bass; and Gavin Harrison, drums and percussion. Aviv Geffen, vocals; and John Wesley, additional guitar and vocals put in guest performances.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
Blackest Eyes
This is a catchy tune with rich harmonies on the chorus line, yet it contains some metal riffing in the intro and throughout.
This song strikes a happy medium between the acoustic and electric. It goes into an interesting section featuring acoustic guitar, handclaps, and a banjo lays down the melodic riff.
Lips of Ashes
Porcupine Tree lean towards the acoustic on this track, and the result is reminiscent of Pink Floyd's "A Pillow of Winds."
The Sound of Muzak
Another cut where the chorus features an infectious hook, smart radio stations would do well to put this one on their playlists.
Gravity Eyelids
The first part of the track is a rather quiet affair with keyboards and a rhythm track, but the band breaks loose halfway through with some strong power chords before winding down.
Wedding Nails
This one is a cruncher of an instrumental track, similar to King Crimson's "Red" or some of Bozzio-Levin-Stevens' work. An unusual twist, though - an atmospheric keyboard coda ends the song
Here is another piece with quiet verses, strong harmonies on the chorus, and a rock-out instrumental bridge.
Former XTC member Dave Gregory provided the string arrangement to this track. It starts with a bass-driven rhythm pattern, and the strings provide a rich backdrop. The minimalist lyrics ("Black the sky, weapons fly, Lay them waste for your race") allow for the development of a four-chord pattern.
The Creator Has a Mastertape
This pedal-to-the-floorboard rocker is propelled by Gavin Harrison's drums and Wilson's fuzz-drenched guitar chords, but the vocals are a bit muffled and effect-drenched.
Heartattack in a Layby
In contrast to the previous cut, this is a slow, sleepy affair. Is the singer having a heart attack on the side of the road, or is he just not feeling well?
Strip The Soul
The verses are in a silent, smoldering mode, but the choruses feature power guitars and muted vocals. The song is a bit ooky - a number about a man who bumps off his family ("They are not gone, they are not gone, They are only sleeping, In graves, in ways, in clay, Underneath the floor"). There is a Fripp-like solo snippet, and the piece lands with a strong, dirge-like thud.
Collapse the Light Into Earth
Again contrasting the soft with the meaty, the album winds down with this composition, a rather delicate effort featuring Barbieri's keyboards and strings, again arranged by Dave Gregory.
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