Recently, the band played the album to key media and some competition winners. We asked some of the attending competition winners if they would be willing to write up thier thoughts on the new record and they were only too happy to oblige.
Here are two of our favorite write-ups:
Just how do you describe a listening experience like that which I have been privy to? A musical movement that carries your emotions along through its monstrous highs and languid depths, one which captivates your from that first chord to the fading out of its last - some 55 minutes later, and one which you wish you could relive over again. Just how do you describe that to someone? Well, let's start by telling you just what that listening experience was... for those that have yet to guess, I'm of course referring to Porcupine Tree's latest opus, The Incident.
I can't attest to being a 'massive' prog fan. I own no Pink Floyd, and not much Genesis or Rush. But I hasten to point out that I do know good music when I hear it, and PT have ticked all those boxes for me in the past: awesome sonic soundscapes created with utter mastery of music and melody. When I heard on the grapevine that they were planning a 55 minute song I was excited, and couldn't wait to see how this was interpreted and realised in the final product... and yesterday, I had my chance.
To some, I'm sure the '55 minute running time' is a bit off-putting - just how can a song last that long? To a dedicated PT fan, this is a salivating proposition, but to a 'normal' music fan? 'Daunting' is the word I'd use. Let's set things straight here - this is no Catch 33 by Meshuggah (another epically long 'song' put out a couple of years ago). For me, that particular album dragged and a lot of the rhythms wore thin after a short while. Porcupine Tree have crafted an album that seems like it's over in an instant, but is massively Moorish - more-so than crack to a desperate junkie. What makes this passage of time so speedy is how the 'song cycle' (to quote Mr. Wilson) blends seamlessly and really does take the listener on an emotional journey. Ideas and themes re-emerge before giving way to the next inspirational idea. It really was a captivating listen that I wish I could replay, but sadly is one I cannot.
So, what can you expect? You've definitely got a PT album on your hands, and one which really explores the depths of what the band is, and it really does bring out the best in them. I would love to say of the 'Floyd' influences... but, as I've already attested to, I'm no 'Prog-maestro', so a comment such as that would be futile from myself. Essentially, if you're a PT fan you're going to simply love the exquisite production values (5.1 mix especially!) and the attention to detail you've come to love and adore from the band. I can honestly say that I've not heard an album that makes me sit up and think 'wow, this is special' for quite some time now, well, if we were to eradicate Mastodon's Crack The Skye from my memory anyway. But what for the non-PT fans, and the curious listener? If you appreciate music, whether from the current roster of 'rockstars' or from yesteryear, then there really is something here that demands your attention. Much like that first taste of love, you'll be back for more.
Just wait until you hear the haunting chanted chorus of 'Octane Twisted', or the mournful tale of loss in 'Time Flies'. Also, who'd have thought that a song about a motorway accident ('The Incident') could be so insightful and beautiful? And there-in lies the solution to my initial question: how do you describe what I've heard? Beautiful. It's a savage, raw and untamed beauty - much like the natural world that surrounds us: for every moment of peace and tranquillity, there is turmoil and upheaval. The listener truly is taken on a ride lyrically and musically, and invited into Steven Wilson's world for 55 minutes.
I, for one, just wish I was back there in that world. Lamentably I'll have to wait until mid-September to once again hear those blissful sounds when I pick up the album, and I suggest that you do the same.
~ AARON EVERITT
Occam's Razor is an instrumental that begins with alternating crashing and gentle acoustic guitars before moving into a cave-like space and calm before climbing out with spiral guitar riffing before leading straight into the vocals of The Blind House. This is a lovely clean song, beautifully produced again moving forward as if swimming and then again into some marvellous rhythms and riffs to finish. Great Expectations follows, which is a very short piece, very minimal with some beautiful guitar work. Already I was bowled over by the shear range of PT's music, so much contrast in what is essentially one track with many movements. Track 4, Kneel and Disconnect had a greater presence of keyboards and what sounded like a xylophone and to me had some real King Crimson overtones. This moved on to Drawing the Line which is probably the most different track of them all, it is difficult to put a finger on exactly why, especially after only one listen but suffice to say that it could really grow one me with time.
The Incident starts in a very similar vein to the material from Fear of a Blank Planet, PT's last album, with many whispers, spoken vocals, industrial tension and distorted vocals and guitars. I loved the way the last phrase is repeated over and over at the end of the track before moving into Your Unpleasant Family which despite the name has some very definite Beatles' influences. Steve really hits the high notes on this one. The Yellow Windows of the Evening Train is a really contrasting track which has overtones of Sigur Ros to start and then it slides into probably the definitive track of the album, Time Flies. This is clearly a nod to the music of Pink Floyd though still very much PT at heart. It reminded me a lot of the Album Animals with brilliant bass riffs and some superb guitar work. A real masterpiece!
The next two tracks, Degree Zero of Liberty and Octane Twisted, could not be more different to Time Flies. Much harder and riffy, a slight oriental feel from the former and very Opeth from the latter. That said as for all PT material the mixing is incredible and the contrast between the heavy industrial riffs and the quiet spaces is amazing. For me I think Octane Twisted is my second favourite of the album. Then before you can draw breath The Seance starts which in stark contrast takes one back almost to the time of Stupid Dream, before plunging back into Circle of Manias which has could be compared with some of the heavier material from the In Absentia album. The track stops abruptly moving into silence for a second or so before gentle vocals take us into the final and quite beautiful track, I Drive the Hearse. Colin plays a lovely fretless bass and the melody is not as sad as the title suggests. A fitting end to in my opinion is a brilliant album.
There is amazing contrast, light and shade but the production is incredible and everyone in the band is able to shine. My only worry will be how this will be played live as there will be a lot of equipment changes and Steve is going to need to keep his vocal chords in good working order.
After having only listened to this once, I know I am going to listen to it again and again and again. The only thing is that I am going to have to wait until September until that happens!!~ EWAN KELLAR