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In Absentia

337 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 24, 2002
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Porcupine Tree are unquestionably one of the U.K.'s most inspired and inventive rock groups. Since their 1993 inception, the band - Steven Wilson (lead vocals, multi-instrumentalist), Richard Barbieri (keyboards), Colin Edwin (bass), and Gavin Harrison (drums)- have proven themselves to be true musical pioneers, with a devoted worldwide following. Now Porcupine Tree are poised to release IN ABSENTIA, their eagerly anticipated Lava Records debut. A indefinable blend of organic songwriting, evocative soundscaping, and powerhouse rock dynamics, the album is the sound of a band confidently in control of their own inimitable musical universe. A truly sonic experience, IN ABSENTIA is Porcupine Tree's most accomplished statement to date.

After a quarter-century of punk and postmodern excesses, it's always something of a surprise to find young musicians who not only recall a past era's musical indulgences, but also revel in them. This Lava Records debut is the latest fruit of Porcupine Tree mainstay Steven Wilson's obsession with prog, a mania that dates to the late '80s when the "band" was little more than a fantasy, though one with a remarkably imaginative--if entirely fictional--history and bio. But that pipedream eventually became a real "alt prog" cult fave, with these dozen ambitious songs finding a focus that occasionally eluded the band on half-hour soundscapes like its underground hit, "Voyage 34." Tracks like "Gravity Eyelids" have a retro-psychedelic feel that would have done the XTC alter ego Dukes of Stratosphear proud, with Wilson's pure melodic tenor pushing it beyond the merely baroque. But the collection is also a strong statement of another crucial Wilson/Porcupine retro-sensibility: The album has unified musical statement. "Lips of Ashes" and "Prodigal" serve up the sort of impressionistic, harmony-rich musings that Pink Floyd has rarely managed since Wish You Were Here, while "The Creator Has a Master Tape" punctuates the rich harmonies of tracks like "Heart Attack in a Layby" with Crimson-esque metallic thrash and processed vocals. While the band's instrumental prowess sometimes slums its way into the free-form jazz noodling of past efforts, the album remains one of the band's fullest achievements. --Jerry McCulley

Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 24, 2002)
  • Original Release Date: 2002
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Lava
  • ASIN: B00006IU73
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (337 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,792 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

146 of 155 people found the following review helpful By Lord Chimp on October 15, 2002
Format: Audio CD
This is perfection. I need to be careful to contain my enthusiasm about this album or my review will be nothing but a maudlin glorification heavy on superlatives but low on actual, uh, 'reviewing'. But...this is a masterpiece. That's enough for me, but I will go on...
It is a concept album, which seems to be trendy all of a sudden. I barely even care when I hear a band I like is making a concept album these days, although it used to get me excited. _In Absentia_ gets the thumbs-up though because the story is actually VERY good. The chilling tale could entirely be peripheral depending on the listener, but to those interested it will find it is an integral part of this powerful record. Telling the story of a child growing up and becoming a serial killer, _In Absentia_ is dark thematically and musically. Bandleader Steven Wilson's lyrics have never blown me away until now. This album deals with some unpleasant subject matter, all rendered with great poetry.
The music, likewise, is remarkable -- and then some. "Blackest Eyes" is the first song on the album -- an almost childlike reflection of the future psycho's condition, and the blend of heavy riffs and plaintive acoustic strumming resonates the protagonist's disposition. When I say "heavy riffs" there, I seriously mean heavy - the crushing power chord strikes and monster distortion reminded me more of Tool than Porcupine Tree. But the song slips perfectly into the familiar, exquisite sonics of PT as well.
This dichotomy is seen elsewhere in the album as well, perhaps most notably on "Gravity Eyelids", with its harrowing build-up to an evil, Opethian guitar riff. "Wedding Nails" is a stunningly executed and composed progressive metal instrumental. "Strip the Soul" is gritty and punishing and enfeebling.
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110 of 116 people found the following review helpful By Shotgun Method on April 27, 2003
Format: Audio CD
In Absentia by Porcupine Tree may just be the finest album to come along in a long, long time. Trying to describe this album in terms of sound is difficult--think of a band with the vocal harmonies of early REM, the atmospherics of Pink Floyd or Radiohead, and the metallic sound of 70's era King Crimson or Tool. And yet, it sounds totally different from any of them.
Steven Wilson lends a hushed, subtle tone to the vocals that belies the very dark lyrics of In Absentia. The album is supposedly about a child that grows up into a serial killer, although the concept is somewhat vague. Wilson comments on society quite a bit--take The Sound Of Muzak, for example, which targets the state of today's music and how dehumanized and sterile it is becoming, complete with quite a catchy chorus.
The instrumentals are truly awe-inspiring. Supposedly this is Porcupine Tree's heaviest album, drawing on Wilson's collaboration with the Swedish metal band Opeth (which is how I heard about Porcupine Tree, in fact). The music alternates between delicate, soft textures and harmonies to heavy, complex riffs without feeling the least bit forced. The band is equally at home playing beautiful ballads (Collapse The Light Into Earth, Trains) as it is playing crunchy metal (Wedding Nails, The Creator Had A Mastertape).
As far as the album itself is concerned...well, you have to hear it to believe it. I've heard precious few songs that are as deeply affecting as Collapse The Light Into Earth, and Strip The Soul and Gravity Eyelids are two of the best songs I've heard this year. If you aren't excited after listening to the opening riffs of Blackest Eyes, check your pulse.
In a world of commercial garbage, we desperately need more bands like this.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By R. Gorham on October 11, 2002
Format: Audio CD
THE BAND: Steve Wilson (vocals, guitar, mastermind behind PT), Richard Barbieri (keyboards and sound effects), Colin Edwin (bass), Gavin Harrison (drums - replacing recently departed Chris Maitland).

THE DISC: 12 songs running at approximately 68 minutes. A 14-page booklet containing song lyrics and assorted pictures with faces scratched off. All words and music written by Steve Wilson (and 2 songs are cowritten by Barbieri and Edwin). Video: "Strip The Soul" playable on your PC. An import of the same album is available containing 2 bonus tracks ("Drown With Me" and "Chloroform"). 2002 - Lava Records.

COMMENTS: Hands down, this is my favorite disc from 2002. It stayed in my car CD player for a month when I first bought it. Perfect in most senses... crisp flawless production, wonderful vocals and harmonies, fantastic musicianship, and great song writing. Porcupine Tree, in my opinion, has always been hard to classify - definitely progressive, rock infused, beautiful instrumental moments painted thru song that wisk you away to somewhere else. Most anything from PT's library begs to be listened to with a nice set of headphones (deep rich textured guitars, layers of vocals, and sound effects galore). There are a few "pop" tunes that perhaps should have made it to the FM airwaves... "Trains" is the best 'pop', and "Blackest Eyes". I sit and scratch my head and wonder - why the heck aren't these guys more popular? Lyrics on "In Absentia" are twisted... a concept album following a serial killer from childhood. If you saw The Tree in concert on this tour, you'd have seen the slide show while the band played - and the complete picture of the album cover - it's the main character losing his mind.
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Topic From this Discussion
Porcupine Tree
You know, there's actually a lot of good rock out there right now -- it's just sooo hard to find amid all the trash.

So take hope, with PT you've only found the tip of the iceberg.

Try looking into Dream Theater (Octavarium, Images and Words) if you haven't already gone there.

Oct 3, 2006 by James Bailey |  See all 2 posts
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