2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A nearly perfect album - desert island material,
This review is from: In Absentia (Audio CD)
In Absentia is a complete jewel of an album. It's a concept album where the concept is only implied, but that nonetheless holds itself together and is propelled forward by its bedrock material. It's a hooky piece of modern rock that is not obviously progressive, but that has layers upon layers of ambience and instrumentation that retain the ability to surprise after many listenings. It swerves from heaviness to delicacy with a deft touch and winds up being consistently powerful from track to track.
Blackest Eyes is a hot opener. Porcupine Tree had never been as heavy as the first blasting riff of this one is, and the swing back toward shimmering chords and tight, crystalline harmonies is perfectly executed and effective. Trains is an emotional high point that also showcases the band's flexibility as they shift from a powerful chorus to a bluegrassy banjo/handclap breakdown with ease. Lips of Ashes is a spacy, dark piece of minimalism that continues the album's winning streak. After this, PT loses some steam as The Sound of Muzak wraps a typical prog-musician bellyache in some pretty intricate and emotive instrumental parts. Gravity Eyelids starts off as a weird piece of electro-rock, quotes Opeth toward the end, and glides to a calm conclusion. Wedding Nails is Porcupine Tree's last instrumental and it's not terribly hard to see why, as it fails to hold interest all the way through, despite a false stop and subsequent start that winds up being a cool surprise.
After this, however, it's all uphill. Prodigal and .3 are fairly quiet, minimalistic homages to Porcupine Tree's past work that drive Steven Wilson's trademark sardonic lyrics to the forefront. The Creator Has A Mastertape is driven by an exciting, bobbing bass line that menaces and promises heavier things to come, as they do in the chorus. Next is the lush, devastating, perfect Heartattack In A Layby, which is one of the best-orchestrated pieces of rock music ever written. Strip The Soul has the rotten task of following that, but manages to do well enough with its varied riff work. Finally, the closing Collapse The Light Into Earth builds up its simple chord progression by adding more and more layers and winds up being another perfect example of how good a simple idea can be.
There's no excuse for passing this up. If you like Radiohead, Coldplay, or Pink Floyd, you couldn't possibly miss with In Absentia. If you come from the other side of prog rock, with all its dramatic technical displays, you're still likely to find a satisfying listen here. Strongly recommended, because it's simply great. Highlight tracks: Trains, The Creator Has A Mastertape, Heartattack In A Layby, Collapse The Light Into Earth.