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Artist: Porcupine Tree
Date Released: April 16, 2007
Label: Roadrunner, Atlantic, WHD
Produced By: Steven Wilson, Porcupine Tree
- Fear Of A Blank Planet (7:28)
- My Ashes (5:07)
- Anesthetize (17:42)
- Sentimental (5:26)
- Way Out Of Here (7:37)
- Sleep Together (7:28)
It's been two years since Porcupine Tree's previous album Deadwing was released. Upon getting a lot of recognition and new listeners, as well as becoming one of the fan favorites, it set the bar high for the next album, whenever it would come out and whatever it would be like. And now, after a long wait, Fear of a Blank Planet is finally here.
Before we get to the music, I want to mention that I can see the appreciation for this album to grow with time because Fear of a Blank Planet is no easy album to swallow. It's less accessible than anything PT has released in years and their darkest album yet. It's intense and might sound somewhat meager on the first few listens so if you are looking for something you can enjoy right away, turn away now.
Fear of a Blank Planet incorporates ideas from Porcupine Tree's previous albums and in a way, is a step back from Deadwing. Musically they are moving forward but it's got this space rock sound which Deadwing lacked and slightly reminds me of albums such as The Sky Moves Sideways and Signify. It has a little bit of Lightbulb Sun and Stupid Dream and the heaviness is still there as well. Although, unlike many would assume, it's not really heavier than Deadwing is and I would even dare to say it's lighter. Tracks such as Anesthetize and Way Out of Here include some of Porcupine Tree's heaviest moments yet but the really heavy moments are sparse and the album has a lot of soft and melancholic moments to balance it out. And despite the fact that it takes ideas from previous albums, it has a lot of new elements as well. Sleep Together is the most unique song on the album and dissimilar to anything Porcupine Tree has written so far, a very menacing song. Way Out of Here and Anesthetize also have many surprises in stock and can't be easily likened to older material. It's also noteworthy that this is the first time John Wesley's vocals are featured on Porcupine Tree's studio album. The only track which hardly offers anything new is the title track which is alike to its counterpart on Deadwing with a bit of Signify mixed in.
In a nutshell, you can hear a little bit of everything here. Heavy metal riffs, acoustic guitars, pianos, strings, ambience, subtle elements, noise, distortion, great vocal harmonies and so on. Everyone does their jobs flawlessly leaving no room for complaints. Gavin Harrison on the drums and Richard Barbieri on the keyboards are especially better than ever. The music is multilayered and complex, ensuring it doesn't get old easily and that there is always something new to discover when you get back to the album. This is the peak of Porcupine Tree's songwriting as well as Wilson's vocal work.
Fear of a Blank Planet doesn't really have any weak points but as it has always been with Porcupine Tree's albums, the lyrics don't exactly live up to the fantastic music. Don't get me wrong though, I enjoy majority of their lyrics and Fear of a Blank Planet is no exception. However, Fear of a Blank Planet's lyrical content is very hit or miss material and I still can't help but feel that parts of the lyrics feel rather unnecessary or don't make much sense. The whole pill deal is repeated a bit too much considering that the album isn't really about drugs as much as it is, among other things, about the decay of our current generation in the form of kids becoming terminally bored as they get distracted from reality, and how the said distractions (Internet, TV, videogames) create a blank generation like the album name implies. While not the most original concept ever, I think it is not a completely typical message of the 21st century and a step up from Deadwing with more down-to-earth lyrics and a meaningful message. It really boils down to opinions and whether you like the new approach or not. I like it but still find lyrics to be Porcupine Tree's weakest point. Though I hate to put it that way for I genuinely like their lyrics.
To sum it up, Fear of a Blank Planet continues the string of extremely strong releases and is another superb album by one of the most prominent artists in the modern progressive scene. Albeit being a bit short, it's Porcupine Tree's most coherent work to date and as always with their albums, continues wandering into new directions while having that PT sound which ties their music together. It's great to see that they are able to draw ideas from so many genres and to blend in elements from their previous material, and then making an album with so much variety without a single moment feeling out of place.
Given that it takes time for Porcupine Tree's music to grow on you and that we have yet to see if Fear of a Blank Planet can maintain its charm, it's too early to tell if this is their best album or not but it's a very strong contender for the title, that much is certain. Recommended to anyone who's willing to give it the time which is required for it to sink in. Once it does, you can't get enough of it.